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U.S. Military UAV Experts Discuss Sequestration, Interoperability

Feb. 13, 2013 - 07:04PM   |  
By AARON MEHTA   |   Comments
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One of the Air Force’s top experts on unmanned systems urged industry to work smarter when developing the next generation of UAVs at the annual AUVSI Unmanned Systems conference held Wednesday outside of Washington, D.C.

In a wide-ranging speech, Col. Bill Tart, director of the Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) Capabilities Division of the Air Force, told the gathering that industry needs to be smarter with how they talk to Capitol Hill and the Pentagon about unmanned vehicles, especially in the face of sequestration.

“The numbers are gonna get smaller. They just are,” Tart said, even without sequestration. “But what you have to come in with is, ‘This is the requirement that this will fill, and we’re the best ones to fill it because X, Y and Z.’”

What those requirements will be are still being decided inside the Pentagon, but Tart laid out a preview of what he would be looking for.

“Link surety and advanced encryption is a gotta-have,” Tart said. “That’s a safety-of-flight issue, and it’s a solid intelligence and weapon issue.”

Other requirements could include electronic warfare suites, electronic attack, jammers, air launch decoys, high powered microwave, and enhanced optics.

After his speech, Tart told reporters there has been “no discussion” of scaling back the number of CAPs operated by the Air Force due to sequestration.

“We’re at 60 out of 65 [planned CAPS], so we’re not even up to the full program,” Tart said, adding “We have not see any decrease in demand from the field.”

But he did indicate that the definition of a CAP could change. “What I envision is somebody defining more clearly what a CAP is,” Tart said. “I don’t see somebody saying I want you to go to 30 caps. I expect them to go, ‘We want you to provide X amount of hours of coverage’ or some modification of that.”

The Navy was also represented at the conference, with Rear Adm. Matt Winter presenting earlier in the morning.

Winter’s comments focused heavily on increasing interoperability for future Navy systems.

If the service doesn’t begin planning for interoperability now, “we’ll never get there,” he said.

Winter also stressed that the X-47B, the Navy’s newest unmanned system, is just a demonstration system that “will never carry a weapon.” The Navy currently has two of the jet-like systems.

The test craft got its first taste of the sea on Dec. 9, when it took a trip aboard the aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman.

He also noted that the Navy doesn’t plan on designing new weapons for X-47B’s successor, the Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike System (UCLASS) unmanned system.

Wednesday was the second of three days for the conference, which features a mix of private- and public-sector experts in the field of unmanned systems.

AUVSI chairman Peter Bale noted that April 9 is planned as an industry day on the Hill, while a recorded video featuring the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee chairman, Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., opened up the proceedings.

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