When it comes to unmanned aviation, the Navy can perhaps be described as the new kid on the block.
The MQ- 8 Fire Scout has only just started operating
in recent years, the MQ-4C Triton is even newer, and the
Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and
Strike (UCLASS) platform still is just a concept.
There are a lot of decisions still to be made and development work to do before the Navy can be called fully in
the unmanned realm, but the service is on its way.
The Navy certainly has been hard at work trying to lay
out the future of unmanned aircraft in the service as it
makes a big change in operations from the deserts and
mountains of Iraq and Afghanistan to the vast blue waters
and swampy littorals and rivers of the Asia-Pacific region.
RADM Mark W. Darrah, program executive officer for
unmanned aviation and strike weapons, said that several
documents either have been published or are in develop-
ment that cover the future of unmanned maritime avia-
tion, in particular the updated “Co-
operative Strategy for 21st Century
Seapower,” which was released in
March by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus.
“There are several references in
there from a strategic perspective
about where we’re going with
unmanned in general,” Darrah said.
One of the things in the report
that Darrah said “jumps out” at
him is the all-domain access func-
tion, which deals with the revolu-
tionary way the Navy plans to use
unmanned systems in the future.
“What they’re talking about
there is any of the systems we field
in the future, whether manned or
unmanned, we have the ability for
those systems to work across all
the domains — underwater, on
water, in the air and in space —
and also to be able to do that within the cyber security
world that’s out there today,” he said.
First, of course, his office needs to take into account
what it has at its disposal. The unmanned aerial systems (UASs) that fall under Darrah’s office include tiny
aircraft that can used by individuals to large tactical
craft like the MQ-4C Triton.
“So what we’re striving for with these road maps is
to install sensors that can be netted together and can
be moved from platform to platform without losing
their capability,” Darrah said.
For years, the Navy has been platform focused, he
acknowledged. But with the explosion of technology and
unmanned capabilities in the 21st century, the Navy feels
it is time to take advantage of what is available and craft
a more connected fleet of systems rather than a bunch of
individual platforms that all do their own things.
Specifically, Chief of Naval Operations ADM Jonathan
W. Greenert has made it very clear to everyone that he
The Next Generation
Networked unmanned systems could shape the fleet of tomorrow
By DANIEL P. TAYLOR, Special Correspondent
Chief of Naval Operations ADM Jonathan W. Greenert has said he
wants the Navy to be “platform-agnostic,” with the focus on sensors that can be netted together in a way that allows the Navy
to react quickly to a changing threat environment.
; With the explosion of technology and unmanned capabilities in
the 21st century, the Navy wants to take advantage of what’s
available and craft a more connected fleet of systems rather than
a bunch of individual platforms, with each doing its own thing.
; The service is looking to leverage everything it has, whether it’s
the Fire Scout aboard a frigate to look over the horizon or an MQ-
4C Triton combined with a P-8A Poseidon maritime surveillance
aircraft to watch over a huge area.
; Unmanned systems provide the advantage of endurance, and
it’s an advantage of which the Navy wants to make full use.