He noted that MQ- 8 sensor data will be integrated
into the LCS’ computer environment in the future.
As far as hardware, the control station and UCARS
have to be installed, and frigates require installation of
additional UHF/VHF radios and a Tactical Common
Data Link. The LCS, on the other hand, already comes
equipped with the necessary hardware.
Warren Comer, a spokesman for Fire Scout builder
Northrop Grumman Corp., said the company works
with the Navy to put the necessary control equipment
on the ship.
“It basically seamlessly fits in with the ship,” he
said. “With the current B model, it can fit two Bs where
you fit an H- 60.”
Even when the larger MQ-8C comes along, there
should not be much difference, as it will share the
same avionics as the MQ-8B, Comer said.
But the future of Navy unmanned aviation involves
more than just small helicopters on frigates and the
LCS. The aircraft carrier fleet someday will host the
Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance
and Strike (UCLASS) system. Its predecessor, the
Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) — a modified
Northrop Grumman-built X- 47 — which recently
begin conducting launches and landings off carrier
decks in order to demonstrate the technology.
Capt. Jaime Engdahl, UCAS program manager, said
that like Fire Scout, the UCAS will not require a whole
lot of special attention aside from what a manned aircraft would need.
“The Navy UCAS program followed the exact same
steps and same standard checklist when integrating the
X-47B onto the carrier deck as any other carrier-based
aircraft,” Engdahl said. “In general, approximately 40
percent of the requirements for integration were the
same as manned aircraft, [and] the remaining 60 per-
cent required different integration methods and devel-
opment of several new technologies to operate on the
carrier flight deck.
“An unmanned air vehicle concept of operations
was developed to fully and seamlessly integrate
unmanned operations with manned aircraft on the
flight deck with no change in current carrier opera-
tional procedures,” he added.
Engdahl said there would be some “slight differ-
ences” in operational procedures when operating an
unmanned aircraft on a carrier’s deck. The UCAS sys-
tem was designed to minimize that impact, but that
aspect of the system will not be demonstrated within
the scope of the current program.
The UCAS did require some software tweaks. Engdahl
noted that several of the shipboard systems had their
software updated to include carrier air traffic control dis-
plays, executive displays in primary flight and the land-
ing signal officer display system. Shipboard systems also
had minor software upgrades to add a digital messaging
connection between an unmanned aircraft and the ship-
board systems during the demonstration.
To host the UCAS, crews needed to install a mission
control element, several Global Positioning System
units, data-link boxes, a network gateway, and associ-
ated antennas and wiring.
“The overall CVN [carrier] installation was very
minimal and leveraged a majority of air traffic control
hardware and networks already resident on the carrier,” Engdahl said. n
WWW.SEAPOWERMAGAZINE.ORG 26 SEAPOWER / OCTOBER 2013
Sailors attach an X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System demonstrator to catapult two on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier
USS George H.W. Bush May 10 in Norfolk, Va., prior to initial launch and landing tests of the aircraft at sea several days
later. As unmanned air vehicles become more of a fixture aboard ships, Navy officials have been hard at work to ensure a
concept of operations was developed to seamlessly integrate unmanned operations with manned aircraft on the flight deck.