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Army showcases manned-unmanned innovation, integration and interoperability in MUSIC demonstration

Dugway Proving Grounds, 15 September 2011

In a first-of-its kind exercise, the Army’s Program Manager Unmanned Aircraft Systems (PM UAS) today demonstrated what the Service views as the future of Army Aviation – a future of increasingly interoperable and interconnected manned and unmanned aircraft assets synergistically providing for enhanced situational awareness and target prosecution.

The Manned-Unmanned System Integration Capability (MUSIC) demonstration, held on 15 September at PM UAS’s year-old, purpose-built Rapid Integration and Acceptance Center (RIAC) located within Utah’s Dugway Proving Ground, was a live vignette aimed at demonstrating the Army progress to date and suggesting its potential in moving UAS-provided ISR and targeting among manned and unmanned aircraft and ground forces. 

In addition to the key Army UAS – the MQ-1C Gray Eagle, MQ-5B Hunter, RQ-7B Shadow, MQ-11B Raven and Puma – and their associated ground control stations (GCS) -- the MUSIC demonstration featured the AH-64 APACHE Block 2 as well as the OH-58D KIOWA WARRIOR helicopters.

MUSIC Impetus

While active planning for the demo commenced eighteen months ago and final tweaks to the demonstration have been ongoing for three weeks, Tim Owings, the long-time Deputy Program Manager for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (PM UAS), underscored that MUSIC has been five years in the making. 

Owings notes that to truly validate the integration and interoperability of its manned and unmanned aircraft and their associated GCS, it was imperative for PM UAS needed to make the move from the laboratory and computers simulations to the field, a distance he refers to as “the last tactical mile.”  As to the scheduled date for the MUSIC demo, Owings says that PM UAS “drew a line in the sand” and picked the timeline to truly focus the efforts of the organization.  “We said, it [MUSIC] is either going to work -- and we are going to impress some people -- or we are going to embarrass ourselves.” 

And indeed, it appeared to work, with the MUSIC demonstration breaking new ground in several key regards, including:

(1)          MUSIC demonstrated for the first time how manned and unmanned aircraft systems operate under a single commander.

(2)          MUSIC demonstrated for the first time having one operator flying all three of the Army’s large UAS – the Shadow, the Hunter, and the Gray Eagle.

(3)          MUSIC demonstrated for the first time how the control of various UAS and their sensors could be readily handed-off between geographically-dispersed ground stations including Universal Ground Control Station (UGCS), the mini-UGCS, and the bi-directional One System Remote Video Terminal (OSRVT).

(4)          MUSIC demonstrated for the first time that the three EO/IR sensors aboard the Gray Eagle – the new tri-sensor CYCLOPS system -- could be controlled and exploited independently and simultaneously from three distinct and dispersed types of ground stations, including the mini-UGCS that controls the RAVEN and PUMA UAS.

Moving Forward

Owings sees the MUSIC demonstration as not only validating the synergistic promise of integrated manned and unmanned assets, but also in showcasing this success to broader audiences.

While today’s MUSIC demonstration was Army-only, PM UAS anticipates, as DSJ has reported, that the event will be held bi-annually, with the 2013 event possibly featuring joint Service participation and perhaps including the Navy’s Fire Scout and/or Marine Corps assets. 

According to Owings, the event has attracted the attention of senior leadership across the DoD and the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) and that the 16 September VIP Demonstration would be attended by general and flag officers from the Air Force and Navy respectively as well as by senior OSD officials and Congressional Members and staff.

Moving forward, PM UAS sees future MUSIC demos as opportunities to address lessons learned from prior demos and to evaluate in the breech yet-to-be fielded capabilities in such areas as voice-less mission execution and sensor fusion.

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