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Tim Owings, Deputy Program Manager, Unmanned Aircraft Systems

DSJ spent some time last week at the Army Aviation Association’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Symposium with Tim Owings, the Army’s long-serving Deputy Program Manager for UAS.   While the senior military leadership at PM UAS has changed over the years, Owings, who was last month awarded a Department of Defense (DoD) Distinguished Civilian Service Award, the highest award given to a DoD civilian, has, by all accounts, been the anchor within the organization since he assumed his position in 2006 and has presided over phenomenal growth in the Army’s development, deployment, and exploitation of UAS.

Manned-Unmanned System Integration Capability (MUSIC)

MUSIC is on the mind of Tim Owings and his PM UAS colleagues as they plan for a first-of-its kind Manned-Unmanned System Integration Capability (MUSIC) demonstration to be held next year at PM UAS’s Rapid Integration and Acceptance Center (RIAC) located within the Dugway Proving Ground, Utah.
Owings notes that when the event is held in September – exact dates TBD -- it will be the largest ever demonstration of manned-unmanned (MUM) capability integration within the DoD.
   MUSIC, which will take place over 3-4 days, will culminate in a 3-4 hour VIP demonstration of Level 4 MUM capability (control of UAS flight and payload from manned platforms). 

MUSIC will feature Apache Block 2/Block 3 as well as Kiowa Warrior helicopters, the range of Army UAS –Gray Eagle, Warrior, Hunter, Shadow, Raven, Pumas, and Wasps – and handoffs between these platforms and the Universal Ground Control Station (UGCS), the mini-UGCS, and the bi-directional
One System Remote Video Terminal (OSRVT). While the first (2011) MUSIC event is Army-only, Owings anticipates that the demo will be held every other year, with the 2013 event possibly featuring joint Service participation and perhaps including the Navy’s Fire Scout and/or Marine Corps assets.   

Other defense systems issues that DSJ discussed with Mr. Owings included:

Defense Budget Pressures & Impact on UAS Funding -- Owings notes that “the insatiable need for more [UAS] capabilities” has to some degree insulated PM UAS from the current budgetary pressures.  He notes that the Army’s employment of UAS has been politically viable because they are cost-effective assets and “because they keep people out of harm’s way.”  Although significant funding has been provided in recent years via the now-dwindling OCO (War Supplemental) accounts, Owings notes that PM UAS has seen its funding migrate from the OCO requests into the base budget requests, a development that bodes well for the future.

Enhancing Efficiencies – While Owings believes that PM UAS’s development and acquisition programs have been adequately funded and look solid moving forward, he notes that his office is focusing on enhancing efficiencies across the range of its programs, in three major ways:

·         Pushing more of its UAS assets forward to theater – for example, 2/3rds of the MQ-1C Gray Eagle fleet will be forward in the future, with 1/3 remaining in CONUS.   This in contrast to the current arrangement where only half of the aircraft are forward;

·         Increasing the efficiency of its UAS operators – for example, moving RQ-7 Shadow operations from one operator per system to one operator for multiple systems; and

·         Better exploiting the information coming from its airborne sensors via enhanced sensors and ground processing capability to achieve true Wide Area Aerial Surveillance (WAAS) capability.

Aerial Scout (AAS) Analysis of Alternatives -- Owings notes that PM UAS has been significantly involved in the U.S. Army’s ongoing Armed Aerial Scout (AAS) Analysis of Alternatives (AoA).  Owings believes that the AoA will be complete in April 2011 as planned and is of the opinion that the outcome will likely be the identification of an optionally-manned solution.

Lighter-Than-Air (LTA) Developments – Owings notes that PM UAS has had “a seat at the table” in the Army Space & Missile Defense Command (SMDC) planning for and review of the Long-Endurance Multi Intelligence Vehicle (LEMV).  Impressed with the team that LEMV prime contractor Northrop Grumman has assembled and the priority that they have placed on the program, Owings characterizes the LEMV program as an ambitious, aggressive development that is "hitting its marks."  He is optimistic that LEMV will transition to a Program of Record (POR) and he believes that when it does, its management will be placed under PM UAS auspices.  Owings added that PM UAS "is [also] making a strong play" to ensure that SMDC’s nascent Heavy Lift UAS program -- because it is unmanned and untethered -- is ultimately under PM UAS direction/management if/when it transitions to a POR.  He also underscored that he expects that LEMV, the new Heavy Lift UAS, and all other unmanned platforms will be operated with the PM UAS-developed and increasingly ubiquitous Universal Ground Control System (UGCS).

RQ-7 Shadow Enhancements – With a notional new-start Shadow C program now postponed indefinitely, Owings confirms that enhancements to enhance the Shadow B’s capability, reliability, and airworthiness continue apace.  These include aircraft wing and engine enhancements and the leveraging of the findings of a recent DARPA-led, Rockwell Collins-primed program to develop and demonstrate damage-tolerant control algorithms on the Shadow.  During this experiment, completed last month, Owings notes that the UAS automatically recovered controlled flight and landed itself after both neutral and hard-over failures of ailerons, elevators and flaps, even landing with part of its wing missing.  These efforts, Owings notes are part of a broader campaign to reduce the Shadow’s accident rate and to reduce the costs of those accidents that do happen.  Says Owings: “we’re never happy with our accident rates, but we have seen substantial improvements and continue to focus on the challenge.”

Small Tactical UAS (STUAS) – Owings and PM UAS have strong interest in fielding a battalion-level UAS and are, accordingly, closely following the Navy / Marine Corps’ new STUAS/Tier II program.  Indeed, Owings indicated that PM UAS is in very close consultation with the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) STUAS/Tier II program office regarding potential Army participation in the program and Owings anticipates a formal cross-Service agreement providing for Army purchase of the STUAS/Tier II system within the next 90 days.  Such an agreement provided for USMC purchase of the PM UAS-managed RQ-7 Shadow several years ago.