Darpa Refocuses Precision Close Air Support Effort On Manned Aircraft

By Graham Warwick graham.warwick@aviationweek.com
Source: AWIN First

Raytheon’s modified $12.9 million Phase 2 contract will culminate in a critical design review in November, and Bossert says there is a “high probability” Darpa will proceed into the 18-month, $25.5 million Phase 3 flight demonstration.

The program changes reflect a shift in focus for near-term transition of PCAS to manned CAS, from unmanned. “One of the original sponsors when we started was the MQ-X [unmanned aircraft] program. There is no MQ-X anymore,” he says.

“The primary focus was never the optionally piloted A-10, and it became somewhat distracting,” he says. Instead of enabling the JTAC to directly control weapons on an aircraft, PCAS is most likely to transition as an autonomous decision aid for the pilot. “Manned CAS has the biggest need,” he says.

“It will be part of their situational-awareness decision aids, showing recommended actions for both the pilot and JTAC,” Bossert says. “For the PCAS demo we still plan autonomous weapons employment, but a pilot will fly the A-10 and be able to override the autonomy.”

The live-fire demos in 2015 will involve the A-10’s gun, a Joint Direct Attack Munition GPS-guided bomb, a Laser Maverick missile, dual-mode laser/GPS weapon and 2.75-in. rocket.

After the demo, PCAS will be able transition “to any fixed-wing, rotary-wing or unmanned aircraft that can carry Hellfire [or larger weapons],” Bossert says.

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