One thing we’ve been watching here at DTI and ARES is the intersection between technologies and equipment that have blurred the lines between military and law enforcement/homeland security requirements. We’ve started to see this happen quite a bit around the southwest border with ground and air surveillance technologies, especially with the Department of Homeland Security using unmanned Predator aircraft for both land and sea surveillance activities.
And now—in a first—a local police department is making noise about trying to get in on the act. As reported on Friday by TPM, the Miami-Dade police department has “acquired two T-Hawk Micro Air Vehicles, manufactured by Honeywell, in August 2009, and has been testing and training with them since. It is now in the third phase of a three-phase testing program, and plans to apply soon to the FAA for final approval to use the drones in operations.” (For the record, Honeywell hasn't signed any contracts with the department to supply it with more T-Hawks.)
The T-Hawk, also known by the U.S. Army as the Class 1 UAV, was part of the FCS family of surveillance technologies—and while it managed to survive the purge of unproductive programs Secretary Gates cut from FCS (since renamed Early Infantry Brigade Combat Team, or E-IBCT) back in April 2009, it doesn’t look like it will survive the close of business today.
As I reported last week, the Defense Acquisition Board (DAB) is meeting today to review the results of the Army’s continued testing of its ground sensors, UAVs, and network, and is slated to decide the fate of some of the E-IBCT gear at the meeting. Army officials have told me that they expect to make changes to the program after the meeting, but will have to wait for the final word from the DAB to say what they might be.
But we now have a peek at what’s to come. Defense News’ Kate Brannen reported last night that the Army issued a stop work order to Boeing on Jan. 6 “to immediately stop work on the Class I Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) and the Tactical and Urban Unattended Ground Sensors,” both part of the E-IBCT program.
The order only stops work on the post-delivery support, apparently, and not on deliveries, and also “does not apply to any work related to the Network Integration Kit or the Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle.”
Could today mark the last gasp for two more FCS technologies? It’s looking that way. The 2nd Brigade of the 1st Armored Division is scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan with whatever is left of this sensor gear in 2012, so we expect this all to start going down pretty quickly, and for the Army to solidify exactly what it has to work with as fast as possible.
Pic: US Army