Boeing is studying the possible deployment of unmanned air vehicles, such as ScanEagle Compressed Carriage (SECC), from the back of the V-22 Osprey. “It’s mostly through our Boeing V-22 program. But we’re looking at whether you could launch this thing out of a box. It’s very do-able and would fit very easily in a V-22,” says Ron Perkins, director of Boeing Phantom Works' Advanced Unmanned Airborne Systems.
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The concept, which has attracted “some interest from customers” says Perkins, emerges as Boeing and its wholly-owned subsidiary Insitu, come to the final stages of a demonstration in Arizona involving control of a ScanEagle from a NATO E-3 AWACS. The tests, undertaken as part of the on-going Empire Challenge 2010 intelligence sharing exercise at Fort Huachuca, include the collection and dissemination of infra-red and optical data from the ScanEagle by operators on board the AWACS. Boeing says NATO is assessing the operating utility – “and we’re kind of waiting for them to come back and tell us where they want to go,” comments Boeing’s Network Battlespace Kevin Jones. Recent demos include playing out counter-piracy scenarios in which a pick-up truck, flying the Jolly Roger flag from its aerial, has roamed the barren wastes of the Arizona desert, posing as a pirate vessel – but broadcasting as a fishing vessel using the automatic identification system (AIS), a maritime version of IFF. AWACS operators flew the ScanEagle to visually check out the target and – once convinced it was a pirate – scrambled an F-16 which intercepted it some 14 minutes after the initial AIS contact.
The on-going tests at Empire Challenge also come as Boeing starts work on the Foxhunt program, a $9.8 million contract from the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory to demonstrate the tasking and control of multiple unmanned aircraft from an airborne mothership. According to an earlier post by my colleague Graham Warwick, Boeing believes the system could transition to development soon after the flight demonstration in 2013.
SECC is currently being tested with ground launches (Boeing)
Foxhunt supports AFRL’s vision of extending the sensor and weapon reach of a manned mothership by the airborne launch, control and recovery of multiple small unmanned aircraft. The crew would submit a list of ISR task requests to the Foxhunt system, which would plan a mission enabling several UAVs to meet the objectives as quickly as possible. The Foxhunt demonstration will use multiple UAVs in the class of the ScanEagle, ScanEagle Compressed Carriage (SECC) and smaller.