Now that the U.S. Army has proven successful at mastering the manned-unmanned concept [see: Apache to work with A160T in UAV teaming demo, Aerospace Daily & Defense Report, 07/11/2008, by Graham Warwick], the Navy is getting in on the action too.
Last month, officials from the Office of Naval Research (ONR), five Navy Warfare Centers and industry collaborating on the Navy Expeditionary Overwatch (NEO) system’s intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) technology witnessed a demonstration of the network at the NSWC Dahlgren test range.
Naval Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC) sailors deployed an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), a manned Gunslinger Humvee (GS-3) and an unmanned surface vehicle (USV) on a successful mission to detect and engage fictional insurgents.
ONR describes NEO as “the collection, integration and demonstration of manned and unmanned engagement systems, platforms and integrated sensors to enable tactical decision making” by expeditionary units.
During the test scenario, the UAV and USV detected and relayed target information to warfighters in an up-armored Humvee that fired at targets on the simulated littoral and riverine maritime irregular warfare environment on the Potomac River Test Range.
The NEO system enables 10 sailors – four in the GS-3 and a maximum of six in the Land Based Control Station (LBCS) – to continuously monitor, detect and engage hostile forces over 10 square miles of territory inland, on marshy terrain, along a river or near a coastline. The range of NEO – developed entirely with existing technologies – may increase to about 20 square miles as the program develops.
The unmanned boat and a Scan Eagle UAV sent video and data throughout the event to an LBCS where sailors directed vehicles, including the Humvee armed with a Gunslinger, to observe and attack throughout the test scenario.
The 36-foot-long USV is equipped with a Gunslinger payload and a range of sensors and communications systems that allow it to perform surveillance and engagement missions at sea, controlled either remotely by an operator or semi-autonomously on its own.
Soldiers in the Humvee used the Gunslinger’s acoustic detection package and infrared sensors to determine the location of hostile fire and automatically move the weapon in the direction of the fire for friendly force response.