Un­manned Aerial Ve­hi­cles for the Army

A global race to de­velop UAVs is on and as per one es­ti­mate, global spend­ing on UAVs is likely to be more than $94 bil­lion by 2021. Army has many roles for the UAVs like re­con­nais­sance, sur­veil­lance and tar­get ac­qui­si­tion, in­tel­li­gence gath­er­ing, dam­age a

SP's LandForces - - FRONT PAGE - Lt Gen­eral (Retd) Naresh Chand

THERE HAVE BEEN AT­TEMPTS in the past to de­velop a re­mote­lyc on­trolled aerial plat­form, as soon as pow­ered flight achieved some ma­tu­rity, around World War I, which in­cluded the Hewitt-Sperry Au­to­matic Air­plane. Dur­ing World War II, many more were de­vel­oped as aerial tar­gets and to fly at­tack mis­sions. Ger­many also got into the race and de­vel­oped and em­ployed some for op­er­a­tions. Jet engines were tested post-World War II like the Tele­dyne Ryan Fire­bee I. Other pi­o­neers were Beechcraft with their Model 1001 for the US Navy in 1955. But the de­vel­op­ment re­ally ac­cel­er­ated dur­ing the Viet­nam War when the US Air Force be­came con­cerned of los­ing pilots over en­emy ter­ri­tory. They were then called re­motely-pi­loted ve­hi­cles (RPVs). The pace of de­vel­op­ment in­creased with the shoot­ing down off the United States’ spy plane U-2 with Francis Gary Pow­ers as pilot. Is­rael had the hon­our of de­vel­op­ing the first mod­ern bat­tle­field RPV called Tadi­ran Mastiff in 1973, which had good en­durance for loi­ter­ing and trans­mit­ted live video stream­ing. The US as usual pi­o­neered all in­no­va­tive tech­no­log­i­cal drives and RPVs are no ex­cep­tion, which have now de­vel­oped into a very im­por­tant pil­lar of aerial re­con­nais­sance, sur­veil­lance and in­tel­li­gence gath­er­ing. This was clearly demon­strated dur­ing the two Iraq wars and now in Afghanistan. The US has also added the role of an at­tack­ing plat­form by arm­ing them with mis­siles like Hell­fire. In the US, they are ex­ten­sively used by the Cen­tral In­tel­li­gence Agency (CIA), de­fence forces and home­land se­cu­rity.

The term un­manned aerial ve­hi­cles (UAV) came into us­age in the early 1990s and re­placed RPVs. The US Depart­ment of De­fense de­fined it as “A pow­ered aerial ve­hi­cle that does not carry a hu­man op­er­a­tor and uses aero­dy­namic forces to pro­vide ve­hi­cle lift, can fly au­tonomously or be pi­loted re­motely, can be ex­pended or re­cov­er­able, and can carry a lethal or a non-lethal pay­load. Bal­lis­tic or semi-bal­lis­tic ve­hi­cles, cruise mis­siles and ar­tillery pro­jec­tiles are not con­sid­ered UAVs.”

About 80 coun­tries have ac­quired UAV tech­nol­ogy. China and Pak­istan have also de­vel­oped their own UAVs. China is es­ti­mated to have at least 25 sep­a­rate UAV sys­tems un­der de­vel­op­ment. More than 600 pro­grammes are un­der de­vel­op­ment world­wide. Iran has de­vel­oped its indige­nous UAV called the ‘Am­bas­sador of Death’, which has a range of up to 960 km. Hezbol­lah launched an Ira­nian-made drone into Is­raeli ter­ri­tory, where it was shot down by the Is­raeli Air Force in Oc­to­ber 2012. A global race to de­velop UAVs is on and as per one es­ti­mate, global spend­ing on UAVs is likely to be more than $94 bil­lion by 2021.

UAVs for the Army

Army has many roles for the UAVs like re­con­nais­sance, sur­veil­lance and tar­get

ac­qui­si­tion (RSTA), in­tel­li­gence gath­er­ing, dam­age assess­ment, search and res­cue, aerial com­mand cen­tres and ex­tend­ing the com­mu­ni­ca­tion links by net­work­ing. Dur­ing peace­time, UAVs are valu­able in bor­der man­age­ment, counter-in­sur­gency op­er­a­tions, ur­ban war­fare and anti-ter­ror­ism. UAVs come in var­i­ous sizes depend­ing upon their role. Tac­ti­cal UAVs can be hand held at pla­toon level and pro­gres­sively get big­ger as their role en­larges from tac­ti­cal to op­er­a­tional to strate­gic role. UAVs are also called un­manned aerial sys­tem as it in­cludes the ground con­trol in­fra­struc­ture. The US Army clas­si­fies them as: Tier-I: small UAV like RQ-11B Raven; Tier-II: short-range tac­ti­cal UAV like RQ-7B Shadow 200; and Tier-III: medium-range tac­ti­cal UAV like MQ-5A/B Hunter, IG­NAT/IG­NAT-ER or the ex­tended-range multi-pur­pose (ERMP) MQ-1C Gray Ea­gle.

AeroViron­ment’s Tac­ti­cal In­tel­li­gence, Sur­veil­lance and Re­con­nais

sance (ISR) light­weight UAVs: The RQ11BRaven is a light­weight UAV de­signed for rapid de­ploy­ment and high mo­bil­ity for both mil­i­tary and com­mer­cial ap­pli­ca­tions re­quir­ing low-al­ti­tude re­con­nais­sance, sur­veil­lance and tar­get ac­qui­si­tion. Raven can be op­er­ated man­u­ally or pro­grammed for au­ton­o­mous op­er­a­tion. Raven B is the stan­dard small UAV for the US Army, USSOCOM, and the US Marines. Over 11,000 Raven air­frames have al­ready been de­liv­ered to cus­tomers world­wide. With a wingspan of 4.5 feet and a weight of 1.9 kg, the hand-launched Raven pro­vides aerial ob­ser­va­tion, by day or night, at line-of-sight ranges of 10 km or more with an al­ti­tude of 30-152 me­tres AGL. The Raven de­liv­ers real-time colour or IR im­agery to ground con­trol and re­mote view­ing sta­tions, as well as IR laser il­lu­mi­na­tion of ground tar­gets.

AeroViron­ment’s tac­ti­cal ISR port­fo­lio also con­sists of light­weight UAVs like Puma AE, Wasp AE and Shrike ver­ti­cal take­off and land­ing (VTOL) de­signed for pro­vid­ing ISR and com­mu­ni­ca­tions, in­clud­ing real-time tac­ti­cal re­con­nais­sance, track­ing, com­bat assess­ment and ge­o­graphic data, di­rectly to a small tac­ti­cal unit or in­di­vid­ual soldier. AeroViron­ment’s com­mon ground con­trol sys­tem for all their UAVs al­lows the op­er­a­tor to con­trol the air­craft man­u­ally or pro­gramme it for GPS-based au­ton­o­mous nav­i­ga­tion us­ing op­er­a­tor-des­ig­nated way­points-way-points. The UAVs are man-portable and can be as­sem­bled and launched in less than five min­utes. Puma AE (All En­vi­ron­ment) is de­signed for land-based and mar­itime op­er­a­tions which is ca­pa­ble of land­ing on land as well wa­ter, with a flight en­durance of 3.5+ hours and a com­mu­ni­ca­tions range of 15 km. Wasp AE is the all-en­vi­ron­ment ver­sion of AeroViron­ment’s bat­tle proven Wasp III. It is spe­cially de­signed for mar­itime and land op­er­a­tions with a com­mu­ni­ca­tions range of five km and flight en­durance of 50 min­utes. Shrike VTOL is a man-pack­able, ver­ti­cal take-off and land­ing sys­tem, de­signed for front­line day/night ISR.

AAI (an op­er­at­ing unit of Tex­tron Sys­tems) Shadow: The Shadow 200 tac­ti­cal UAV is a state-of-the-art plat­form, in ser­vice with the US Army and Marine Corps for car­ry­ing out re­con­nais­sance, sur­veil­lance,

UAVs come in var­i­ous sizes depend­ing upon their role. Tac­ti­cal UAVs can be hand held at pla­toon level and pro­gres­sively get big­ger as their role en­larges from tac­ti­cal to op­er­a­tional to strate­gic role.

tar­get­ing and assess­ment. Des­ig­nated as the RQ-7B by the US Army, the UAV en­ables brigade com­man­ders to see, un­der­stand and act de­ci­sively when time is crit­i­cal. The air­craft can see tar­gets up to 125 km away from the brigade tac­ti­cal op­er­a­tions cen­tre and recog­nise tac­ti­cal ve­hi­cles up to 8,000 feet above the ground at more than 3.5 km slant range, day or night. The Shadow ground con­trol sta­tion trans­mits im­agery and teleme­try data di­rectly to the joint sur­veil­lance and tar­get at­tack radar sys­tem, all sources anal­y­sis sys­tem and ad­vanced field ar­tillery tac­ti­cal data sys­tem in near real time.

Northrop Grum­man (TRW/IAI)

BQM-155/RQ-5/MQ-5 Hunter: The Hunter was based on the Is­rael Air­craft In­dus­tries’ (IAI) Im­pact UAV. TRW pro­vided sys­tems in­te­gra­tion and man­age­ment of the Hunter in the USA. The BQM-155A takes off from nor­mal run­ways but boost­eras­sisted zero-length launches are also pos­si­ble. The ma­jor pay­load items are a com­bined TV/FLIR sen­sor and a data re­lay sys­tem. Mis­sion ra­dius for sin­gle ve­hi­cle flights is about 150 km, which can be ex­tended to 300 km us­ing a se­cond Hunter as air­borne re­lay. Max­i­mum en­durance is about 12 hours. The UAV lands like a con­ven­tional air­craft (it can op­tion­ally use its re­tractable hook to en­gage ar­restor wires), but a parachute sys­tem is avail­able for emer­gen­cies. In Jan­uary 2003, Northrop Grum­man de­vel­oped a repack­aged ver­sion of their bril­liant anti-tank guided anti-ar­mour sub­mu­ni­tion, which can be de­ployed by suit­ably mod­i­fied Hunters and were de­liv­ered to the US Army dur­ing 2003. In 2003, Northrop Grum­man pur­chased the Hunter pro­gramme from TRW. Sub­se­quently, the com­pany de­vel­oped the MQ-5B, a Hunter vari­ant which has been fur­ther op­ti­mised for the multi-mis­sion role. Hunter is to be re­placed by MQ-1C Grey Ea­gle prob­a­bly by 2014.

Northrop Grum­man’s Bat UAV: Bat is a fam­ily of multi-mis­sion UAVs de­signed for tac­ti­cal mis­sions such as counter IED, com­mu­ni­ca­tions re­lay, sig­nals in­tel­li­gence, elec­tronic war­fare which has a land and a mar­itime ver­sion. Bat has flown a large va­ri­ety of pay­loads such as elec­tro-op­ti­cal/ in­frared (EO/IR), syn­thetic aper­ture radar (SAR), sig­nal in­tel­li­gence (SIGINT), elec­tronic war­fare (EW) and com­mu­ni­ca­tions re­lay. It is launched from a rail launcher and re­cov­ers into a portable net. It can be op­er­ated from sin­gle lap­top that runs the ground con­trol sta­tions. Bat is also be­yond line of sight (BLOS) ca­pa­ble. Bat12 ver­sion can carry a pay­load and Com­mu­ni­ca­tions up to 34 kg, has a max­i­mum al­ti­tude of 15,000 ft MSL, max­i­mum speed at level flight 89 knots true air­speed (KTAS) and loi­ter speed of 60 KTAS.Bat12+2 has marginally higher ca­pa­bil­ity like it can carry a pay­load of up to 45.3 kg and the max­i­mum al­ti­tude is 17,000 ft.

Gen­eral Atomics Aero­nau­ti­cal Sys­tems’ Gray Ea­gle UAV: GA-ASI’s Gray Ea­gle ex­tended range/multi-pur­pose UAV is an es­sen­tial part of the US Army’s Avi­a­tion

Mod­erni­sa­tion Plan, which is an ad­vanced de­riv­a­tive of the com­bat-proven Preda­tor. Gray Ea­gle can carry out the role for per­sis­tent RSTA and at­tack op­er­a­tions. It has an en­durance of 25 hours, speeds up to167 KTAS, can op­er­ate up to 29,000 feet and car­ries 488 kg of in­ter­nal and ex­ter­nal pay­load. The air­craft can carry mul­ti­ple pay­loads aloft, in­clud­ing EO/IR with laser des­ig­na­tion, SAR, com­mu­ni­ca­tions re­lay and four Hell­fire mis­siles. Its mis­sion set in­cludes but is not limited to wide-area in­tel­li­gence sur­veil­lance, re­con­nais­sance, con­voy pro­tec­tion, im­pro­vised ex­plo­sive de­vice de­tec­tion and de­feat, close air sup­port, com­mu­ni­ca­tions re­lay and weapons de­liv­ery mis­sions.

IAI’ Searcher UAV: Searcher is a mul­ti­mis­sion tac­ti­cal UAV which can carry out the role of sur­veil­lance, re­con­nais­sance, tar­get ac­qui­si­tion, ar­tillery ad­just­ment of fire and dam­age assess­ment. Searcher has been con­stantly im­proved from Mk1 to MkII and MkIII. The Searcher Mk III has mul­ti­ple op­er­a­tional con­fig­u­ra­tions, SAR/ground mov­ing tar­get in­di­ca­tor (GMTI), SIGINT and EO/IR and is built from com­pos­ite ma­te­ri­als to re­duce radar de­tec­tion. It has a max­i­mum speed of 198 kmph, max­i­mum al­ti­tude of 23,000 ft, can carry a max­i­mum pay­load of 120 kg, has en­durance of 18h and the mis­sion ra­dius is 350 km.

IAI’ Heron: Heron 2 is the largest medium-al­ti­tude long-en­durance UAV built in Is­rael. It has a wingspan of just un­der 26 me­tres, length of 14 me­tres, and the air­craft has a max­i­mum take-off weight of 4,650 kg with a typ­i­cal mis­sion pay­load of 1,000 kg. It has an op­er­a­tional al­ti­tude of 45,000 ft and is ca­pa­ble of mis­sions of more than 36 hours du­ra­tion. The sys­tem has been dubbed Ei­tan by the Is­rael Air Force and is the fourth-gen­er­a­tion sys­tem based on lead­ing-edge tech­nol­ogy with new fully au­to­matic take-off and land­ing fea­tures. It pro­vides deep-pen­e­tra­tion, wide-area, real-time in­tel­li­gence to na­tional agen­cies, the­atre com­man­ders and lower ech­e­lons with pri­mary role be­ing in­tel­li­gence, sur­veil­lance and tar­get ac­qui­si­tion.

IAI’ Mos­quito: Mos­quito is a mi­croUAV, pro­vid­ing real-time im­agery data in restricted ur­ban ar­eas. The sys­tem of­fers a fully au­to­mated flight with GPS based “in flight” way point con­trol. The Mos­quito is hand or bungee launched and lands on its belly. The mis­sion ra­dius is three km, en­durance 0.7 hour, and ceil­ing up to 500 ft AGL, loi­ter speed 33 KTAS, max speed 60 KTAS and max­i­mum pay­load weight of 150 gm with a wingspan of 0.35 me­tre.

China: China is also de­vel­op­ing many types of UAVs in the heavy- and medi­um­range. China dis­played Ptero­dactyl at the Paris Air Show in 2013, which is its first un­manned com­bat aerial ve­hi­cle (UCAV). They also have a scaled down ver­sion of Global Hawk. PLA Army BZK-006 (WZ-6 or K/JWR6?) tac­ti­cal re­con­nais­sance UAV was on dis­play dur­ing the 60th Na­tional Day mil­i­tary pa­rade on Oc­to­ber 1, 2009, on­board its launch ve­hi­cle. Each sta­tion can con­trol two UAVs at a same time. It has a length of 4.3 me­tres, height 1.5 me­tres, en­durance of 12 hours and uses rocket as­sisted take­off and parachute land­ing. BZK-007 UAV has also been in ser­vice with PLA Army and Navy as a tac­ti­cal re­con­nais­sance UAV (dubbed BZK007). It can carry a va­ri­ety of equip­ment in­clud­ing day­light/IR TV cam­eras, high def­i­ni­tion CCD cam­era, as well as re­mote sen­sors of dif­fer­ent spec­tral bands or even SAR. It has a max­i­mum take-off weight of 750 kg, mis­sion pay­load is 70 kg and the max­i­mum level speed is 240 kmph.

Pak­istan: A re­cent press re­lease stated that Pak­istan had in­ducted its first fleet of “in­dige­nously de­vel­oped UAVs, namely Bur­raq and Shahpa for the Army and the Air Force. Shah­par is a tac­ti­cal ca­nard pusher UAV which is claimed to be an au­ton­o­mous UAV with an eight hour en­durance, pay­load of 50 kg and could re­lay data in real time out to a range of 250 km. Ob­servers be­lieve that Bur­raq ap­pears to be a Pak­istani vari­ant or a de­vel­op­ment of the Chi­nese Rain­bow CH-3 UCAV, but lit­tle else is known. Re­ports re­gard­ing Pak­istan de­vel­op­ing an UCAV, named Bur­raq, dates back to 2009. Bur­raq based on CH-3 spec­i­fi­ca­tions, would be able to carry around 100 kg pay­load and has an en­durance of 12 hour. The pay­load of the CH-3 is a pair of AR-1 mis­siles or a pair of FT-5 small di­am­e­ter bombs. Thus some­what sim­i­lar could be ex­pected on Bur­raq. China has been help­ing Pak­istan in trans­fer­ring sen­si­tive mil­i­tary tech­nol­ogy to them.

In­dian Per­spec­tive

In­dia has ac­quired Heron and Searcher from Is­rael for its armed forces for ISR. How­ever, it does not have UAVs which could be in­te­grated with brigade and be­low. Re­cently, the me­dia re­ported that the In­dian Army plans to buy 49 mini-UAVs for the North­ern The­atre. They will pro­vide ISR for bor­der man­age­ment; cease­fire vi­o­la­tions and track­ing the in­fil­tra­tion of the ter­ror­ists. In ad­di­tion, it was also re­ported that the In­dian Govern­ment has cleared the pro­cure­ment of around 15 Heron UAVs from Is­rael at a cost of around ` 1,200 crore. The ear­lier fleet of both Searchers and Herons are also likely to un­dergo up­grades. DRDO is de­vel­op­ing Rus­tom se­ries of UAVs where Rus­tom-1 is MALE class, Rus­tom-2 is high-al­ti­tude lon­gen­durance class and Rus­tom-2 is an UCAV. Rus­tom’s-1 pro­to­type is be­ing tested and the other two are un­der de­vel­op­ment. DRDO has also de­vel­oped a tac­ti­cal UAV called Nis­hant which is in the pro­duc­tion stage. Nis­hant is a highly mo­bile, com­pact and eas­ily de­ploy­able sys­tem that can un­der­take day/ night bat­tle­field re­con­nais­sance, sur­veil­lance and tar­get track­ing. It can also help in cor­rec­tion of ar­tillery fire. With an en­durance ca­pac­ity of 4.5 hours, it can at­tain max­i­mum speed of 185 km per hour. Cen­tral Re­serve Po­lice Force and Bor­der Se­cu­rity Force are al­ready us­ing DRDO’s light weight Netra UAV in the Nax­alite re­gion since 2012. It is re­ported that Nis­hant will also be ac­quired by them.

Northrop Grum­man’s MQ-5B Hunter

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