Army's Gray Eagle testing takes air-sea battle scenarios into consideration

The Army's recently completed successful initial operational testing and evaluation (IOT&E) of the Gray Eagle that resulted not only in determining the unmanned aircraft's operational suitability but also a series of recommendations on improving doctrine with respect to next-war preparation, Army officials said.

During the IOT&E, the Gray Eagle was flown from Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., and operated in a realistic way in support of a brigade combat team rotation at the Army's National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., the Army said in a story on its website.

The purpose of the IOT&E was to assess the degree to which a given platform or technology meets its designated requirements, typically as a way to inform anticipated full-rate production decisions, said John Moltenberry, military test plans analyst, Army Operational Test Command, Army Test and Evaluation Command.
 
The Gray Eagle was tested against a specified set of requirements, Moltenberry said. Those requirements included aspects such as day and night operations, operational tempo, maintenance man hours and mission load, which essentially are the types of missions the Gray Eagle would perform.

Soldiers operating the aircraft are able to control it by using either satellite communications, which allow for beyond-line-of-sight missions, or through tactical common data link, line-of-sight signals, Moltenberry said.

The IOT&E verified that the Gray Eagle platform was effective, operationally suitable and meeting survivability and force protection key performance parameters, said
Timothy Baxter, the project manager for unmanned aircraft system, UAS.

The low-rate-initial-production report included a handful of worthwhile recommendations for tactical and doctrinical improvements for UAS, including next-war preparation, Baxter said.

The recommendations included an assessment of next-war preparation for UAS witin the context of what the much-discussed Air-Sea Battle concept might mean for UAS development and deployment, Baxter said,
 
Among other things, he said, Air-Sea Battle-type deployments might require UAS to operate against hybrid or near-peer"threats, as opposed to performing primarily counter-insurgency operations.
 
"We'll be returning to mobile operations because we have been kind of forward operating base-centric over the last 10 years or so," he said. "An expeditionary and mobile operations mindset will be our focus as we develop a five-year plan for product improvements across the board."

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