New UAV innovations could change face of war

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Chris Stagner
  • Air Warfare Center Public Affairs
Unmanned aerial vehicles could start playing a more active role in missions to suppress and destroy enemy air defenses if a UAV Battlelab initiative proves successful.

Testing of the new Joint Multiplatform Weapons Carriage System took place at Indian Springs Air Force Auxiliary Field, Nev., on June 17. If approved, the carriage system could allow UAVs to carry high-speed anti-radiation missile targeting system pods and a variety of weapons in greater quantities.

“Right now, we do ... suppression of enemy air defense missions with F-16 [Fighting Falcons],” said Lt. Col. Scott McKinney, UAV Battlelab Operating Location Alpha division chief at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. “The goal of the ‘Little Weasel’ initiative is to provide persistent battlefield suppression and allow UAVs to become a part of this key Air Force mission.”

“Whenever we can shoot the enemy before they can shoot us, it gives our forces the advantage,” said Lt. Col. Mike Stroud, UAV Battlelab deputy commander and a former F-4 Phantom II weapons systems officer. “A Predator equipped with a HARM targeting system pod could remain in the target area longer than a fighter, and it could get closer to a target without endangering any aircrew. The system could then pass the threat information to an (F-16) pilot who could use a HARM to (strike) the surface-to-air missile system threat while remaining outside the target’s threat range.”

For Predators to carry the HARM targeting pod, it was necessary to develop the carriage system. During its development, people discovered the carriage system could do more than just carry the pod.

“The way we were looking to bring the UAVs into the mission was to just put the targeting pods onto the UAVs,” Colonel McKinney said. “But, rather than creating a carriage system that would only work just for the pod, the developers created one with the capability to carry munitions as well.”

Workers have created a potential system for Predators to carry more weapons.

“With this new carriage system, we have the capability to carry many more compatible weapons systems such as gravity-drop munitions,” the colonel said.

“The additional weapons offer more flexibility for [mission] planners,” Colonel Stroud said. “We could increase our target selections while decreasing collateral damage. It will no longer be about dropping the munitions and having them go on their merry way. With the carriage system, we could use (the Global Positioning System) and other laser-guided weapons.”