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UAV 'roadmap' helps warfighter

OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM - Maintenance workers perform last minute preflight checks on an RQ-1 Predator before a mission at a forward-deployed location.  The Department of Defense's Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Roadmap provides a defensewide vision for UAVs and related technology.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jeremy T. Lock)

OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM - Maintenance workers perform last minute preflight checks on an RQ-1 Predator before a mission at a forward-deployed location. The Department of Defense's Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Roadmap provides a defensewide vision for UAVs and related technology. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jeremy T. Lock)

OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM - An RQ-1 Predator assigned to the 15th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron awaits its next mission at a forward-deployed location.  The Department of Defense's Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Roadmap provides a defensewide vision for UAVs and related technology.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. John Sheets)

OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM - An RQ-1 Predator assigned to the 15th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron awaits its next mission at a forward-deployed location. The Department of Defense's Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Roadmap provides a defensewide vision for UAVs and related technology. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. John Sheets)

WASHINGTON -- The Department of Defense's Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Roadmap provides a defensewide vision for UAVs and related technology, said the deputy of the UAV Planning Task Force in congressional testimony here March 26.

The goal of the plan is to ensure UAV programs proceed in a coordinated and efficient manner in order to move capability into the hands of the warfighter as soon as possible, Dyke Weatherington told members of the House Armed Services Committee subcommittee on tactical air and land forces.

"The services' use of UAVs has come a long way in the past decade," he said.

In Operation Desert Storm, only one UAV system was fielded. Eight years later, three UAV systems were used in Operation Allied Force, including the Air Force's RQ-1 Predator.

During Operation Enduring Freedom, three systems were used, to include the Predator and the RQ-4A Global Hawk, which is still in the development phase, he said. However, this time the Predator not only performed its intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance mission, but was also used in a strike role.

According to Weatherington, OEF provided just a glimpse of the contributions UAVs can make on the battlefield of the future.

"Predator has been a star of Operation Enduring Freedom and is currently supporting operations in Iraq," he said. "It was the first advanced concept technology demonstrator that transitioned to a service and was successfully integrated into their force structure."

Currently, there are more than 10 UAV systems in development and being deployed in support of operations in Iraq. These systems, including the Air Force's Predator, Global Hawk and Force Protection Surveillance System, are providing the warfighter with a very broad capability, he said.

The Global Hawk program is the most robust and extensive UAV program taken on and is another successful ACTD transition, Weatherington told subcommittee members.

"These vehicles provide dramatic -- some would say revolutionary -- capability to virtually every mission area and in every echelon of command," he said. "The rapid rate at which these capabilities can be developed and delivered to the warfighters uniquely positions the United States to adapt to new and emerging threats."

However, such a substantial transition requires coordination and detailed planning crossing traditional service boundaries, he said. The UAV Roadmap provides this coordination and planning to the services and agencies.

This can be seen in the push for the services to develop a joint Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle program office that would incorporate requirements from the services into a single broad program to support a range of mission areas.

"Regardless of service, there are a number of common problems associated with UAVs," said Lt. Col. Douglas Boone, deputy of the Air Force acquisition directorate's airborne reconnaissance division at the Pentagon.

These common problems include communications, getting the data back to the user, control, and air space management, Boone said.

"We've been very involved with DOD and the other services," he said. "Working closely to address a common problem, such as UAVs flying through commercial airspace, lets DOD speak with one voice to the Federal Aviation Administration and other international organizations."

Although much progress had been made with UAVs, there is much left to be done, Weatherington said.

"There are multiple mission areas that seem ripe for UAVs," he said. "Our goal is to migrate these capabilities in a logical and systematic way, learning from previous activities and delivering them to the warfighter."

UAVs will continue to compliment the larger segments of manned air and space areas, he said.

As technology, procedures and familiarity improve, more advanced UAV and UCAV systems will be able to deliver even greater capability to the warfighter, Weatherington told lawmakers.

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