AF Research Laboratory redesigns mock UAV

  • Published
  • By Jeanne Dailey
  • Air Force Research Laboratory
The Air Force Research Laboratory's Surrogate Predator Program has given the warfighter a way to train in the U.S. before deploying overseas.

AFRL's Directed Energy Directorate at Kirtland Air Force Base modified a Civil Air Patrol Cessna 182 aircraft to be used for military training exercises. The Surrogate Predator has intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance sensors that provide the capability to mimic a Predator unmanned aerial vehicle.

CAP is the official auxiliary of the Air Force with about 60,000 members nationwide, who operate a fleet of 550 aircraft. CAP members perform about 85 percent of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions, as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center, which credits CAP with saving an average of 70 lives each year.

CAP members also perform homeland security, disaster relief and drug interdiction missions at the request of federal, state and local agencies.

AFRL, which has been part of the Surrogate Predator Program since 2008, recently completed and delivered the Enhanced Surrogate Predator 3 to CAP, according to program manager J. P. Sena.

"The Enhanced Surrogate Predator 3 is a redesign of the first two surrogate predators, which had a wing-mounted turret," Sena said. "We designed the Cessna 206T with a retractable turret stowed in the belly of the aircraft that allows for longer flight times by reducing drag when the turret is not in operation. The operator station was also designed with ergonomics in mind to allow for more leg room, ease of controls, central location for all the equipment and a plethora of capabilities for the sensor operator."

The Surrogate Predator is used in Green Flag exercises, where the Air Force and its allied air forces engage in air-land integration combat training exercises.

"With the use of the Surrogate Predator during Green Flag exercises, troops training for deployment get experience with what they will see overseas while the government can keep the high-value assets overseas to continue to complete missions," Sena said. "Our government saves millions by keeping the assets in theater and completing training using the Surrogate Predators."

In addition to its use as a military training aircraft, CAP has used the Surrogate Predators 1 and 2 in relief efforts for disasters such as Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

"The capabilities of the Enhanced Surrogate Predator will far exceed the previous two and I'm sure will be used in countless other ways to support the CAP mission, as well as the U.S. government," Sena said.