Air Force, Army Leaders Discuss New UAS Concept Of Operations

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by Staff Sgt. Thomas J. Doscher and Carroll Kim, Air Combat Command Public Affairs and Army Training and Doctrine Command Public Affairs

Army and Air Force leaders met here Monday to discuss the way ahead for developing a new joint unmanned aerial system concept of operations for maximizing the contributions these systems can provide to joint forces in the field.

Gen. John D.W. Corley, Air Combat Command commander, met with Army Gen. William S. Wallace, Army Training and Doctrine Command commanding general, and Army Lt. Gen. Michael Vane, Army Capabilities and Integration Center director, to discuss a new joint UAS CONOPS. The new CONOPS would emphasize the full spectrum of conflict from centralized major combat operations to smaller-scale decentralized operations to include stability operations.

The commanders agreed that a new CONOPS would improve joint, collaborative efforts for UAS applications in joint operations.

"As opposed to finding independent solutions, we are trying to find joint, collaborative solutions that best support the joint warfighter in any spectrum of war," General Corley said in announcing the development of the CONOPS.

Monday's discussion follows dialogue over the past several months in which a joint Army-Air Force team has worked to identify current and future UAS requirements. In January, the chiefs of staff for the Army and Air Force along with other senior leaders met to discuss issues of mutual interest regarding interoperability.

From the meeting, a memorandum was signed that formalized existing arrangements between the Army and Air Force developed over the course of the war on terrorism to support the warfighter. The two services also agreed to develop a process to identify and address equipment interoperability issues, including the development of a UAS CONOPS that would lay the foundation for acquisition, airspace, air defense, force structure and organizational strategies.

"The environment we are operating in today, and what we expect to see tomorrow, has changed dramatically over the past few years," said General Wallace. "Taking a joint approach on UAS issues will allow us to rapidly develop force capabilities from concept and capability development through employment by identifying, linking and synchronizing all of our activities, so we can give the best capability to joint warfighters who are fighting a very elusive, thinking and adaptive adversary."

Those activities include doctrine, organizations, training, leader development, materiel, personnel and facilities.

"We need to have the ability to support full levels of joint operations from air-only major campaigns all the way down to counter-insurgency operations," said Maj. Matt Martin, ACC A3YU Predator and Reaper Operations Branch chief.

One focus with the CONOPS will be methods to best share information and command and control.

"If we can't share data, then we can't share information," General Corley said. "If we can't share information, we can't command and control."

Finding joint solutions begins with new CONOPS that look at every piece of the UAS spectrum, rather than individual pieces of the puzzle, the ACC commander said.

"We have to treat this as a system," he said. "You have to think about all the pieces."

The general said such interoperability will increase effectiveness from a combat standpoint.

"You have to think about all the pieces from training, to platform, to processing, exploitation and dissemination," said General Corley. "That includes how the info is shared and how it fits in the bigger puzzle. You want to know, not just what is in the lower left hand of the canvas, but what the entire painting looks like."

General Wallace agreed that efforts should be made to raise CONOPS up a level by focusing on capabilities rather than focusing on service-centric solutions.

"We want to identify areas or opportunities for increasing interoperability in order to optimize support to the joint warfighter," said General Wallace. "It's all about working together to get a capability to our troops quickly and effectively."

Major Martin said the new CONOPS will have far-reaching implications for UAS operations. The goal, he said, is to ensure that a joint forces commander can expect the same level of support from an Air Force UAS unit supporting an Army movement as they would receive from an Army unit and vice-versa.

"The CONOPS will influence how the services organize, train and equip their forces," he said. "The joint forces commander needs to expect the same level of effectiveness from each branch no matter what the mission."

Making changes to the current service-specific procedures has been a continuing process, and commanders in the field are already seeing the effects of those changes on the battlefield, General Corley explained.

"Enhancements to the current CONOPS are already underway and have already yielded benefits to the warfighter," he said. "We are looking to shape and inform our future discussions on doctrine, materiel, interoperability and training with this concept of operations. We're not starting from the beginning. This is an effort that's been underway for some time."

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