Vanguard Magazine

Dec/Jan 2015

Preserving capacity, General Tom Lawson, Chief of the Defence Staff, Keys to Canadian SAR

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Page 35 of 47

u unmannEd SYSTEMS 36 DECEMBER 2014/JANUARY 2015 A persistent in the sky Unmanned aerial systems (UAS) still have some significant hurdles to overcome before they can be integrated into Canadian airspace without fear of collisions with manned aircra. But each year at Unmanned Systems Canada's conference, presenters unveil novel applications of the technology. For the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), "everything is about information," Lieutenant (N) Caroline Gibson observed, so the demand for persistent ISR to support decision making is driving a steady effort across the military to integrate more unmanned capability. During presentations a USC in Montreal last month, Gibson and colleagues from the army and air force outlined that progress. by vanguard staff eye playing blackjack Although the Royal Canadian Air Force gained extensive experi- ence operating leased medium altitude and long endurance un- manned aerial systems in Afghanistan, the Canadian Army pos- sesses a wealth of knowledge with small and mini UAS and is certainly the most advanced in its acquisition process. The Land Forces ISTAR program to acquire a family of aircraft has already ticked a couple of boxes. In the summer of 2014 the army took delivery of its first Raven-B, a hand-launched mini UAS built by AeroVironment of California and provided under contract by MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates. The Raven, which replaces the Maveric, is expected to be fully operational by this summer and will be employed by Artillery Surveillance and Target Acquisition Batteries as well as Armoured Reconnaissance Squadrons, said Cap- tain Matthew Shoniker of the Directorate of Land Requirements. "[It] will provide an ISR platform to the Company and Squadron level...[and] allows commanders at this level an integral beyond- line-of-sight sensor to improve their situational awareness." The second member of the UAS family will be the RQ-21A Blackjack, a militarized U.S. Navy and Marine Corps version of the Integrator built by Boeing Insitu. Since 2008, the army has been leasing the Blackjack's sister small UAS, the ScanEagle, which completed its last flight this past summer. Both systems share the same launch and recover method. The Blackjack, which is currently being pursued "as a foreign military sales case with the U.S. gov- ernment," will provide an unmanned ISR plat- form to the Brigade level, Shoniker said. Along with the aircraft, the army is also developing a universal ground control station. "While it is planned to initially provide support for the Blackjack, it has the capability to be quickly fitted to support the Raven and any other further systems that we may acquire." Shoniker anticipates adding additional classes of UAS as the de- mand for the capability continues to grow. "If a platoon has this in- tegral capability, it allows them greater situational awareness without relying on the use of systems from higher organizations," he said. While there will always be interest in finding commonality across UAS fleets, he said certain high level army requirements "are going to remain constant and separate from those in the navy and the air force," including "launch and recovery independent of a runway," the ability to operate in a dismounted role, and power solutions other than batteries that do not limit a soldier's mobility. Seeking a pan-navy solution For the Royal Canadian Navy, the decision to embark a UAS was borne out of necessity. Less than five years ago, it had no persistent ISR capability onboard its ships – maritime helicopter operations were of limited duration – and insufficient capability to receive and disseminate information from other ISR assets such as the CP-140 maritime patrol aircraft. So in 2011 it piggybacked on the army's ScanEagle program and deployed the aircraft, complete with launch and recovery systems and ground stations, aboard several Halifax-class frigates. The persistent iSr capability proved its value almost immediately and now the demand is high for a perma- nent solution.

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