PARIS AIR SHOW–L3 Technologies [LLL] believes that its merger next week with Harris Corp. [HRS] will create air-ground synergies that will benefit L3 efforts, such as the company’s bid for U.S. Army Manned-Unmanned Teaming (MUM-T) work.
The Harris-L3 merger is to close June 29, following Justice Department approval of the deal last week.
“With their [Harris’] expertise on the ground and with L3’s expertise in the air, we want to build the Army’s future network,” Rob Johnston, L3 Technologies’ director of business development for communications systems-West, said in an interview here. “The Army has yet to solve the air-ground communications piece.”
The Army is looking for new wave forms to help solve the air-to-ground communications puzzle, as the Soldier Radio Waveform, derived from the now canceled Future Combat System (FCS) program, did not do the trick.
At the Paris Air Show, an L3 presentation highlighted MUM-T as “livestreaming the future battle from any platform.”
MUM-T has been a singular focus for the Army since it decided to retire the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior armed scout helicopter. Instead of developing and fielding a clean-sheet replacement, service leaders decided the Boeing [BA] AH-64 Apache attack helicopter teamed with Textron Systems‘ [TXT] RQ-7 Shadow drones could perform the armed scout mission.
The Future Tactical Unmanned Aircraft Systems (FTUAS) are to replace the RQ-7.
In March, the Army selected Martin UAV and Textron’s AAI Corp. to compete for FTUAS with a $99.5 million award ceiling through March 27, 2022.
FTUAS scout drones are to be quieter, smaller and easier to transport and deploy than the Shadow. The Army also wants its new scout drone to employ “Air Launched Effects,” or ALE.
L3’s Johnston is a former Army Apache pilot and remembers when the concept for manned-unmanned cooperation began as an advanced concept technology demonstration (ACTD) in 2001. He was then an Army major and was the program manager for the ACTD. MUM-T now has reached Level 4 in which the AH-64E can control where the unmanned systems fly and their payloads. This capability is to be demonstrated in the new AH-64E Version six (V6) software.
“This is a front line program for L3,” Johnston said of MUM-T. “We’re the leaders. We’ve been doing it for 20 years.”
Boeing told sister publication Rotor & Wing International last fall that Army crews for the AH-64E have requested an easier to use L3 MUM-T data link. The AH-64E V6 update includes data-link improvements.
This spring, the U.S. Army launched the Advanced Teaming Demonstration Program (A-Team), which “seeks to develop and demonstrate collaborative operations of autonomous, manned and unmanned, Army aircraft executing tactical missions with minimal human intervention.”
“Technologies and products of interest to the program include autonomy applied to aviation mission planning and execution, intelligent systems for robust, adaptive, decision making, advanced perception technologies with automated target and object detection and identification systems, mobile ad hoc networks for team communications, advanced engagement planning and intuitive human machine interface technologies,” according to the call for proposals. “All of these capabilities will work in conjunction with payload products such as sensors, radios, weapons, and tube-launched drones released from vertical lift or fixed wing UAVs and piloted aircraft.”
Rotor craft in the Army Future Vertical Lift program, as well as existing aircraft, are likely to have MUM-T capabilities.
L3 said it has developed ground intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) transceivers that provide “real time, full motion video and other data for situational awareness, targeting, battle damage assessment, surveillance, relay, and other situations where eyes-on-target are required.”
The L3 MUM-T data link started on the Apache “but can be installed on any aircraft in the world,” Johnston said.
“It’s not a radio mode, people trying to understand what’s going on,” he said. “They can see the data and analyze it. It’s quite powerful.”