Armor & Mobility

May/ June 2017

Military magazines in the United States and Canada, covering Armor and Mobility, focuses on tactical vehicles, C4ISR, Special Operations Forces, latest soldier equipment, shelters, and key DoD programs

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SMALL PACKAGE, BIG MISSION CRITICAL The U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) is constantly assessing the current inventory of Small Unmanned Air Systems (SUAS), drafting policy to ensure operational readiness, and looking ahead to meet future challenges. While there are a variety of SUAS operators (SUAS-Os) within the USAF and AFSOC, Special Operations Forces (SOF) operators are a special breed due to the complexity of their mission requirements and need for specialized solutions. AFSOC leadership works continually to advance its SOF SUAS inventory to meet current threats, as well as, provide training that prepares operators to go from schoolhouse to battlefield. SOF, like many other SUAS operators, attend Initial Qualification Training (IQT). This specialized 2-week course rapidly trains individuals of any skill level to highly-qualified SUAS operators, capable of per forming a variety of mission sets in support of their units. The objective of AFSOC's SUAS IQT program is to train SUAS-Os to operate a specific SUAS proficiently, and to expose all operators to basic tools they can use to support their unit's mission, from basic techniques, like orbiting a target with fixed cameras either from a manual or autonomous mode of flight, to advanced techniques, such as mobile operations, handoffs, and area reconnaissance on stationary or moving targets. Once operators complete the course, they are upgraded from Basic Aircraft Qualified (BAQ) to Mission Ready (MR) status; building on basic skills and developing new skills, specific to the unit's mission. MR training may be limited due to the autonomous nature of basic camera- only platforms, or rigorous for systems with advanced capabilities and manual controls. With limited manpower and an increasing operational tempo, SUAS have proven to provide unparalleled real-time situational awareness for operators and their leadership. SUAS serve as organic intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), targeting, and communications relay and for the AFSOC community, allowing units to operate more independently and with a lower risk of target compromise. CONVENTIONAL SUPPORT INDEPENDENT AFSOC's A3OU Unmanned Systems Operations Branch (USOB) carries out Air Force command oversight of small unmanned aircraft systems (SUAS) groups 1 through 3 (Raven/Shadow types) and USSOCOM duties as lead component for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) integration for groups 1 through 5 (Predator/Reaper types). In-addition, A3OU develops, processes, and manages over 100 Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Certificates of Waiver or Authorization that permit UAS operations in the United States National Airspace System. SUAS serves as organic Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), targeting, and communications relay for the AFSOC community, allowing units to operate more independently and with a lower risk of compromise from a target. Specifics that define "organic" and how that enables more "immunity" from enemy eyes are at the forefront of AFSOC SUAS initiatives. "The 'organic' nature comes from the ability of a unit or small squad to conduct their own ISR without the need for conventional assets, such as reconnaissance aircraft or satellite imagery," said Mr. Jeffrey S. Golliver, Chief, A3OU/USOB. "The 'immunity' comes from the ability of SUAS to be launched from several miles away to observe a target, keeping the operators out of harm's way. Thus, if a small squad was in need of target imagery they have the capability to launch their own asset to get any needed information immediately; this vs the traditional method of risking detection by enemy forces by physically encroaching upon a target to conduction ISR," Golliver added. The U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC), Hurlburt Field, FL, is the lead command for the readiness and sustainment of U.S. Air Force Small Unmanned Air Systems (SUAS). By Kevin Hunter, A&M Editor A Special Ops Weather Team member trains with Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems at Hurlburt Field. (AFSOC) UNMANNED SUSTAINMENT SMALL UAS INTEGRATION www.tacticaldefensemedia.com 4 | Armor & Mobility | May/June 2017

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