|NATO Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft
NATO AWACS cooperation with Boeing is coming to fruition: Control of the ScanEagle unmanned airborne system (UAS) by a NATO Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft will be demonstrated during Empire Challenge 2010. The event, hosted by the U.S. Joint Forces Command, will take place from July 26 to August 13 at Fort Huachuca, Arizona.
The Empire Challenge 2010 flight mission demonstration starting on August 2 will pave the way to enable any airborne C2 platform to control unmanned vehicles -- such as ScanEagle and the larger ScanEagle Compressed Carriage -- as remote intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance sensors without a major modification to the controlling aircraft.
Unmanned vehicles and AWACS have been tested in previous Empire Challenge demonstrations, but this will be the first time NATO AWACS will demonstrate full control of an unmanned aircraft by an airborne command and control (C2) platform during an operational scenario.
The mock scenario will include a counter-piracy operation in which the NATO AWACS aircraft detects suspicious activity and directs ScanEagle to fly to a location and track a suspect vessel -- a vehicle representing a pirate ship -- while sending real-time video back to the AWACS. The AWACS aircraft, in collaboration with the Combined Air Operations Center, will determine whether the vessel is a threat and direct other coalition assets to respond appropriately. The AWACS aircraft will be equipped with a Tactical Common Data Link system that will relay commands to the ScanEagle from an onboard operator.
Linking NATO AWACS with other sensor platforms -- like unmanned vehicles -- provides new opportunities in the field of air battle management tasks, joint intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and refined information sharing methods to harness operational asset and network synergies.
The accelerated data exchange between ScanEagle and the AWACS aircraft will not only mean improved observation angles from both higher and lower altitudes, but also shortened response times based on immediately actionable intelligence.
Already in 2009, AEW aircraft were successfully employed in controlling multiple ScanEagles via satellite communications and other similar communications channels.