The US Army plans to flight test a "hunter stand-off killer" team designed to attack high-value, time-critical moving targets.

The proposed Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration (ACTD) would be US Army led and supported by the US Special Operations Command, the US Navy and the US Air Force.

The hunter-stand-off killer team would give a joint task force (JTF) commander "the ability to manage for the first time various aviation assets as a cohesive, well-oiled machine", says Keith Arthur, researcher at the US Army's Aviation Applied Technology Directorate, Fort Eustis, Virginia.

The ACTD would demonstrate whether a JTF commander in a US Army airborne command post could direct air-to-ground operations using data from a USAF Northrop Grumman E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System or a US Army TRW/IAI Hunter unmanned air vehicle linked to eight US Army Boeing AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopters.

The JTF commander would order air strikes, using either an Apache or a USN Boeing F/A-18 Hornet strike aircraft launching a Raytheon AGM-154 Joint Standoff Weapon. The JSOW glide bomb would receive position updates on target movements after release from the F/A-18 via Link 16 datalink. The Hunter's electro-optical/infrared sensor would be replaced by the US Navy's in-development high-fidelity TOPART laser radar.

The demonstration would use technology developed under the US Army's Airborne Manned/ Unmanned System Technology (AMUST) and the Rotorcraft Pilot's Associate (RPA) projects. Earlier this year, the US Army demonstrated teaming attack helicopters with UAVs for combat operations. Hunter payload and air vehicle control was integrated into an AH-64D's controls and displays. Targets acquired by the UAV were linked to the helicopter's sensors.

The RPA is designed to improve situational awareness and help a pilot manage and integrate digitised battlefield information. During routine flight, it assists the pilot with flight routing, navigation, communications, aircraft operations and weapons management.

As well as being helicopter pilot tools, AMUST and RPA would also be installed on the airborne command post, making "the rotorcraft pilot's associate into a commander's associate", says Arthur.

Should the US Army win limited ACTD funding, it would initiate the four year effort in fiscal year 2001. Interfaces would be developed in the first 24 months. Systems integration would take place in year three, followed by a military user assessment in South Korea.

Source: Flight International