For the full report, go to Inside The Army
Inside The Army – 5/20/2013
The Army will cut its manned aerial intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) fleet by more than half and focus its efforts on modernizing its existing platforms and sensors rather than procuring new systems as part of of its aerial ISR strategy for 2020, according to a report the Service sent to Congress on April 17 (Quick Reaction Force capabilities.) “This cost-conscious
approach, which reduces the Army’s Aerial ISR inventory from a peak of 110
during the height of combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan to 52 manned
platforms, will allow the Army to improve the quality and responsiveness of
our AISR collection and exploitation, while also supporting a significant
reduction in the cost associated with this critical mission portfolio.”
The Army will begin implementing the strategy this fiscal year, while the
bulk of the transformation will occur as the service draws its forces out of
Afghanistan, according to the report.
The strategy was created in response to a provision in the fiscal year 2013
Defense Authorization Act that directed the Army G-2 and G-8, as well as the
assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology,
to develop a plan for Army manned aerial ISR platforms and sensors.
The report shows the Army plans to double its procurement of the Enhanced
Medium Altitude Reconnaissance and Surveillance Systems from 12 aircraft to
24. The goal is to modernize the first 12 OCO-procured quick-reaction
capability aircraft with 12 additional base-procured EMARSS platforms, the
strategy notes. All 24 of these aircraft will be Beechcraft 350 models,
“providing a standard, single airframe fleet,” it states.
The OCO QRC systems will be modernized to enhance modular payload
capabilities and “to integrate these systems into the Intelligence
Enterprise” via the Distributed Common Ground System-Army, according to the
The Army scaled back its planned procurement for EMARSS to just four
engineering and manufacturing development aircraft in its FY-13 budget
request, only to ramp procurement back up to 12 spy planes in its FY-14
budget request. The FY-13 budget passed by Congress ultimately added two
more EMARSS EMD aircraft. The FY-14 request includes four low-rate initial
production aircraft in FY-14, with plans for two more in FY-15 (Inside the
Army, April 15).
EMARSS’ resurgence is, in part, due to the service’s decision to move away
from “one-trick-ponies” like Guardrail signals intelligence aircraft and
embrace platforms with multiple intelligence sensors and plug-and-play
capabilities, Col. Keith Hirschman, the Army’s Airborne and Reconnaissance
and Exploitation Systems project manager, told ITA in December.
According to the strategy, the Army plans to enhance 14 RC-12 Guardrail
Common Sensor X-Models with full-motion video platforms and eliminate 28
legacy GRCS systems.
Some Guardrail systems have been modernized with 14 sensor-equipped
airframes and five training aircraft. Those 19 aircraft will stay in the
fleet and will be further enhanced with FMV sensors “providing Multi-INT
capability into the future while leveraging the reach-back functionality in
the the Intelligence Enterprise via DCGS-A,” the report states.
The rest of the fleet — 28 systems — will be “eliminated with disposition
instructions beginning in 2013,” the strategy notes.
The Airborne Reconnaissance Low will stay in the fleet and receive improved
sensors and a new “sustainable platform,” according to the report.
The ARL spy plane is expected to play a key ISR role as part of the Defense
Department’s anticipated future pivot to the Asia Pacific theater, Hirschman
said in December. No other platform in the Army’s inventory of manned ISR
aircraft has the “long legs” that ARL has, he noted. EMARSS has less
endurance but is “very flexible,” he added.
Hirschman also said ARL has become valuable for the Army in South Korea
because it is equipped with Phoenix Eye radar systems that are able to track
ground moving targets, watching “big stuff” coming from the north to the
Because the Army expects ARL to remain a valuable asset, it is developing a
capabilities development document to begin its effort to replace the ARL’s
aging platform, Col. Brian Tachias, the program manager for the Army’s
fixed-wing project office, told ITA in November 2012. The ARL fleet consists
of eight DeHavilland Canada Dash 7 (DHC-7) aircraft. The average age of the
airframes is about 30 years.
As part of the strategy, the Army also plans to replace its MQ-5B Hunter
unmanned aircraft systems with modernized MQ-1C Gray Eagles “to provide
increased endurance and enhanced sensors to contribute to the global and
regionally aligned ISR force.”
The service will also reduce its Persistent Surveillance Systems-Tethered
(PSS-T) from 144 to 58 while sustaining up to 29 Persistent Threat Detection
Systems (PTDS) and up to 29 Ground Surveillance Systems (PGSS). The
remainder will be transitioned to “spares status as capabilities disengage
from [Operation Enduring Freedom],” the report notes.
The Army uses the report to list quick-reaction capabilities it would like
to make programs of record. Among them are the Constant Hawk Wide Area
Surveillance system, the Tactical Operation Light Detection and Ranging
system, the Medium Altitude Reconnaissance and Surveillance System (MARSS)
Vehicle and the Dismount Exploitation Radar (VADER). All of these sensors
would be integrated onto EMARSS platforms, the strategy notes.
The report acknowledges possibilities for joint AISR to meet some of the
service’s requirements, “given appropriate timeliness, responsiveness, and
assuredness. However, increasing [combatant command] demand for finite Joint
AISR assets has and continues to limit their availability to Army tactical
units competing for ISR support as part of a larger joint force.”
The lack of joint ISR availability “restricts the ability of our Army
tactical units to form and perfect the habitual relationships and conduct
the comprehensive technical and tactical integration required to full
optimize Joint ISR assets in our scheme of maneuver,” the report states.