Sunday, June 24, 2007

Flight Plan for Unmanned Aerial Systems for NATO

Photo of an Australian Aerosonde UAV on JAPCC UAS PageNATO released "The Joint Air Power Competence Centre Flight Plan for Unmanned Aircraft Systems in NATO" (version 5.4, 15 March 2007).

The plan is provided as a 71 page PDF file:

1. Introduction
2. Current and Projected Capabilities
3. What is Needed to Fill the Gaps
4. Problems and Recommendations
Annex A: References
Annex B: Unmanned Aircraft in NATO (Operational)
Annex C: NATO Air Command and Control Systems
Annex D: Unmanned Aircraft Systems Missions
  • Combat Missions
  • C4ISTAR Missions
  • Combat Support Missions
  • Combat Services Support and Civil Missions
Annex E: Acronyms
Annex F: Considerations regarding NATO procurement of its own UAS versus Individual Nations contributing UAS as they are willing and able

From: Flight Plan for Unmanned Aircraft Systems in NATO, Version 5.4, JAPCC, 15 March 2007
The Flight Plan uses the term "Unmanned Aircraft Systems" (UAS), in place of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). This is done to emphasize that the vehicle is only part of an overall system. But introducing a new term is likely to cause confusion.

About half the document is taken up with a catalog of UAVs currently in NATO service. While a useful compendium, it would have been better as a separate document.

There is also a slide show presentation by Oberstlt Jens C. Fehler, from JAPCC, about the plan available online (some slides are marked: "©Univ.-Prof. Dr. habil. Marion A. Weissenberger-Eibl Department of Innovation and Technology Management). The overview covers issues such as: Force Development, Concepts of Operations, Doctrine, Tactics, Techniques and Procedures, Structures, Standards. One issue raised is if the way NATO manages Airborne Early Warning and Control (NAEW&C) will be used as a model for UAS, or will it be left up to each nation. Can what NATO’s does become a commonly accepted standard. Flight Plans remain an issue although a working group was formed to look at it five years ago.

The overview suggests what is needed is to review the use of UAS in NATO, find deficiencies in capability. The aim is one coherent strategy for UAS and situation awareness. The US experience with UAS was used as the model. Issues include: Maintenance, Operators, Training, Payload, Groundstations, Command andControl (C2), Air Traffic Management, Mission Planning/Tasking.

The plan does not appear to address automation of UAS tasks, which would seem an obvious way to address many of the issues. It all NATO does is to take a large number of uncoordinated personnel intensive systems and produce a coordinated even more personnel intensive system, that will not be much of an improvement.

Interestingly JAPCC use a photo of an Australian Aerosonde UAV to illustrate their UAS Page.


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