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Joint unmanned combat air system matching mission requirements, performance capabilities, and critical aviation systems

by Claffy, Kevin M.

Abstract (Summary)
The Joint Unmanned Combat Air Systems (J-UCAS) acquisition program is a joint Air Force and Navy effort led by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to demonstrate a networked system of unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAV) to effectively and affordably prosecute 21st century combat missions. The potential of these weapon systems to perform dangerous combat missions at a relatively low-cost and low-risk has garnered significant interest from both Congress and the Department of Defense (DoD) and raised expectations that the J-UCAS will replace some of the DoD’s aging tactical aircraft fleet. This paper will address the requirement for the DoD and Armed Services to collectively resolve a new vision and clear strategy for the integration of unmanned combat air vehicles into the Armed Forces and the future battlespace. The DoD and Armed Services continue to struggle among themselves and with defense contractors to match resources and requirements in the development of individual “service-centric” UCAVs for specific mission areas. The current vision and strategy of the J-UCAS program is derived from an initial assessment of the cost and risk benefits of UCAV development. The failure of this approach is that it will not yield a UCAV with a distinct strategic and operational advantage. This research will trace the evolution of the current J-UCAS acquisition program. A systems-engineering approach will be applied to a reassessment of the desired J-UCAS mission requirements and corresponding performance capabilities that will serve to guide the development of critical aviation systems in the context of current and emerging technologies. iv It was concluded that while the J-UCAS program should remain a joint effort, the United States Air Force (USAF) should be given the priority on developing and fielding the first operational joint UCAV weapon system. Future J-UCAS weapon systems should be designed to operate in a joint environment within the emerging global command and control architecture in coordination with manned aircraft. The J-UCAS must be designed with flexible, multi-mission capability to include intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; suppression of enemy air defenses and strike. The other armed services should support this effort, but initially limit their contributions to evaluating technology demonstrators that primarily focus on interoperability in each of their respective combat environments until such time as the first operational UCAV program has successfully proven its combat effectiveness. v
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School:The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

School Location:USA - Tennessee

Source Type:Master's Thesis

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