[Editor’s Note: Having available unmanned aerial systems to gather critical reconnaissance is a mission-essential functionality for Special Operations Forces. Without this capability, countless operations could have ended in disaster instead of triumph, so it makes sense USASOAC wants more UAS presence with greater sensory options.]

Army aviation special operators want new unmanned aircraft systems that can carry multiple sensors to collect vital intelligence from the battlefield and they’re working with the Army to achieve the capability, Brig. Gen. Erik Peterson, the Army Special Operations Aviation Command (USASOAC) commander, said Thursday.

Peterson, speaking at the Association of the US Army’s aviation symposium in Arlington, Virginia, described the state of the fleet of special operations UAS as a “dog breakfast” of more than 300 air vehicles beyond the standard Army UAS.

An MQ-1C Gray Eagle armed with Hellfire missiles revs up before taking flight at Camp Taji, Iraq.
An MQ-1C Gray Eagle armed with Hellfire missiles revs up before taking flight at Camp Taji, Iraq. (U.S. Army Photo)

Organic to the command is one company of MQ-1C Gray Eagle UAS platoons. Gray Eagle is the largest Army unmanned system in the fleet. These special operations platoons of four UAS each are and will be continuously deployed until at least Fiscal Year 2017.

Then special operations has smaller UAS such as the Raven, which is an Army program of record, but it also has several non-programs of record systems quickly procured in response to joint urgent operational needs statements and other various requests.

Listed on a slide shown during Peterson’s presentation, Army special operations has oversight of 12 Gray Eagles, 32 Shadows, 224 Ravens, seven Pumas, 15 Arrowlites, 40 Instant Eyes, two Silver Foxes and one Maveric. The last four UAS are not Army programs of record.

The UAS are “very valuable,” Peterson said, “but obviously present challenges when they are not programs of record.”

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Given the petting zoo of UAS that Army special operators are using, a multi-intelligence UAS would be ideal in the future; one UAS carrying multiple kinds of sensors with different capabilities.

Jen Judson’s original article for Defense News can be viewed here.

(Featured Photo courtesy of U.S. Army)