1.0 INTRODUCTION This Concept of Operations (CONOPS) describes the operational employment of various classes of Endurance Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) being designed to support warfighters. There are three tiers of unmanned vehicles which reflect DAROís integrated reconnaissance strategy. The DARO strategy includes a complimentary mix of systems, both manned and unmanned. The UAV systems include the Medium Altitude Endurance (MAE), Tier II, named Predator; High Altitude Endurance (HAE), Tier II+, named Global Hawk; and Low Observable High Altitude Endurance (LO-HAE), Tier III-, named DarkStar. The endurance family of UAVs will afford commanders the opportunity to exploit the advantages of unmanned systems in high risk environments at a reduced risk to human life. This CONOPS will provide an overview of the principal endurance UAV components and organizations, the intended operational environment, and the primary command and control relationships and responsibilities. It also provides a framework for the development of theater-specific concepts of employment and operations planning documents. This document will also serve as the foundation for future Mission Need Statements (MNS) and Operational Requirements Documents (ORDs).
1.1 CONOPS Assumptions The CONOPS incorporates the following assumptions: Air Combat Command (ACC) will be the force provider for all endurance UAVs. Force structure will be based on revisions to existing Oplans when they are updated to include UAV assets. Endurance UAV systems are a complement to, and not replacements for, our current reconnaissance and surveillance assets. This is a living document to be updated as the various UAVs prove their military utility.
1.2 Background This CONOPS supports the Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC) MNS for a close range and long endurance reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition (RSTA) capability. The endurance family of UAVs is undergoing a series of Advanced Concept Technology Demonstrations (ACTDs) for program acquisition. The Predator program is the first to complete an ACTD and is in preparation for IOC.
2.0 DESCRIPTION Endurance UAV systems are theater assets provided for RSTA that will be apportioned and allocated in support of Theater and Joint Force Commandersí requirements. They provide a broad spectrum of intelligence collection capability to support joint combatant forces in worldwide peace, crisis, and wartime operations. If required, these systems can provide an unmanned platform for use in high risk scenarios where the gain of information outweighs the loss of the vehicle. The capabilities of these UAV systems will provide for adaptive real-time planning for current operations, to include: monitoring enemy offensive and defensive positions, deception postures, and combat assessment. Endurance UAVs will provide a rapid turnaround of raw data to aid a robust targeting cycle to follow a "First Look, First Shoot, First Kill" philosophy.
2.1 Endurance UAV Tasks The ability of endurance UAVs to provide 24-hour coverage in an area of interest with complimentary IMINT sensors will give the theater CINC additional advantages and capabilities, while providing a force multiplier, and complement manned/space reconnaissance. Covering the spectrum from peace to war, potential applications of endurance UAVs include:
Near real time (NRT) targeting and precision strike support; NRT combat assessment; enemy order of battle information; battle damage assessment (BDA); intelligence preparation of the battlefield; special operations; monitoring "zones of separation; blockade and quarantine enforcement; sensitive reconnaissance operations; humanitarian aid; United Nations treaty monitoring; counter drugs; communications relay; and single integrated operational plan (SIOP) support.
2.2 Endurance UAV Descriptions
2.2.1 Medium Altitude Endurance UAV, Predator (Tier II) The Predator UAV system is designed to provide 24-hour, near-continuous, on-station coverage surveillance with a 500 NM operational radius using simultaneous carriage of electro-optical (EO), infrared (IR), and synthetic aperture radar (SAR) sensors, at an altitude of 25,000 feet or below. Demonstrated baseline system capability can provide approximately 20-hour total flight time at 13,000 MSL. On station relief is not possible with the baseline system. The system consists of 635 personnel, 4 air vehicles, 1 ground control station (GCS), and a communications suite.
2.2.2 Conventional High Altitude Endurance UAV, Global Hawk (Tier II+) The Global Hawk UAV is designed to provide 24-hour, on-station surveillance with a 3000 NM radius using simultaneous carriage of EO, IR, and SAR sensors, at an altitude of greater than 50,000 feet. The higher altitude and longer operational radius allows both greater survivability and operational flexibility. Global Hawk will not be packaged as a "system" like the Predator, but will be employed with a minimum complement of interactive components consisting of a number of TBD air vehicles, a launch and recovery element (LRE), and a mission control element (MCE). A small quantity of Portable LREs (PLRE) will be available for deployment to the supported AOR as necessary in order to manage alternate UAV recovery options. Actual system component requirements will depend on the specific theater employment concept.
2.2.3 Low Observable High Altitude Endurance UAV, DarkStar, (Tier III-) The DarkStar UAV is designed for low observability and is optimized for moderate endurance, high threat reconnaissance missions in which ensured coverage is more important than range and endurance. DarkStar will not be packaged as a "system" like the Predator, but will be employed with a minimum complement of the same interactive components as the Global Hawk. DarkStar will be equipped with either an EO or SAR sensor (single carriage) and fly at altitudes greater than 45,000 feet, with an on station time of eight hours, and a 500 NM operational radius. Actual system component requirements will depend on the specific theater employment concept. Depending on the employment scenario, component requirements for DarkStar may be vehicle specific, since the vehicle range and low observable datalink antenna require an available MCE for connectivity.
2.3 UAV Ground Stations
2.3.1 Predator GCS The GCS is an integral part of the Predator system. It provides command and control of the vehicle and its payload. It has a limited capability to disseminate collected intelligence directly to an exploitation ground system or battlefield customer. It is the theaterís responsibility to provide for exploitation and dissemination of Predator products. Efforts are underway to develop an exploitation and dissemination capability within the existing intelligence ground stations. However, the theater may establish a tailored exploitation cell for the Predator system to facilitate responsive delivery of finished intelligence products. The system also collects and disseminates SAR frame imagery along with EO/IR frame and video imagery.
2.3.2 Global Hawk and DarkStar These systems consist of their respective MCEs and LREs. HAE systems are envisioned to plug into the USAFís existing airborne reconnaissance ground based intelligence architecture.
3.1 Organization The Predator UAV will be aligned under ACCís Air Warfare Center (AWC) within the 57th Wing (57 WG) and assigned to the 11th Reconnaissance Squadron (11 RS) at Nellis AFB NV. The location and alignment of other Endurance UAVs is to be determined (TBD).
3.2 Basing Basing of the Predator UAVs will follow a main operating base (MOB) - forward operating location (FOL) or "Non-MOB" concept. Basing studies of HAE and LO-HAE is on-going at HQ ACC. Final basing of HAE and LO-HAE is TBD. The MOB for Predator endurance UAVs will be at Indian Springs Air Force Auxiliary Field. The Commander of the 11 RS maintains an office at Nellis AFB NV. The 11 RS MOB will conduct initial qualification training (IQT), mission qualification training (MQT), and continuation training (CT). Initial criteria for the MOB includes a site with low volume of ground and air traffic, >5,000 foot landing strip, access to restricted airspace and training ranges, maintenance facilities, and hangar facilities. Currently, the primary driver limiting MOB basing options for endurance UAVs is unrestricted access to FAA managed airspace. Exercise support and operational support can be conducted from both MOB or Non-MOB locations. Non-MOBs should meet the same minimum criteria as the MOB.
3.3 Deployment/Redeployment The Predator and DarkStar systems will require airlift to deploy and redeploy air vehicles, support equipment, and personnel outside of the CONUS. The Global Hawk air vehicle will self-deploy and require airlift for ground based equipment and personnel.
3.4 Employment The endurance UAVs can be employed at CINC request for a variety of missions. The mix of endurance UAV variants provides a wide range of deployment and employment options adding flexibility to the accomplishment of theater commander requirements. These systems will be capable of near real time transmission of collected data from their imagery sensors or other follow-on payloads. These three endurance UAVs will be supported by their respective transportable ground control stations which are equipped with both line of sight and over the horizon connectivity for vehicle command and control and data collection transmissions. The Predator UAV system, DarkStar UAV, and both HAE system components are air transportable. The Global Hawk UAV will be self deployable. Data collections from any of the three UAV types will be transmitted directly to a properly equipped exploitation site for processing, exploitation, and dissemination. For the Predator system, sensor control is accomplished by the payload operator in the GCS. For Global Hawk, sensor control can be commanded by up-links from properly equipped exploitation facilities or the MCE. For DarkStar, only the MCE can up-link payload commands due to "low observable" system constraints on the data link. Once in theater, the endurance UAV missions will be tasked by the JFC/JFACC/ AFFOR via the Air Tasking Order (ATO).
3.5 Force Structure As endurance UAVs prove their military utility and a decision is made to add these systems to our aircraft inventory, they may be called upon to perform a wide variety of missions. Predator entered the USAF inventory on 1 Jul 96. Its force structure will be 11 total systems, of which 8 are fully deployable, 2 are for MOB training, and 1 for research, development, test, and evaluation (RDT&E). ACTD residuals are programmed for 10 Global Hawks and 4 DarkStars. The final force structure mix is TBD. The final UAV family force structure will be determined through the course of the HAE ACTD processes. One Predator UAV system is designed to support one orbit continuously. A Global Hawk system will consist of enough vehicles to support one orbit continuously. A DarkStar system will consist of enough vehicles to support one sortie per day.
3.6 UAV Manpower Each Predator system requires approximately 653 personnel to support one orbit continuously. Total manpower requirements for HAE UAVs have not yet been determined. Specific personnel numbers for these systems will be dependent upon each theatersí employment concept.
4.0 COMMAND AND CONTROL RELATIONSHIP STRUCTURE USACOM is assigned combatant command (COCOM) of all DoD operational endurance UAV assets. Operational control (OPCON) of endurance UAVs will be the responsibility of ACC, USACOMís Air Force component. ACC will assign these assets to the Air Warfare Center. OPCON of deployed endurance UAVs transfers to the theater CINC once the asset is in the supported area of responsibility (AOR).
5.0 INTELLIGENCE Initially the endurance UAV systems will collect only imagery intelligence (IMINT). Follow on UAV payloads are envisioned to include signals intelligence (SIGINT) applications. Additional missionized CONOPS will be provided by the agency that retains acquisition authority and OPCONCOCOM for these missions. In some cases these missions may impact deployed UAV system force structure as a result of specialized configurations that require dedicated vehicles. Endurance UAV mission CONOPS not contained in this document require coordination with ACC prior to implementation. Current UAV IMINT will be combined with other manned and unmanned intelligence sources for analysis of the battlefield situation. The endurance UAVs constitute a vital part of theater intelligence collection systems, but do not function as stand-alone exploitation centers. It will be the responsibility of the JTF/J2 to convert the collected data from the UAVs into exploited information for production and dissemination. Exploitation facilities used for this purpose are not considered part of the Predator or HAE systems, but rather an essential mission support element provided by the theater customers. Execution of the endurance UAV role in JFCís campaign plan will be the responsibility of the JFACC, who will command, coordinate, deconflict, and synchronize UAVs within the three-dimensional battlespace.
6.0 COMMUNICATION/INFORMATION SYSTEM SUPPORT The airborne sensor suites of the endurance UAVs and their ground segment components interact through satellite and line-of-sight (LOS) links to maintain command and control and sensor data communication paths. Bandwidth compression is applied to sensor data to maximize area coverage and communication relay rates. Dissemination of UAV collected data is made to national and theater exploitation systems (i.e., CARS, JSIPS/(N), ETRAC, MEIS, etc.) through voice and data communications. Access to common user networks and direct circuit links to exploitation systems is the responsibility of the theater CINC.
6.1 Predator System Communications Presently the system uses a combination of C-Band LOS, UHF SATCOM, and Trojan Spirit II Ku Band Satellite terminal for communications connectivity. Future communications architectures should migrate to the Theater Deployable Communications (TDC) for both mobility and simplicity at reduced costs.
7.0 SECURITY The endurance UAV programs are specifically designed to provide unclassified releasable, high-quality imagery. However, JFC has the authority to appropriately classify the imagery based on the mission and imagery content. DARO has taken responsibility for the Predator programís security classification guide.
8.0 TRAINING Training is the key to successful integration of endurance UAVs into air operations. Endurance UAVs will perform missions across the spectrum of conventional, nuclear, and special operation roles. For Predator, specific qualification and certification requirements for each position have been determined, and the appropriate training processes are in development. Training will be provided by contractor and military instructors at the MOB. For both HAE systems, specific training requirements will be determined during the demonstration period (Phase III) of the advanced concept technology demonstration (ACTD).
9.0 LOGISTICS The Predator, Global Hawk, and DarkStar UAVs will be supported using the maintenance concepts established in ACCI 21-166, Objective Wing Aircraft Maintenance. The organizational structure will be designed to produce appropriate sortie rates in order to meet operational needs.
9.1 Technical Data Technical data is vital for the development and execution of a logistic support system. The ACTD acquisition process does not require production of technical data. The Predator is the first system to graduate under the ACTD process and, as such, did not come with a complement of complete technical data. USACOM, as the ACTD administrator, is working toward a coordinated plan with potential users of the HAE systems, including ACC, that will acknowledge the need to resolve supportability issues during transition to production if that decision is made.