The U.S. Army successfully tested its ability to redirect munitions in flight on Aug. 28 in an experiment over the Mohave Desert involving an unmanned aircraft, smart sensors, and artificial intelligence.
It was the “signature experiment for FY19” according to Brig. Gen. Walter T. Rugen, director of the Future Vertical Lift Cross-Functional Team (FVL CFT).
The experiment at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake (NAWC China Lake) in California, tested a capability developed by the FVL CFT called A3I, standing for Architecture, Automation, Autonomy and Interfaces.
In the A3I experiment, an operator in the back of an MH-47 Chinook helicopter used an iPad to control an MQ-1C ER Gray Eagle unmanned aircraft system (UAS) over China Lake. He fired a GBU-69 Small Glide Munition (SGM) from the Grey Eagle and it was the first time that type of UAS fired that kind of missile.
Then as the munition approached its target, a system of ground sensors picked up a higher-priority target nearby. Another operator in the Tactical Operations Center was able to quickly take over control of the glide munition and redirect it to the new target, which was ultimately destroyed.
The A3I system of interconnected sensors was developed over a nine-month period by the Future Vertical Lift CFT in conjunction with the U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) with input from academia and industry. The overall experiment was designed to penetrate an urban environment pairing manned and unmanned aircraft, smart munitions, sensors, and automated processing capabilities.
The MH-47 helicopter in the experiment was part of the Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (160th SOAR) “Night Stalkers”, under the U.S. Army Special Operations Aviation Command (USASOAC). The MQ-1C ER was also part of the ASOAC.
160th SOAR (A) is a special operations force of the Army that provides helicopter aviation support for general purpose forces and special operations forces. Its missions have included attack, assault, and reconnaissance, and these missions are usually conducted at night, at high speeds, low altitudes, and on short notice.