NATIONAL HARBOR, Md.– Col. Victor Argobright, Navy and Marine Corps Small Tactical Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) program office (PMA-263) program manager, shared a new vision for small UAS procurement and employment during the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space Symposium, on April 4.
During his presentation, Argobright highlighted the program’s vision ? rapidly deploy systems that are modular, have an open architecture, advanced sensors, and payloads, and improve autonomy.
“We want a level of autonomy that allows us to field systems for use by individual squadrons and platoons who can operate and maintain the UAS without putting a strain on their resources,” Argobright said. “We envision a scenario where every Sailor or Marine is a UAS operator or maintainer.”
He also emphasized these systems should be easy to operate, offer increased range and endurance and allow for operations from any air-capable ship. Going forward, user assessment and experimentation will be part of the tailored acquisition process with rapid prototyping, integration, and fielding as key attributes to any new platform.
The program office released several Requests for Information (RFI) to the industry over the last few months aimed at a single goal: getting capability into the hands of the warfighter quickly and efficiently.
One key focus area for the program is unmanned logistics, which includes a land-based platform, known as the Unmanned Logistics System-Air (ULS-A) Small, also referred to as Tactical Resupply UAS (TRUAS). TRUAS will be delivered to the Marines as part of an extended user assessment later this year.
“We’re looking for the state of the market, not the state of the art. What I mean by that is that we want to know what industry already has available,” Argobright said. “What we’ve shown with TRUAS is that the market is ready, the capability already exists.”
Rear Adm. Brian Corey, who oversees the Program Executive Office for Unmanned Aviation and Strike Weapons, also spoke at the symposium about the potential for cargo UAS and the advantages to these systems.
“Why drive down a road and potentially get an IED [improvised explosive device] … when you can fly?” Corey said. “I think that’s some of the most innovative thinking we have going on right now.”
Both Corey and Argobright also discussed the Navy’s ship-based logistics effort, known as Blue Water UAS (BWUAS), which has a longer range and a smaller footprint. In partnership with Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division, Argobright’s office recently released an RFI to increase industry participation in this effort with the goal of expanding unmanned logistics UAS experimentation to better understand and solve integration challenges with this emerging capability.
PMA-263 is also focused on expanding to a third capability, a medium-sized logistics system, ULS-A Medium. The program released an RFI last month requesting a system capable of handling more than 300 pounds of cargo while traveling at least 55 nautical miles. The program office plans to implement the lessons learned from TRUAS and BWUAS to put this additional logistics resupply capability into the hands of the fleet quickly.
“We are doing continuous market research and expect this request for information to appear regularly,” Argobright said. “The market is shifting rapidly and we are focused on getting emerging capabilities into the hands of the warfighter. That may mean shorter procurement intervals and regular evaluation of what is available in the industry.”
The demand for Small UAS has exploded and PMA-263 is striving to meet the fleet’s urgent requirements at the state of the market, Argobright said. The program is looking to strengthen and expand its network of partners to ensure they increase the warfighter’s competitive edge into the future.