AAI Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), an operating unit of Textron Systems, a Textron Inc. (NYSE: TXT) company, and Aurora Flight Sciences announced today that the organizations have formed a strategic alliance to integrate AAI's Universal Ground Control Station (UGCS) and other ground control technologies with Aurora's Orion UAS and Centaur Optionally Piloted Aircraft (OPA). This pairing supports medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) missions of up to five days with the Orion UAS, as well as defense, first responder and scientific missions with the Centaur OPA.
The UGCS is a NATO standardization agreement 4586-compliant command-and-control platform based on AAI UAS' proven One System(r) architecture. It incorporates a digital Tactical Common Data Link for robust bandwidth and data security, and is designed to command and control multiple joint services UAS simultaneously.
"Our Universal Ground Control Station lives up to its name with features for scalability, interoperability and commonality," says Steven Reid, senior vice president and general manager of AAI UAS. "We currently provide command and control for numerous UAS including the General Atomics Gray Eagle(r) and the Northrop Grumman Hunter. Bringing this same proven capability to the Orion UAS enables this game-changing platform to integrate into the U.S. Army's layered intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance [ISR] strategy, and continues our efforts to align with the Office of the Secretary of Defense's interoperable communications architectures."
The Orion UAS will demonstrate five-day endurance sorties with 1,000 pounds of payload operating at 20,000 feet in support of the United States Central Command, or CENTCOM, urgent operational need for persistent, multi-intelligence ISR. With an open-architecture payload and ground station interface, the Orion UAS will provide the U.S. Air Force with flexibility to accommodate the myriad payloads suited to the Orion's design.
The Centaur OPA is ideally suited to allow users to operate as a manned ISR platform, then be reconfigured as an unmanned system in the field. This flexibility allows users transiting national airspace or in research and development environments to provide ISR to a much broader customer base than available today.
"Integrating the UGCS with Orion and Centaur will ensure they are rapidly available to the warfighter and other customers," said Dr. John Langford, chief executive officer of Aurora Flight Sciences. "In the current fiscal situation, it is our responsibility to provide the U.S. Department of Defense with affordable and innovative ISR capabilities."
Under the agreement, the companies also will consider integration of other AAI UAS technologies with the Orion UAS and Centaur OPA. Among these is the Forward Airborne Secure Transmission and Communication, or FASTCOM(TM), mobile telecommunications solution. FASTCOM pods can be utilized aboard airborne assets to create an agile mobile network for voice and data smartphone communications up to Top Secret level. Additionally, the Tactical Sensor Intelligence Sharing, or Tac-SIS(r), System enables manned/unmanned teaming by making UAS data and imagery directly available to pilots via cockpit displays.
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