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Convoy Protection

Convoy Protection

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Published by UAVs Australia

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Published by: UAVs Australia on Oct 12, 2010
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 Dr. Hank Jones, MLB Company Mini-UAVs for Convoy Protectionhttp://www.spyplanes.com Page 1
Mini-UAVs for Convoy Protection
Dr. Hank Jones, MLB Company
Cover article,
 
Unmanned Systems magazine, May/June 2004
MLB Bat Mini-UAVs help protect a convoy
 A U.S Marine is killed and two othersare wounded in an attack on their re-supply convoy traveling east of the Iraqi town of Falluja, a U.S. military spokesman said. Insurgents detonated a crude bomb close to the truck convoy before pouring rocket-propelled grenades and small arms fire on thosewho survived the bombing.
The news stories are now all too familiar  – American ground troops killed duringconvoy or patrol operations due tomortar attack, small arms fire, anddetonation of rocket propelled grenadesand roadside improvised explosivedevices (IEDs).
 
 Dr. Hank Jones, MLB Company Mini-UAVs for Convoy Protectionhttp://www.spyplanes.com Page 2
Hundreds of truck convoys are on themove every day in Iraq and the growingnumber of fatalities have not goneunnoticed at the Pentagon or in citiesand towns across the nation.Operational experiments conducted byMLB Company and others indicate thatmini-UAVs can help protect the soldierstraveling the dangerous dusty roads of Iraq.Three types of convoys requireprotection:- Bulk transport. Up to onehundred large transport vehicles(semi trailers or their militaryequivalent) that may stretch a fewmiles in a lightly protected convoyat speeds from 50 to 65 mph.- Unit convoys. Ten to twenty-fivemilitary logistics vehicles for brigade support (or five to twentyvehicles for battalion support)moving at 60 to 75 mph. Theseconvoys are high-priority targetsfor the insurgents. Aerial andground protection is sometimesavailable, but the primarydefense mechanism for theseconvoys is speed.- Special purpose convoys. Two tofive non-tactical vehicles (oftenconverted civilian SUVs) travelingat 85 to 90 mph act as fastcouriers of personnel andmateriel.Typical routes for all three convoy typesvary in length from thirty to threehundred miles, last from four to sixhours between convoy stop times, andtake place almost always during daylighthours and in sand-blown conditions.Speed is the best way of staying alive.The interest in transforming standardoperational procedures for protectingconvoys has reached the highestcommand levels of the services, andformal doctrinal and organizationalchanges are being proposed.Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) areamong the technologies beingconsidered in these new operationalscenarios. Detailed operational plansfor UAVs in convoy protection are beingformed through field trials.The most publicized threat to convoys isroadside IEDs, and some form of IEDplays a part in the majority of attacks.Sensors suitable for detection of IEDs,which can be very small
(see Figure 1
)and can be hidden in common localobjects (e.g. brush, garbage, rock piles,culverts, animal carcasses), are notavailable.UAVs may best contribute to convoyprotection by maintaining a persistentpresence over known areas of activityand detecting the enemy technicianswhen they are installing the device. Asmuch of this activity is at night,adequate low-light and IR sensors for the task are required for the UAVplatform.
Concepts of Operations
The biggest open question for UAVoperations for convoy protection is thatof ownership - are the UAV assetsorganic to the convoys, or are theymanaged by a centralized organization?This issue is being addressed by avariety of experiments underwaythroughout the U.S. armed services.One of the lead advisors on this topic,Dr. Jeff Cerny, Advanced Systems /
 
 Dr. Hank Jones, MLB Company Mini-UAVs for Convoy Protectionhttp://www.spyplanes.com Page 3
Army Missile Research andDevelopment at Redstone Arsenal, says"We are working the question of how todeploy small UAVs through acombination of spiral development withindustry and live field experiments of systems that are working today." Thedecision criteria are complicated, and itis likely that an array of UAV capabilitieswill be needed to address the variety of particular mission requirements.For centralized operation, the UAVresources are controlled, operated, andmaintained from a central location andtheir sensors are monitored at thislocation as well. Deployed UAV assetssuch as the AAI Shadow 200 tacticalUAV and the Northrop Grumman Hunter UAV are able to carry out this task in thecurrent environment. However, the day-to-day coverage of convoys by theseexisting UAV assets has beenintermittent and of varying utility.Two different applications are possiblegiven a centralized operation – routesurveillance and convoy escort.For route protection, the primary use of UAVs is as a persistent patrol platformthat covers as much of the route for asmuch time as possible. This is ideallyconducted by multiple UAVs for a singleroute, working together to provide themost effective coverage. Depending onroute size and UAV capability, this maybe accomplished by sending UAVsalong the entire routes, or by givingindividual UAVs responsibility for certainNamed Areas of Interest (NAIs) wherethey then loiter.In the route protection role, existingUAVs appear to be most useful for detection of large groups of people,blocked routes, and significant changesin infrastructure (e.g. bridge closures).A persistent and visible UAV presence
Figure 1. Example roadside improvised explosive device

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