RAND Lends Support to Study of Cutting-Edge Army Aircraft

photo: Spec Andrew Mauch, A Company, 104th MI Battalion, 4th ID, works on the Shadow 200 system.
One example of the Army’s new, state-of-the-art aircraft: the Shadow 200 Tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (TUAV).

(photo courtesy of U.S. Army)

The U.S. Army is currently undergoing a radical and revolutionary transformation to create a rapidly deployable, lighter and more effective combat force. This transformation will expand the role of aviation for power projection, operations and sustainment; for example, to facilitate rapid deployment, the Army is envisioning the development of heavy-lift aircraft that can seamlessly deploy armored vehicles (such as the Army’s family of Future Combat Systems) into tactical positions.

The Army Science Board (ASB), a federal advisory committee that advises the Army leadership on scientific and technological issues, is currently engaged in a research and development study of aviation science and technology to develop a roadmap with a twenty-year timeframe for future Army rotorcraft, including large cargo-lift aircraft, unmanned vehicles, and micro-air devices that can be used for intelligence and reconnaissance. RAND analyst John Matsumura was appointed to the Board by the Secretary of the Army and is contributing to this study of cutting-edge Army aircraft.

The ASB study’s primary goals are to assess the feasibility and engineer performance measures for aircraft that are, for the most part, still paper concepts but will ideally be moving to prototype models. Matsumura’s research team, which includes several of RAND’s Military Fellows, is focusing on the range of tactics and techniques that can enhance the survivability of these aircraft in hostile environments.

Matsumura’s team reached the following initial tentative conclusions: they found that mission and asset survivability depends not just on advanced technologies, but on the Army’s operational and tactical approach. They recommend a “system of systems” approach, which engages a range of self-protection means that complement each other, such as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles that can scope out potential threats in landing areas before rotorcraft reach them. Most importantly, they recommend that an aggressive aerial survivability program be implemented now, rather than later, so that future aviation mission success will be ensured.

The final draft report on this work will be posted on ASA(ALT)’s website.

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