Unmanned Systems News

Manned-Unmanned Teaming for Naval Aviation Demonstrated

Published: 04 Aug 2021 by

Boeing manned-unmanned teaming

A team led by Boeing has demonstrated manned-unmanned teaming (MUM-T) capabilities in a virtual environment to the Office of Naval Research, using the Navy’s MQ-25 Stingray refueler UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle), the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye airborne command-and-control aircraft, and the F/A-18 Super Hornet.

The demonstration used Northrop Grumman’s portable E-2D simulator in conjunction with Boeing’s F/A-18 and MQ-25 simulations to establish a data link network that was used to supervise MQ-25 flight operations. The simulated mission scenarios included the E-2D successfully acting as the air wing “tanker king” while the MQ-25 refueled the F/A-18, in addition to supervising the MQ-25 during an ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) mission. The E-2D was able to conduct MUM-T operations with the MQ-25 using only existing operational flight program software.

The demonstration also showed how anticipated carrier air wing concepts – such as the F/A-18 and E-2D changing the tanker’s orbit station, flight path or aerial refueling store payload – were made routine and repeatable with the unmanned MQ-25. This required minimal changes to the F/A-18 cockpit display, helping to reduce pilot workload while supervising unmanned operations and providing consistency with how pilots operate and train today. Another more advanced MUM-T mission simulation showed how an open behavioral software framework can be used to aggregate traditional unmanned system commands into an overall autonomous mission behavior.

MUM-T is a key future capability outlined in the Navy’s Unmanned Campaign Plan, a strategy for integrating unmanned systems to provide lethal, survivable and scalable effects in support of carrier strike group operations. Future Boeing MUM-T demonstrations will involve additional mission areas, interface enhancements, autonomous behaviors and resilient, protected networks.

Don “BD” Gaddis, MQ-25 Advanced Design at Boeing, commented: “Two of our key findings from this early demonstration with existing data links are that initial MUM-T capability between MQ-25, E-2D and F/A-18 is achievable with minimal change to the crew vehicle interface and could be integrated into earlier MQ-25 operational deployments.”

“As a result, pilots can call a ‘play’ for the unmanned system, much like a coach. This ‘play call’ ability greatly simplifies the supervising pilot’s workload and minimizes the data link exchanges required. It’s all part of building platform-agnostic, portable and reusable MUM-T software.”

Janice Zilch, vice president of Manned Airborne Surveillance Programs at Northrop Grumman, said: “This demonstration of the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye controlling the MQ-25 builds on our experience in integrating unmanned systems into carrier flight operations. As the airborne command and control node, E-2D will be a critical component to enabling the U.S. Navy’s Unmanned Campaign Framework. We work closely with industry partners and the Navy in support of meaningful technology demonstrations that showcase E-2D’s agile environment, interoperability and unmatched command and control capabilities.”

Posted by Mike Ball Mike Ball is our resident technical editor here at Unmanned Systems Technology. Combining his passion for teaching, advanced engineering and all things unmanned, Mike keeps a watchful eye over everything related to the unmanned technical sector. With over 10 years’ experience in the unmanned field and a degree in engineering, Mike’s been heading up our technical team here for the last 8 years. Connect & Contact