Joint High Speed Vessel Experimenting w/Scan Eagle & Puma Drones

Atlantic Ocean -- (August 7, 2015) This photograph taken by the RQ20A Aqua Puma unmanned aircraft system shows an aerial view of USNS Spearhead (JHSV 1) underway during Southern Partnership Station Joint High Speed Vessel 2015 (SPS-JHSV 15). SPS-JHSV 15 is a U.S. Navy deployment focused on subject-matter expert exchanges with partner nation militaries and security forces. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

Atlantic Ocean — (August 7, 2015) This photograph taken by the RQ20A Aqua Puma unmanned aircraft system shows an aerial view of USNS Spearhead (JHSV 1) underway during Southern Partnership Station Joint High Speed Vessel 2015 (SPS-JHSV 15). SPS-JHSV 15 is a U.S. Navy deployment focused on subject-matter expert exchanges with partner nation militaries and security forces. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

As the Navy tries to figure out what to do with its growing fleet of Joint High Speed Vessels, a recent experiment showed the platform could serve as a staging base for unmanned aerial vehicles.

The Navy Warfare Development Command partnered with U.S. 4th Fleet and Military Sealift Command to put the Scan Eagle and Puma unmanned aerial systems on USNSSpearhead (JHSV-1) for two two-week periods this summer, with positive results.

Lt. Mark Bote, the experiment lead for the Joint High Speed Vessel 2015 Fleet Experimentation (FLEX) – conducted in conjunction with the Southern Partnership Station series of events – said the idea of the dual-UAV operations was to determine how Puma and Scan Eagle “could fit into potential adaptive force packages in the future and how to use the JHSV in a more diverse way.”

The Navy knows the JHSV – with its large mission bay, high speed and flight deck – could be used for more than its intended mission of intratheater lift. The Navy is now running experiments like this one to study which ideas for adaptive force packages would optimize the platform’s capabilities and combatant commanders’ needs.

As a whole, Bote said the 2015 FLEX agenda focused on several mission areas, including expeditionary mine countermeasures, JHSV as an afloat forward staging base, expanding JHSV’s maritime command and control, and JHSV as a counter-trafficking platform. TheSpearhead experiment with Puma and Scan Eagle helped inform both the AFSB and counter-trafficking portions.

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Army Gray Eagle/Apache Team Supporting Minesweeping Operations in Arabian Gulf

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NORTHERN ARABIAN GULF – Three Soldiers from the 185th Theater Aviation Brigade boarded the USS Higgins Aug. 19, 2015, for an interoperability training mission named Spartan Kopis. Their mission involved integrating efforts between the crew members aboard the USS Higgins, the pilots of the AH-64 Apache aircraft and the operators of the MQ-1C Gray Eagle Unmanned Aerial System (UAS).

The Gray Eagle UAS provided live feeds to personnel ashore in the Tactical Operations Center, the pilots of the AH-64 Apache, and the personnel in the combat room aboard the USS Higgins. Flying between 7,000 and 10,000 feet, the primary function for the Gray Eagle UAS is to search ahead for other threats of watercraft while minesweeping boats clear sections of the Northern Arabian Gulf.

“The Army and the Navy have been given a great opportunity to enhance the overall value of the Army Gray Eagle asset,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Brandon Murphy, the flight operations officer with Company F, 1st Aviation Regiment. “The Gray Eagle demonstrated its versatility by providing reconnaissance, security and target acquisition for the USS Higgins during an overwater mission.”

Tasked with leaving an enduring footprint in Southwest Asia, the Gray Eagle UAS units are continuously working with U.S. Navy Central Command for planning and executing interoperability missions. “This training allows the Navy to see what the Army can bring to the table,” said Lt. Dan Sledz, the weapons officer for the USS Higgins.

“The fusion of different branches of service is essential to an effective fighting force,” said Spc. Kenneth Poore, a geospatial imagery intelligence analyst with the 185th TAB. “Whether in a mountain range of Afghanistan or the waters of the Northern Arabian Gulf, being able to visually see the battlefield through full motion video and what is beyond line of sight is critical to any operational element,” said Poore.

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