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By Mark Schauer,
YUMA PROVING GROUND, Ariz. - The Army Futures Command Future Vertical Lift Cross-Functional Team (FVL CFT) held its Experimental Demonstration Gateway Event 23 at U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground over four weeks in April and May.
As part of the event known as EDGE, the FVL CFT, with help from its military, industry and international teammates, aggressively tested almost every facet of the Army’s Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft and future vertical lift capabilities, as well as advancing knowledge on electronic warfare.
Unmanned aircraft, launched effects and all manner of ancillary technologies to expand communications capabilities and Soldier survivability were tested simultaneously. The participation of dozens of Army National Guard Soldiers from four states was vital to everything from air traffic control to test activities to the demonstration of emerging technologies.
Louisiana and Tennessee Guardsmen crewed a mobile tower system with YPG’s range controllers to coordinate the safe flight of dozens of manned and unmanned aircraft during active air assault training along YPG’s vast ranges. The management of these activities enabled other vital testing to occur simultaneously.
The Georgia Army National Guard furnished a UH-60V for the event. This helicopter is new territory for Army Aviation in its design and implementation of a digital communications/network backbone based upon the Modular Open Systems Approach, or MOSA, protocol. This allows avionics from different vendors to connect and communicate based on a common interface.
Knowledge gained with use will further define MOSA-compliant interfaces and inform the next iteration of its implementation into Future Long Range Assault Aircraft and Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft.
To illustrate the power of MOSA, new radio software developed by private industry earlier this year allowed this flight crew to communicate with individuals and entities using various radio systems with a quick search on a preset page available on their center console’s display modules. The pilots could then do radio checks with local emergency frequencies from the air.
“Where it becomes a big leverage for the National Guard is in disaster response,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Sean Brigham of the Georgia National Guard. “We could talk to emergency operations centers, police departments and fire departments directly. If a fire department set up a landing zone for us to medevac casualties, we could talk directly to them on their own organic radio system.”
The Oregon National Guard demonstrated how groundbreaking elements of its HH60-M medevac helicopters could inform the medevac variant of the Future Long Range Assault Aircraft. This nearly full-sized model was on hand during the event.
The new flexible kit allows for weight savings through the use of lighter components that provide the ability to easily reconfigure its shelving or litter pans used to transport patients. The flexibility provides extra safety for the aircraft, crew and passengers when operating in mountains, where what seems like relatively inconsequential amounts of weight can make landing riskier.
“We’ve been testing it and using it for the past two years,” said 1st Sgt. Patrick Casha, flight paramedic. “In Oregon, we do a lot of high-altitude hoist missions for medevac, and a heavier aircraft means reduced performance. With this system, we can pull pieces off to fit the mission.”
Integrating these disparate units into the larger test and demonstration picture was made easier by the presence of YPG test personnel who are themselves National Guard service members.
Steve Mullins, operations lead and a pilot in the Alaska National Guard, offered his perspective.
“I know how they operate on a day-to-day basis, so I can make informed decisions on planning,” he said. “I have a little more ability to know what the Soldiers are thinking, which helps me properly support their part of the mission.”