A “Two-Way Street”

The Air Force and Army are very close to having a consolidated concept of operations for the operational use of unmanned aerial vehicles, the head of the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command, Gen. William Wallace, told defense reporters Sept. 25. Heated exchanges and misunderstandings in 2007 over UAV control gave way this year to collaboration between the two services to find a concept that meets the needs of both. Wallace says that work he has done with Gen. John Corley, boss of Air Combat Command, will bear fruit this Friday, when they meet once again “to solidify the concept” for presentation to the two service Chiefs of Staff early next year. For one thing, Wallace acknowledged that the Air Force has strategic UAV responsibility and said the Air Force recognizes that the Army has the corner on low-level UAVs. The hard part for the two services was to find the common ground for the medium-altitude UAV class, like the Predator and Sky Warrior, but that’s been done, according to Wallace. “We’ve concluded that there are some unique requirements both the Army and Air Force that we need to accommodate, but there are some overlapping requirements” in areas such as “the platform, the ground station, the training, and the procedural control of the aircraft,” explained Wallace. There also is no disagreement that the Joint Forces Commander in a theater is the “ultimate arbitrator of who gets what.” The new concept, however, centers on being able to dynamically redirect UAVs from one mission to another and one command to another, depending on the priority of the moment. He said, “It’s got to be a two-way street because we’ve got to address not just counterinsurgency operations … but the potential for using UAVs in support of major combat operations.” The ultimate goal, once the services “get around the procedural and technical exclusivity of some of our platforms,” said Wallace, is to “have a common capability to share both platforms and information.”