Navy program director shares new vision for small unmanned aircraft systems procurement

NATIONAL PORT, Maryland– Col. Victor Argobright, PMA-263 program manager in the Navy and Marine Corps Small Tactical Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) program office, shared a new vision for small UAS procurement and employment during the Navy League Sea-Air-Space Symposium, April 4.

During his presentation, Argobright highlighted the vision of the program? rapidly deploy modular systems, equipped with an open architecture, advanced sensors and payloads, and gain autonomy.

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – Col. Victor Argobright, program manager for the Navy and Marine Corps Small Tactical Unmanned Aircraft Systems, outlines a new vision for fielding the small UAS capability to the warfighter.

Credit: US Navy

“We want a level of autonomy that allows us to deploy systems for use by individual squadrons and platoons that can operate and maintain the UAS without straining their resources,” Argobright said. “We envision a scenario where every sailor or marine is a UAS operator or maintainer.”

He also stressed that these systems should be easy to use, provide increased range and endurance, and allow operations from any airborne vessel. Going forward, user evaluation and experimentation will be part of the bespoke acquisition process with rapid prototyping, integration and go-live as key attributes of any new platform.

The program office has issued several Requests for Information (RFIs) to industry over the past several months with one goal: to get the capability into the hands of the warfighter quickly and efficiently.

One of the main focus areas of the program is unmanned logistics, which includes a ground-based platform, known as the Small Unmanned Logistics System (ULS-A), also known as Tactical Resupply UAS (TRUAS ). TRUAS will be delivered to Marines as part of an in-depth user evaluation later this year.

“We look for the state of the market, not the state of the art. What I mean by that is we want to know what the industry already has available,” Argobright said. “What we’ve shown with TRUAS is that the market is ready, the capability already exists.”

Rear Admiral Brian Corey, who oversees the program’s executive office for unmanned aviation and strike weapons, also spoke at the symposium about the potential of cargo UAS and the benefits of such systems.

“Why drive on a road and potentially get an IED [improvised explosive device] … when you can fly? Corey said. “I think it’s one of the most innovative thinking we have right now.”

Corey and Argobright also discussed the Navy’s onboard logistics effort, known as Blue Water UAS (BWUAS), which has a longer range and smaller footprint. In partnership with the Aeronautics Division of the Naval Air Warfare Center, the Argobright office recently issued an RFI to increase industry participation in this effort with the goal of expanding unmanned logistics drone experimentation to better understand and resolve integration issues with this emerging capability.

PMA-263 is also focused on expanding to a third capability, a medium-sized logistics system, ULS-A Medium. The program issued an RFI last month requesting a system capable of handling more than 300 pounds of cargo while traveling at least 55 nautical miles. The program office plans to implement lessons learned from TRUAS and BWUAS to quickly get this additional logistics resupply capability into the hands of the fleet.

“We conduct ongoing market research and expect this request for information to appear regularly,” Argobright said. “The market is changing rapidly and we are focused on putting emerging capabilities into the hands of the warfighter. This may mean shorter supply intervals and regular assessment of what is available in the industry.

Demand for small UAS has exploded, and the PMA-263 is working to meet urgent fleet needs in the market state, Argobright said. The program seeks to strengthen and expand its network of partners to ensure that they increase the competitive advantage of combatants in the future.

Michael J. Chiaramonte