Army wants Apache modifications for better UAS teaming

The service is interested in innovative ways to make the helicopters more compatible with the Manned Unmanned Teaming modification.

Army Guardian Apache helicopter

The Army wants Apaches to be able to work closely with UAS.

The Army is interested in modifications to its AH-64E Guardian Apache rotary wing attack aircraft that will better enable it to communicate and team with unmanned aircraft. A sources sought notice says the service is looking for innovative approaches for making Apache helicopters more compatible with the addition of the Manned Unmanned Teaming modification, or MUMT-X.

Having helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles work together is something the Army has been working toward for several years, teaming up Apaches with UAVs like the Gray Eagle and Shadow. While the UAVs are typically controlled by operators on the ground, the Apache pilots also can take control off the UAV if necessary.

The better the two aircraft communicate, they better they can share intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data, and the better control an Apache pilot would have. The Army has been steadily upgrading versions of MUMT.

Contractor L-3 Communications last month was awarded a communications upgrade subcontract (by contractor Science and Engineering Services) to support the Apache program with its MUMT-X solution. L-3 “will deliver high-speed transmit and receive capability of wideband video and data,” according to an announcement by the company.

Based on the company’s MUMT-2 system, which is in use in the Army, the MUMT-X communications suite incorporates new equipment, including a ROVER 6 modem, multiband radio frequency equipment and a directional antenna capable of relaying multiple video streams back to the command center, L-3 said. The system will boost crews’ situational awareness and allow them to make decisions more quickly.

Under the Army’s Aviation Restructure Initiative the Army seeks to provide greater manned-unmanned teaming going forward. This spring, in fact, the first Apache helicopter battalion was converted to a heavy attack reconnaissance squadron under the restructure plan, with the equipping of the first RQ-7Bv2 Shadow unmanned aircraft system. The Army wants to assign both manned and unmanned assets to units for more seamless operations. 

Responses to the Army’s solicitation are due Oct. 21.