Friday, September 19, 2008

Next-Gen Ground Control: Raytheon vs. AAI

There is a turf war brewing over ground control for unmanned systems. Raytheon and AAI have each released press in the last week with regard to their next-generation offerings, here's a bit of background:

AAI's One System GCS is the standard for Army and Marine Corps systems (Shadow/Raven), and it's OSRVT (remote video terminal) has been fielded in conjunction, to allow forward deployed soldiers access to UAS collected imagery. AAI is likely the most-used GCS by units fielded...

Raytheon may be the revenue leader in GCS, given it's role on the Global Hawk program (bigger systems = bigger paycheck).

Raytheon's press this week focused on an unsolicited offering to replace the Predator GCS (which has proven man-power intensive and not user-friendly... read: crashes and operator fatigue). If RTN could provide Predator/Reaper ground stations it would consolidate their position as the USAF vendor of choice for GCS. There is a caveat, is they need 12 months, and funding, to produce the system... but if the cost savings below hold true, they have a shot...

" Raytheon predicts that during the next 10 years, it can save the Air Force more than $500 million. The five cost savings benefits are: Reduce manpower requirements by 20 percent, Reduce ground control segment requirements by 20 percent, Reduce training time and costs by 30 percent, Reduce aircraft losses by 50 percent".

Speaking with a General Atomics executive at AUVSI, I learned it has also been developing a next-generation GCS for the Predator/Reaper force structure. I haven't seen any press yet...

AAI's press focuses more on the Army and Navy. It appears they have been funded, and working with program offices within both services to develop a new system. Not only will the system control existing UAS, but also UGV (ground vehicles) and USV (surface vessels), too.

Now, I'm not sure why RTN neglected to release press on their own Navy activities... they had been funded to design TCS (tactical control system), toward similar goals as the new AAI system. Is this program dead.

In other news the USAF and USN will collaborate on BAMS / Global Hawk logistics. That means the USN would probably train their BAMS operators through existing USAF channels... making cross-Navy GCS commonality less important for BAMS than for Tier II.

Also, the Navy has already been operating AAI's Shadow, and contributing to AAI's next-gen GCS development. Operators must already be somewhat familiar with the system.

Those are not great signs for Raytheon. Perhaps why they haven't released anything recently about Navy potential...