July 20, 2024

More Relevance, Collaboration Needed in Acquisition Process

 Posted by The Patuxent Partnership
 By Sheila Gibbons

Make them go faster. Farther. Last longer. Be adaptable. Less costly. The new world of designing and delivering unmanned aviation weapons is nothing short of “a revolutionary shift in the way we fight fights,” RDML Mat Winter told a crowd of about 150 at a Patuxent Partnership PEO U&W briefing Nov. 20, 2013.PEO U&W Portfolio

RDML Winter, the program executive officer for Unmanned Aviation and Strike Weapons at NAS: Patuxent River, emphasized the need for teamwork that provides for “rapidly reconfigurable acquisition strategies.” Getting capability to warfighters “takes too long in most cases,” he said.

RDML Winter lauded the attributes of systems in development, particularly the UCLASS, which he said “brings a warfighting capability we currently don’t have.” Benchmarks for this project embody the “enduring, affordable capability” the Navy is looking for in terms of survivability, payload, persistence and range. “We don’t want something that can’t be relevant till 2050,” he said.

What will be banished are project timelines that are “hopeful” rather than real and outdated cost estimate models that serve project managers poorly.

In the absence of a budget from Congress and continuing cuts in defense dollars, the economics of unmanned aviation and strike weapons are in turbulence. “What we’re being told to execute is unrealistic, given the reduction in resources,” RDML Winter said. The Chief of Naval Operations’ priority of “warfighting first” means that “from a contractor perspective, we are going to the mat for every penny that doesn’t go to warfighting capability.”

He also underscored the need for contractors to embrace the “operating forward” mindset. “We have a whole suite of demand signals that require us to be ready to go at a moment’s notice.” That requires “expeditious agility” in contracting.

A government-owned command and control software program is being introduced to standardize elements of these projects. The UCLASS will be the first unmanned aviation system to use it all the way through the process. A draft RFP for the UCLASS vehicle is presently under review for the purpose of “clarifying stakeholder concerns,” RDML Winter said. The final RFP is expected to be issued in the second or third quarter of 2014.

RDML Winter commented on the features of a number of other systems, including:

X-47B UCAS, which he praised for “phenomenal, historical work,” adding, “we will continue to learn how to operate unmanned vehicles in a carrier environment for decades.”
– RQ21A Blackjack for the USMC: Currently in development testing; operational testing next year.
– MQ-8 Fire Scout – built for greater endurance, engaging the area of interest longer, relaying information faster. “Incredibly effective,” he said.
– BAMS-D – in the 58th month of a 60-month demo. Harvests data for processing.
– MQ-4C Triton – looks across the maritime domain as a tool for battle-group commanders. Coming to Pax River next spring for testing; production decision in FY 15-16.
– SDBII – a project with the Air Force out of Eglin AFB; an all-weather glide weapon.
– K-MAX – enables unmanned capability for cargo movement, minimizing risk to convoys and exposure to IEDs.

Patuxent Partnership members and the public can view RDML Winter’s presentation here.


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