Warfighters Prove Naval Expeditionary Overwatch Collaboration is a Success

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Naval Calendar 2009

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Officials from the Office of Naval Research (ONR), five Navy Warfare Centers and industry collaborating on the Navy Expeditionary Overwatch (NEO) system’s intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) technology watched warfighters demonstrate the network at Naval Surface Warfare Center (NWSC) Dahlgren Nov. 20.

They observed Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC) Sailors deploy an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), a manned Gunslinger Humvee and an unmanned surface vehicle (USV) on a successful mission to detect and engage fictional insurgents.

“The NEO suite of technologies underscore ONR and NSWC Dahlgren’s collaboration to produce real technology solutions for U.S. warfighters,” said George Solhan, ONR deputy chief of Naval Research, Expeditionary Maneuver Warfare and Combating Terrorism.

NEO is the collection, integration and demonstration of manned and unmanned engagement systems, platforms and integrated sensors to enable tactical decision making by agile expeditionary units such as NECC, Special Operations Command, and the Marine Corps who conduct distributed operations in both ground and littoral environments.

“Today’s demonstration proves NEO’s capability to remotely engage hostile threats through unmanned systems and persistent surveillance,” Solhan added.

As the test scenario unfolded, military and civilians watched the UAV and USV detect and relay target information to warfighters in an up-armored Humvee that fired at targets on the simulated littoral and riverine maritime irregular warfare environment on the Potomac River Test Range.

“The close partnership between ONR, Navy commands, Warfare Center Divisions, NECC and industry produced a NEO engagement system that combines manned and unmanned vehicles,” said NSWCDD Commander Capt. Sheila Patterson. “This synergy fostered NEO’s integration and capabilities, accelerating its readiness for real transition to warfighters.”

The NEO system enables 10 Sailors – four in the Gunslinger Humvee (GS-3) and a maximum of six in the Land Based Control Station (LBCS) – to continuously monitor, detect and engage hostile forces over 10 square miles of territory inland, on marshy terrain, along a river or near a coastline. The range of NEO – developed entirely with existing technologies – may increase to about 20 square miles as the program develops.

“Sailors testing NEO’s expeditionary capability to patrol diverse littoral and riverine terrains employed the system in response to a series of realistic scenarios and engaged all threats successfully,” said Nelson Mills, NEO technical manager at NSWCDD. “The constant flow of ISR sent to the control station from the vehicles enabled effective integrated command and control remote responses to each and every unconventional attack, including those from small boats.”

The unmanned boat and the “Scan Eagle” UAV sent video and data throughout the event to a LBCS where Sailors directed vehicles, including the Humvee armed with a Gunslinger to observe and attack throughout the test scenario.

The Scan Eagle – integrated with a unique communications relay and optical day-night sensors for a complete battlefield picture – weighs 40 pounds and its 10-foot wingspan lifts the four-foot long fuselage where the engine, avionics, GPS and a fully directional video camera are housed. Scan Eagle provides about 15 hours of continuous day or night surveillance at a height of about 19,500 feet.

The 36-foot-long USV is equipped with a Gunslinger payload and a range of sensors and communications systems that allow it to perform surveillance and engagement missions at sea, controlled either remotely by an operator or semi-autonomously on its own.

At the Potomac River NEO demonstration, warfighters in the Humvee used the Gunslinger’s acoustic detection package and infrared sensors to determine the location of hostile fire and automatically move the weapon in the direction of the fire for friendly force response. A version of Gunslinger has been deployed in Iraq.

The Gunslinger Humvee’s remote-control gun is operated by a gunner who sits at a control panel in the back seat. The Mk 45 weapons system is hooked up to video and infrared cameras connected to a set of sensors designed to detect gunfire, including a device that watches for muzzle flashes and listens for gunshots. The equipment on the Humvee’s roof is linked to the control trailer.

At one point, warfighters sent the NEO USV to intercept a small insurgent vessel. Armed with the USV’s Long Range Acoustic Device, land-based operators communicated with fictitious enemies in the boat and others the USV confronted. The LRAD can be used as a nonlethal weapon to blast enemies with sound, or they can hail the threat vessel.

NSWC Dahlgren and four other Navy Warfare Center Divisions partnered with ONR and industry to integrate NEO with technology leveraging commercial and government off-the shelf products combined with small business innovation research investments.

John Joyce (NNS)

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