Defense Department to Stand Up New Counter-Drone Office

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JUST IN: Defense Department to Stand Up New Counter-Drone Office

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The Pentagon will soon stand up a counter-unmanned aerial system office that will be headed by the Army, said the Defense Department’s top weapons buyer Jan. 14.

Following the Dubai Air Show in November, Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord vis­it­ed numer­ous loca­tions across the Middle East includ­ing U.S. mil­i­tary instal­la­tions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The thing that was really top of every­body’s mind were counter-UAS,” she said during a meet­ing with reporters hosted by George Washington University’s Project for Media and National Security in Washington, D.C. “We see that small UAS are becom­ing a more pop­u­lar weapon of choice … [and] we need to be agile and pivot to that chal­lenge.”

Pentagon lead­ers recent­ly decid­ed to des­ig­nate the Army as the exec­u­tive agent for counter-drone tech­nolo­gies, Lord said. The new office will be stood up in Arlington, Virginia, in the Crystal City neigh­bor­hood. It will be staffed by around 60 people.

“We are just fin­ish­ing off on the policy that directs the activ­i­ties,” she said.

The office will exam­ine the many counter-UAS efforts across the Defense Department and come up with three to five sys­tems that are best for the mil­i­tary writ large and make sure they are effec­tive­ly lever­aged, Lord said.

The Defense Department is bring­ing togeth­er a number of orga­ni­za­tions, includ­ing the office of the direc­tor of oper­a­tional test and eval­u­a­tion and Defense Digital Service, to work on the effort.

Robert Behler, the head of DOT&E, has a group con­duct­ing inde­pen­dent tests and eval­u­a­tion of cur­rent­ly field­ed sys­tems, Lord noted.

“Come April we will have that eval­u­a­tion com­plet­ed and writ­ten up. And that coin­cides [with] when we want to make some deci­sions about downs­e­lect­ing … to the three to five sys­tems that would be uti­lized,” she said.

The depart­ment is exam­in­ing a vari­ety of sensor modal­i­ties and defeat mech­a­nisms.

“One size does not fit all,” Lord said. “You need a system with mul­ti­ple sen­sors … or defeat sys­tems. And the key is really the com­mand-and-con­trol and then the com­mu­ni­ca­tion across the­ater.”

The office aims to thwart both small and large adver­sary UAS, she added.

Countering rogue and enemy drones has long been an objec­tive for the Defense Department, but recent high-pro­file events have thrown the tech­nol­o­gy into the spot­light. That includes an alleged Iranian attack on Saudi Aramaco facil­i­ties in September using unmanned air­craft.

“One of the chal­lenges is that we know that the adver­sary is very agile and updates their [tac­tics, tech­niques and pro­ce­dures] … very quick­ly,” Lord said. “We are look­ing at a very nimble system where we can push patch­es in the same day, if you will, so that we again can stay ahead of” the threat.

The Pentagon is gung-go about tack­ling the issue, and senior lead­er­ship involve­ment and fund­ing are increas­ing, she noted.

In terms of the indus­tri­al base, counter-UAS is one of the acqui­si­tion and sus­tain­ment office’s four key focus areas, Lord said. Others include micro­elec­tron­ics, 5G net­works and hyper­son­ics.

The depart­ment plans to estab­lish a hyper­son­ics “war room.”

“We just decid­ed last week that we would stand up a hyper­son­ics war room to begin to look at the defense indus­tri­al base and begin to have dif­fer­ent com­pa­nies [come] in,” Lord said.

The tech­nol­o­gy is the Pentagon’s top research-and-devel­op­ment pri­or­i­ty and it plans to buy large num­bers of sys­tems when they are mature enough to be field­ed.

Last week, Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy said mis­sile man­u­fac­tur­ers and other sup­pli­ers need to do more to boost their hyper­son­ics man­u­fac­tur­ing capa­bil­i­ty.

“What we need to see is indus­try step up,” he said Jan. 10 during remarks at the Brookings Institution. “They’ve got to come for­ward and … first and fore­most, invest the time to work with our nation­al lab net­work to under­stand how we’ve come for­ward with these tech­nolo­gies. But they’re going to have to make invest­ments to be able to pro­duce these at scale.”

— Additional report­ing by Jon Harper

Topics: Robotics, Unmanned Air Vehicles, Missile Defense

Source: NDIA

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