The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has successfully tested the full Persistent Close Air Support (PCAS) prototype system for the first time, as part of a US Marine Corps infantry/aviation training exercise, Talon Reach.
The training exercise was performed in partnership with the Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One and the Marine Infantry Officer Course (IOC).
Marine Corps aviation deputy commandant lieutenant general Jon M. Davis said: "I am very pleased with the successful PCAS demonstration that we had during Talon Reach."
"I have emphasised to my team that we will network every one of our aircraft."
The testing witnessed the first successful integration of automated, digital, real-time coordination capability into a military aircraft system.
PCAS comprises two main components, PCAS-Air and PCAS-Ground. PCAS-Air includes weapons management, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), and communications systems.
This component is located on a modular smart launcher electronics (SLE) device, which is designed to enable plug-and-play hosting of tactical software and mounting of equipment on almost any aircraft.
It communicates with ground forces through PCAS-Ground, a suite of situational awareness and mapping software on commercial Android tablet computers.
During the demonstration, an IOC JTAC used a PCAS-Ground tablet to identify a target position near an unmanned truck.
The position communicated to the PCAS-Air module inside a Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey through a digital link added to the aircraft as part of the PCAS modifications.
In addition to the new real-time communication capabilities, the PCAS test also demonstrated how quickly the system can adapt to different aircraft.
Image: The MV-22 Osprey used in the PCAS test was modified and operated by Bell Helicopter. Photo: courtesy of DARPA.