DARPA Persistent Close Air Support project: Raytheon is the Mission Systems Integrator

Raytheon Company was awarded a $7 million contract to serve as a Mission Systems Integrator for Phase I of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Persistent Close Air Support project.

Raytheon’s proposed PCAS solution will develop technologies that significantly reduce the timeline for close air support through improved coordination among Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTACs), airborne sensors and weapons. “Raytheon has an excellent understanding of the challenges involved in the close air support mission because of our experience designing and integrating weapons for manned and unmanned aircraft systems,” said Bob Francois, vice president of Raytheon Advanced Missiles and Unmanned Systems. “As a Mission Systems Integrator, we focus on designing to the desired effect instead of fixating on the platform.”

Raytheon’s approach to PCAS will enable the controllers to command unmanned aircraft and rapidly and effectively select weapons. Raytheon’s PCAS solution will decrease the Joint Terminal Attack Controllers’ workload while improving their situational awareness.

Raytheon will integrate the work of team members Rockwell Collins, GE Aviation and Proxy Aviation Systems. Raytheon will use an open architecture approach to enable PCAS to grow and integrate into current and future command and control systems.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) was established in 1958 to prevent strategic surprise from negatively impacting U.S. national security and create strategic surprise for U.S. adversaries by maintaining the technological superiority of the U.S. military.

The Persistent Close Air Support (PCAS) program will demonstrate a new capability in Close Air Support (CAS) (more on Close Air Support) to provide firepower at the fingertips of the ground troops in contact. Key improvements are a positively controlled kill chain, digitally connected equipment for the Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC), and a system growth capable architecture to support both current and future CAS systems.

The program goal is to demonstrate the capability for a JTAC to visualize, select and employ weapons at the time of his choosing from an airborne platform. The airborne system then responds autonomously to the JTAC request for CAS weapons delivery. This provides a JTAC the ability to rapidly request and control airborne fire support. The PCAS system will provide the capability to deliver accurate weapons on target(s) within a shortened time limit.

The primary focus of the PCAS program is to develop and demonstrate a system with air and ground components that employ weapons from an unmanned airborne platform. This employment will be based on machine-to-machine, direct inputs from JTAC equipment. The program will develop a standard architecture for interoperability between a JTAC and an airborne unmanned system to provide CAS services. The developed JTAC kit will interface with the airborne platform to increase information exchange to reduce timeto-target, visualize available weapons and their effects, and pass-off digital targeting information for weapons delivery. The JTAC equipment should be small enough to be carried by a dismounted controller whose only means of transportation is on foot.

While the operational concept is envisioned to improve CAS for any airborne system at any level of autonomy, the PCAS program will demonstrate functionality with an A-10 autonomous response to JTAC direction of CAS services. This includes live-fire weapons employment from the aircraft against targets normally found on the battlefield.

These targets may be stationary or in motion.

The PCAS program is divided into two separate tasks.

  • Task A proposers will be systems integrators who will develop and demonstrate the PCAS system.
  • Task B proposers will develop critical technology components for the PCAS system.

Total amount of money to be awarded: The total planned budget for award is $20M in Phase I, $13M in Phase II, and $27M in Phase III.

Anticipated individual awards:

For Task A: Multiple awards are anticipated, with no more than two (2) performers in Phase I at approximately $7M each. At the end of Phase I, the Government will determine whether to exercise one (1) performer’s option for Phase II. Performers are cautioned that the inclusion of an option in the contract does not guarantee that the Government will exercise the option. The exercise of the option is subject to availability of funds. At the end of Phase II, the Government anticipates exercising the option for no more than one (1) performer for Phase III.

For Task B: Multiple awards are anticipated, with no more than six (6) critical technology component performers (each award limited to approximately $1M).

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