The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has successfully tested its persistent close air support (PCAS) prototype system on the US Air Force (USAF) A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft.
Conducted near Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, the latest test marked the system’s debut on a USAF platform.
With 50 successful sorties, the test showed that a joint terminal attack controller (JTAC) on the ground can command an airstrike with three clicks on a tablet, DARPA stated.
During the test, ten sorties featured live-fire weapons engagements using a mixture of laser- and GPS-guided munitions.
PCAS tactical datalinks allowed data sharing between the pilot and JTAC in order to decide the timed release of precision-guided munitions.
DARPA programme manager said Dan Patt said: "Close air support and similar operations rely on teamwork, and we have shown that a flexible architecture and extensible technology toolsets are key to making groundbreaking improvements in air-ground coordination.
"These and other test results suggest PCAS-like approaches have the potential to provide an unprecedented synchronised understanding of the active battlefield."
DARPA’s PCAS programme is designed to offer more precise, prompt and easy air-ground coordination for close air support (CAS) and other missions.
The programme aims to develop a system that allows the sharing of real-time situational awareness and weapons-systems data, with the support of technologies compatible with almost any aircraft.
The latest test used a version of PCAS-Ground software called the Android Tactical Assault Kit (ATAK), which was developed by PCAS programme partner Air Force Research Laboratory in Rome, New York.
DARPA recently launched a new programme to demonstrate safe, reliable operations involving multiple air-launched, air-recoverable unmanned systems.
The new Gremlins programme is aimed at offering US forces enhanced operational flexibility at a much lower cost.
Image: PCAS Prototype’s test on A-10 Thunderbolt marks the system’s debut on a US Air Force platform. Photo: courtesy of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.