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Security forces deploy new sUAS technologies

  • Published
  • By Debbie Aragon
  • AFIMSC Public Affairs

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas – To further defend U.S. and allied forces in warfighting environments, the Air Force Security Forces Center is set to roll out new small unmanned aircraft systems technologies before the end of this year. 

“At the AFSFC, we concentrate on the provision of warfighting capabilities on behalf of the security forces career field,” said Ed Dyson, AFSFC Air Base Defense chief, “not stateside, home-station sUAS capabilities which are decided at the local level.” 

Warfighting capabilities are often more sophisticated and therefore more expensive than the capabilities required for home station, said Ray McKenney, AFSFC sUAS program manager, so the center focuses on delivering capabilities to Defenders in a deployed environment.  

Home station security forces leaders can purchase the unmanned systems they need based on their specific, diverse home-station missions and geography which often varies from base to base, Dyson said. AFSFC provides training advice, procurement guidance and suggestions for the purchase of sUAS and broader unmanned systems such as robot “dogs.”   

Deployable warfighting technologies AFSFC is fielding in 2024 include the quad copter-Teal 2 sUAS and Red Air Cell training system.  

Teal 2 sUAS 

Weighing less than three pounds, the Teal 2 sUAS compliments the larger Puma UAS system and gives security forces Defenders a lightweight, easy-to-operate vertical take-off and landing system they can carry and launch quickly to provide local area overwatch and situational awareness. The Teal 2 can travel about 5 kilometers from the operator, giving greater visibility on patrol in both daylight and low-light conditions.  

“The reach afforded by the Teal 2 is a force multiplier for security forces as it means that tactical patrols can observe terrain way beyond visual line of site, enabling them more time and better situational awareness to engage threats beyond what was regarded as the norm before the widespread use of sUAS,” McKenney said.  

The initial purchase of the quad copter-Teal 2 is complete and AFSFC subject matter experts are developing a training package for the field.  

Red Air Cell 

The Red Air Cell provides Counter-sUAS system operators realistic training against threat UAS.  

“We can currently field over five capabilities that could be purchased by terrorists or criminals stateside and therefore pose a potential threat to our Air Force installations,” McKenney said.  

Currently AFSFC is working technical support requirements but McKenney said he expects to have the Red Cell Air capability operational and trained operators ready to deploy to the field by the end of 2024.  

“AFSFC is keen to fully exploit sUAS use in the future fight,” he said. 

When researching and testing warfighting sUAS capabilities, the center uses real-world lessons learned from installations to improve what they deliver to include training, tactics and procedures, McKenney added.  

“Our main focus in the short- to medium-term (0-5 years) is improving situational awareness available from sUAS, concentrating on how security forces warfighters can share sUAS SA between operators at the tactical patrol level and between operations centers and those patrols,” McKenney said.  

Looking ahead, the center is investigating replacements for both the current fixed wing (Puma) and quad copter systems (Teal 2) as more effective and capable systems become available. 

“sUAS systems are defined by their rapidly evolving nature, not least because of current global conflicts,” he said. “We want to capitalize on these rapidly changing advancements in technology, not only to help reduce the training burden but also to increase situational awareness for as many Defenders and leaders as possible. To do that, we really need to move faster than the speed of acquisition.”  

To help them stay in tune with industry developments, McKenney and his team work closely with the center’s innovation team. 

“They are aware of our desired goals and objectives, and routinely provide Small Business Innovation Research initiatives to us for consideration and are currently working two promising projects. We also work closely with our civil engineer UAS folks, regularly sharing information and comparing our diverse needs,” he said. 

They also team with the Air Force Research Laboratory and Air Force Special Operations Command which is the Air Force’s lead command for sUAS.