Countering Uncrewed Aerial Systems: A Conversation with General Sean Gainey
This transcript is from a CSIS event hosted on November 14, 2023. Watch the full video here.
Note: This transcript has been edited for clarity.
Tom Karako: All right. Well, good afternoon, everybody. I’m Tom Karako. Thanks for – thanks for everybody coming out today. I’m a senior fellow here at the International Security Program, and the director of the Missile Defense Project here at CSIS. And we’re happy to be talking about the wide world of countering UAS threats today. Our purpose today is twofold. First of all, we’re going to summarize a new report that we’re putting out today. And then, secondly, we’re going to have a conversation with some senior leaders from the Pentagon, whose job it is to be on top of this every day for the joint force.
So our topic today represents what, in the report, we call “a new chapter for air defense.” There’s no question but this is a very significant aerial threat. It’s also the case that the lines between so-called UASs and other categories have begun to blur as the threats, mature, diversify, and proliferate. The number of people who have put this together, I think—that UASs are kind of part of the broader air and missile threat spectrum—is smaller than it should be. You know, the word “missile” just means that which is sent. And UAS threats, or loitering munitions, or what have you, are things that are sent. Is a Shahed-136, is that a UAS group such-and-such? Is it a poor man’s cruise missile? It’s kind of both. And it kind of has to be for a serious attention to that threat spectrum. And that’s why I think it’s important and significant that the 2022 Missile Defense Review included UAS as part of the missile-related threats that we have to deal with.
In a moment, I’m going to turn things over to Shaan Shaikh, a fellow here in the International Security Program and the deputy director of the Missile Defense Project. He’s the lead author on our new report that we’re going to talk about today. He spent a great deal of time thinking and – thinking through this problem and formulating the path that we’re going to describe. There have been a lot of studies out there about the UAS threat, and fewer on the countering part. And that’s what this tries to do. It also tries to talk about the breadth of the problem, not just the material solution. You can’t go to an Army conference and swing a tank turret without hitting somebody’s widget for C-UAS. But it’s much more than that.
And, well, Shaan comes up here to talk about this. After that, we’ll have a conversation with Major General Sean Gainey. Thank you, sir, for coming out. Director of the Joint Counter Small UAS Office, or JCO. And he’ll be joined by Sergeant Major Demetrius Johnson, senior enlisted advisor with JCO. During the course of this effort, the Missile Defense Project’s been fortunate to talk to a number of different smart subject matter experts at JCO and other entities across the military. We’re also very grateful to the sponsors of our report, Raytheon and Epirus. Without their generous support, this research effort would not have been possible.
So thank you all for being here. And, Shaan, over to you.
Shaan Shaikh: Thanks, Tom. And good afternoon, everyone. My name is Shaan Shaikh, and I’m one of the authors of this report, along with Tom and Michelle McLoughlin. I’d like to take a few minutes to explain why we studied counter small UAS and some of our key findings.
First, why this report and why now? Over the past few years, we’ve seen the rise of small UAS or small drones. They’ve become increasingly powerful, able to fly farther, faster, and with larger payloads, armed with better sensors or explosives. We’ve seen their use across the Middle East, between Russia and Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Armenia. At the same time, we’ve also seen traditional air defenses have difficulty in intercepting these threats. Sensors have struggled at times to detect and track small UAS. Command and control systems may not be able to identify friend or foe or deal with larger groups in a simultaneous attack. Interceptors may or may not work, but even when they do there’s often concern over costs and efficiencies. The classic example here is the use of a $3 million Patriot interceptor to take down a drone worth a few thousand dollars.
In pursuing this research, we’ve examined three central questions. First, what exactly is the small UAS threat? How do we define it? What missions can these systems accomplish? And why have they proliferated so quickly? Second, what defenses exists to defeat them? Again, how do we characterize these defenses? How do they operate together? And what are their strengths and weaknesses? Third, and perhaps most importantly, how is the U.S. Department of Defense approaching the counter small UAS mission? How should we evaluate these efforts across what the U.S. military calls the DOTMLPF? That is, doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership and education, personnel, and facilities. And this last part is really essential. It’s our primary value-add in this report. We do not intend to tell policymakers what to think, but rather to clarify the tensions involved in several key areas.
So moving on to some of our key findings, the first being that the threat is indeed significant. Small UAS can be used for many of the same missions as larger manned aircraft. These include attack operations, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, or ISR, use in targeting and battle damage assessment, as well as harassment and propaganda. You see videos posted on YouTube pretty frequently, whether that’s in Russia and Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Armenia. They’re also small and therefore have minimal signatures, making it hard for sensors to detect and track them. They’re cheap and widely proliferated, thanks to today’s commercial market. And, of course, they’re simple to use and widely – excuse me – and offer an organic airpower for ground forces. In other words, any soldier can use these systems on their own with really minimal support.
So the threat is clear, but so too is the potential for defense. Small UAS are not invulnerable. They can be taken down by missiles, by bullets, nets, collision drones, lasers, microwave streamers, sometimes even falcons and eagles have been used in public spaces. You can see some of the examples of these defenses in this chart here, which is divided based on basing mode and effector type. These modalities all have their own pros and cons, which is why there’s strength in platform diversity. This is why it’s repeated, ad nauseam, that there is no silver bullet, no one system to rule them all.
Now, this does not mean that we need to invest equally across platform types. But it does suggest that we should not neglect any defense modalities, and that there are tradeoffs to investment in one form or the other. Another key finding is that everyone must look up. The JCO has repeated this pretty often. Regardless of service or branch, those in the field will need to support the counter small UAS mission. It’s become an essential part of the air defense mission, but cannot stay within the air defense branch. Given the proliferation and evolution of threat, most people now accept this new framework. Now the main question is the degree to which we’ll require a counter small UAS training to be universalized and specialized. What exactly will the hybrid option here look like?
Training is key. This is simple and obvious, but it does need to be said. As one Army master sergeant said, quote, “you’re giving us $10 billion worth of equipment and $10 of training.” That was a few years ago, and while training is still a weakness the Pentagon is making significant progress here. We have the Joint Counter UAS Academy coming online in FY ’24, so very soon, at the Fires Center of Excellence in Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Along with that comes a variety of online and in-person programming for both operators and planners.
We’ve also seen the integration of counter UAS training in various exercises, whether it’s at NATO, Red Sands with CENTCOM, and elsewhere. However, there are still questions about how this training will be shared across the joint and combined force. Will maneuver forces joining these trainings, special operations forces, intelligence forces? They all have a role to play within the counter small UAS mission, but it’s important to get their buy in.
Lastly, we identify some remaining tensions in the counter small UAS field. For example, how much doctrine should be joint versus service specific, given unique service requirements? On that note, how much joint procurement should be done in addition to platforms bought by the services. Thinking organizationally, should the JCO’s centralized approach to counter small UAS continue? And if so, should the JCO be given additional procurement authorities in order to get over that valley of death in the procurement cycle?
I’ve already discussed the tension over operator universalization and specialization, AKA who gets to work on what. Do you get to use the microwave, the laser, the kinetics, the radio frequency? But it’s also important – excuse me – I’ve likewise discussed the importance of platform diversity that is kinetic and non-kinetic, fixed and mobile. But it’s also important in keeping costs and logistical requirements down. Gold-plated C-UAS is not practical. We must have expectation control for what can and should be defended. As Admiral Arch Macy, a non-resident advisor with our program often says, the point of air defense is not to play catch. We cannot have a zero-risk approach, seeking some kind of invulnerable shield given financial, and logistical, and various other constraints. So what exactly does that mean for C-UAS procurement and deployment?
There’s a lot more in the report, which is now available online. I hope it’ll serve as a useful resource for the Department of Defense and policymakers across the U.S. government, for industry, as well as for the general public. In the meantime, I’m very much looking forward to our conversation with Tom Karako, and General Gainey, and Sergeant Major Johnson. So with that, I’ll turn it over back to Tom. Thank you. (Applause.)
Dr. Karako: Well done. Well done. Well, General Gainey – thank you, Shaan, for that great summary. Lots to talk about next few minutes here. General Gainey, Sergeant Major, thanks for coming over and taking the time. I think it was about two and a half years ago you were here. We did a virtual thing to kind of roll out your new strategy at JCO. And you’ve been at – you’ve been the director of JCO now for just over three years. I wonder if you might just sort of give us a little bit of an update on where things are with JCO and how things are moving along.
Sean Gainey: Absolutely. First of all, Tom, Shaan, really appreciate you all inviting us here today. The sergeant major and I always look forward to the opportunity to come out in these engagements and highlight what the great organization, the Joint Counter-UAS Office, and my DAMO-Fires side for the Army, is doing. I also appreciate the great work by CSIS and others on getting after these difficult problems and helping us, you know, build a framework and kind of move forward.
JCO – so I’ll pull on a couple of themes here. First of all, that was a great overview from Shaan. As I listened to him highlight a lot of those difficult problems I go, OK, now the audience is going to be waiting for me to solve – answer it and solve those problems. And, you know, I’m ready to highlight what we’re doing. But also I’ll start with the first point that you highlighted, where you talked about the three different groups of UAS. When I first took over this job a little over three years ago, you know, counter UAS was really focused on the group one and group two. Which is really your quadcopters, your small UASs. And the group three, anything larger than that, was really pushed over to the air defense problem. And the community said, hey, let the air defense worry about that. So it really made it easier to focus on capability development and made it a force protection issue. Every soldier had the opportunity to get after a small UAS.
One of the first decisions I made when we wrote the strategy and we received our directive from the secretary of defense, I said, we’re going to get after this from a holistic approach, from group one through three, because I’m tired of bifurcating this problem. Because my background is air and missile defense. You know, in air and missile defense, we didn’t look at the group three problem set. It was just a byproduct of a threat set that was out there and we would engage it if we had to, but we weren’t planning for it. And you had a counter-UAS force protection community that was defaulting to the air defense problem. So it was really nobody’s problem moving forward.
So when we – first decision we made was when we put that under the umbrella of counter. There’s a lot of resistance to doing that because naturally everybody saw that the potential cost curve, the potential organizational challenges that would come with that, when you take on a large threat that normally wasn’t addressed by the counter-UAS community. Once we did that, we then started moving forward with looking at what existing capability could address the current threat and where did we, as a JCO organization, need to start developing new materiel solutions to get after it? And one of the things you heard from Shaan was we rapidly realized that there wasn’t a silver bullet out there. It required a system of systems approach, integrated into a common C2. So we kind of moved out from that perspective moving forward.
So the JCO – as I look at this journey from beginning to now – it’s amazing to watch what the organization has evolved into and really, picking up on Shaan’s point, the organization has evolved to where we want to be honestly put out of business and let the services move forward with. We’re focusing on looking after capability areas that can provide significant capability against the threat, leveraging future technology, specifically cost curve. Like, directed energy, high powered microwave, low-cost interceptors is where we want to be. And did allow the services to move forward with their procurement and service equities in how they integrate that into a service moving forward. So that’s where we’re kind of at from the macro perspective from the JCO piece.
And then, enhance the training – joint training piece, by leveraging things like the Joint Counter UAS Academy. We just had our first course. Thirty-plus attendees. All services attended. We even incorporate the Special Operations Command into that course. And the sergeant major will talk a little bit more in detail on that. And my final directive – you know, I had three directives when I took over the JCO. It was joint capability development, joint training, and a joint doctrine.
So the last piece I haven’t talked about in my opening comments are the doctrine, right? We’ve developed the initial doctrine, strategy. And we’re revising that strategy to now look at this holistically, not just from a counter perspective, from a defense operation, but also incorporate the offensive left-of-launch capability that SOCOM has been directed to move forward. So that’s how we’re kind of moving forward with as we move to the future.
Dr. Karako: Well, let me – let me pause on a couple of things you said there. Maybe just fundamentally starting with the threat. I’m curious how we got to the situation where the department had to scramble and stand up a JCO? Like, how did that – how did that happen? And then how have you seen the threat change in the past couple of years even?
MG Gainey: Well, fortunately, I’ve been a part of this the entire time. (Laughter.) When I was in the J-8 as the director of force protection –
Dr. Karako: And we had you over then too.
MG Gainey: Yep. And part of my portfolio was synchronizing the efforts of the services moving forward with counter UAS capability. And what you had is, you know, if you go back in time you had all the services moving out, like I highlighted earlier, really focusing on the group one and group two force protection type threat sets. You know, the group one quadcopters, and capability – mainly electronic warfare capability to get after that. So the services were moving, and mainly in response to a joint urgent operational need from one of the combat commanders to get after it. So it was reactionary-type capability development. And the services felt that they were moving out, getting after this process, but the COCOM commanders highlighted that we believe we can do better in this area, understanding that the services were doing a lot of great work.
And so the secretary of defense then at the time made a decision. He said, hey, we can continue moving along this path where the services believe they’re getting after this adequately, however the COCOM commanders feeling there can be more done. Or we can designate a service to be the executive agent and lead and direct this effort focusing on those three areas that I highlighted – joint capability, development, training, and doctrine. And really put a DOTMLPF, and Shaan highlighted that to you earlier, the acronym, a framework around it and then move forward, instead of just throwing capability out to the warfighter and allowing the warfighter to figure out the training, the organization, the management of it.
So when that decision was made, the Army stepped forward and really took on the executive agent role. And, you know, ever since had been moving out, leading, and directing this ever. And so from a threat perspective, I highlighted, originally focused on the group one, two quadcopter and what some would call, when we wrote this strategy, hazard in the homeland area where, you know, stuff would fly over an airport, stuff would fly over a base.
But it wasn’t till really you saw the group three larger attacks, you know, in the CENTCOM area, and the use of threats in the CENTCOM area, using the one-way attacks, that we really start saying, OK, we need to make sure we’re prepared to be able to handle the group three type threat moving forward. To the point where we’re at now, where we look at Ukraine, Israel, and CENTCOM where you see the primary news that’s covered is the group three threat, not so much the smaller ones and two quadcopters, that are very capable from an ISR perspective. So that’s kind of how I’d frame it.
Dr. Karako: Yeah. Yeah, you know, the grouping and the U.S. categorization of the different group one, two, three, its size, altitude, these kinds of characteristics. What about the other characteristics? How do you see the evolution of the threat in terms of the missions, the payloads, the sophistication of these platforms/delivery systems?
MG Gainey: Yeah. And as I’ve watched this problem set nested, that’s the challenge and joy of this job, of not only looking at the threat today but what the threat’s going to evolve to tomorrow. And I – you know, when I talk where the threat’s now and where it’s going, when I look at how we adequately fund getting after this problem set, I really put it in three main groupings. You know, the threat is going to continue to increase in speed. So we’ll see faster, slower, trying to do anything to evade the capabilities of our radars and interceptors. Also, size. You know, the radar cross-sections will continue to decrease on these threat platforms, again, to try to evade and get around our capabilities.
And finally, autonomy. When I first took over the job, it was pretty relatively easily focused on, hey, we’re just going to cut the link between these – the operator and the drone, and the drone will fall out of sky. Well, as the threat evolves, the autonomy piece, where the threat is less – going to be less reliant on a link, fly autonomously, leveraging GPS, waypoint, those things, again, to try to get around our capabilities. And that’s where we focus in on our capability development, focus on what we perceive as maybe gaps to getting after those three main threat areas that I highlighted.
Dr. Karako: Yeah. I should have said this – I should have reminded folks at the beginning that you can, of course, submit questions online. We’ve already got a number of great ones come in, and I’ll weave them in as appropriate. But that’s from the event page, if you want to submit anything. I’d appreciate that.
So let me – let me ask you this, and you can both jump in on this if you’d like. But, you know, the first sentence of this report that Shaan summarized says that, “For years, air defense has been the domain of specialized units and niche capabilities under conditions of air superiority. That era is no more.” Can you talk about how this threat has become ubiquitous, and as a result is kind of an everybody problem?
MG Gainey: Yeah. So if I peel that back and take a step back, you know, when I took over this job the advantage I had was my missile defense background, and how you highlighted, its integrated air and missile defense problem set. And that’s how I really attacked this problem getting after it. And so the challenge we always saw was in missile defense you have trained – highly trained soldiers that understand airspace, understand how to employ capabilities, understand how to integrate several capabilities to be able to deliver effects across the spectrum, and integrate radars.
However, you’re now looking at a space where you don’t have the capacity for every soldier to be an MOS-trained soldier on the capability that we’re delivering, and have to look at it more as, you know, force protection in some aspect, while you know the art of combining some of the MOS-specific capabilities to get after this problem set. So, for example, in the Army, the Army has made a decision that, you know, group three capability is going to be addressed through the air defense branch, through our capabilities that will be integrated into our air defense battalions within the divisional formation. So every division will have a counter-UAS battery manned by air defense soldiers.
However, we’ll also issue gear throughout the division down to squad level to be able to allow the soldiers to do force protection, all the way down to the unit level, against your smaller threats. We felt in the Army that it was important and critical to have air defense capability, that when you look at in airspace – a congested airspace, especially when you’re looking at group threes, to be able to deconflict and then put effects in that area. It’s kind of what we do, as you highlighted earlier. But combining that with everybody having that skill set to get after it. So, what does that do? That creates a unique challenge of how do you balance MOS training and force protection training? And this is where I throw out to my sergeant major to highlight some of the efforts in that area.
Sergeant Major Demetrius Johnson: Yes, sir. So, I mean, it’s – the threat, it’s growing. And it’s going to impact every soldier. And the way I kind of look at this is it’s a basic – it’s going to become a basic soldier requirement to be able to identify, report, and, in some cases, react to the threat. And it’s going to take training to do that. You know, so there’s the – you know, there’s five JTO modules just to get the basic understanding of the threat, how to respond to it, how to report policies that govern the UAS threat. All those requirements are there.
There’s also, you know, a training publication that kind of lays out some of the basics of how to identify, respond to different groups of UAS, identifying those as a threat. And you have to look at this kind of like we looked at back in the day of the nuclear, biological, chemical. Every soldier was trained on how to respond to the threat, regardless of the MOS. And this, you know, looking at it from a training perspective, every soldier in the Army has – in the DOD and all the joint forces – have to have that knowledge, basic knowledge, on how to respond to the threat. And then, as you look at the threat, you know, it’s group one, group two, you know, it’s MOS agnostic. It’s not specific to our air defender to be able to deploy these handheld systems.
That’s where, you know, there’s going to be a basic load of those handheld capabilities within a company, troop, battery, platoon level. They will have those systems and be able to access them and be able to use them. But in order to synchronize all those efforts, you got to have leaders that are trained as well. And that’s where the Joint Counter UAS university at Fort Sill comes into play. Which, you know, they started their first course on 16 October. I was fortunate enough to be on the ground for the first three days, kind of see how that rolled out, see what the attendance was like, see what their curriculum was like.
And it’s – you know, it’s – there’s still work to be done because the threat is still evolving. And so we’re going to –that’s going to cause our POI, program of instruction, to have to evolve as well. But it’s the best step in the right direction to ensure that we are able to train every warfighter on the threat to be able to respond.
MG Gainey: And, Tom, before you jump into your next question, that reminded me of something that the sergeant major has highlighted. We also got to be able to look at this problem a little bit differently and present capability a little differently. So, for example, we did a demonstration counter UAS as a service, where we took one to two kilometers and told industry, hey, bring in your capability and defend it, and do it as a service. And we, as DOD, will lease that equipment and pay you to upgrade that equipment. And if we get the authorities correct, can even contract you to man that capability, so you take the burden off of DOD to be able to, at scale, mass this capability. And we have operational assessments within the Marine Corps, Air Force, and soon within the Army, validating that test case as we move forward. So a different approach to looking at this problem set, to be able to get after the scale of this problem set as we move forward.
Dr. Karako: Look, I don’t want to move on. I want to dig into what you all just said there because, I tell you as we did this report, just digging it, and the frame that we took was the DOTMLPF. And goodness gracious, we realized how hard it is. And is the O and the T, I think, especially, the organization and the training. And as we talked to folks, I said, you know, the next chapter of air defense. And they would say no, no, no, you don’t understand. Air defense. That’s the ADA. That’s the branch. You can’t call it that.
And yet, I think that as the threat has gone, it’s required a – and I don’t know if we’re even there yet – of a rethinking of what the heck that is. You know, at one time, well, the group threes will be the ADA, but the other groups – but you know that that’s going to continue to change, and evolve, and all that kind of stuff. And the very fact that it’s not just CAFADs, but putting it into every unit, that’s a massive organizational problem.
MG Gainey: Absolutely. And that training. And, you know, as I look back – and the benefit of looking back as we move through – you know, what really – you know, I told my team, lay out the analysts. So we had – we were fortunate in one side – I won’t get into the specific operational details, as you all can understand – but we looked at one installation site where you had air defenders, and they were Marine air defenders, manning capability. And then we looked at another site not too far from that site where you had non-air defenders manning that site. And we saw a 30 percent difference in success rate with the exact same capability, but with different trained personnel manning that equipment.
And we knew this prior, but it just helped reaffirm how critical training was. And if there’s a(n) opportunity to leverage MOS-trained soldiers in this mission set, specifically in the group three area, because if you look at the threat – I mean, it’s all open source. You’ve all seen what’s going on in Ukraine, CENTCOM. I mean these in some cases or small cruise missiles, as highlighted. And, you know, it goes to the point where you got some combat commands won’t even really call them one, two, three. They’ll just say, hey, just a one-way attack threat coming towards us. And it’s – then it’s how do we address it with the capability that we have moving forward?
Dr. Karako: Yeah. Can we come back to the training? Because, I mean, the counter UAS university for the joint force, the whole joint force is not going through Fort Sill for that course. How are we going to train a sufficient number of soldiers and a sufficient number of folks across the joint force so that, at the minimum, they can go back and teach everybody else?
SGM Johnson: Yeah, so right now its initial operating capacity right now. So there’s still some work that needs to be done to get some additional systems in, to get additional instructors in, to give that – you know, that Marine, that sailor, that airman, someone that looks like them, you know, as far as an instructor to kind of help. Because every – you know, some of the services have different systems. But we’re training on all those systems, right? So it’s going to take a little time. It’s not going to – you know, it was just the first class. And, you know, it’s going to take a year to get us to, you know, FOC. By then we should have all the systems and we should be in a better place with instructors, so we have a bigger throughput and capacity to get more through the course.
MG Gainey: And I tell you, Tom, you’re absolutely right. We’re never going to reach the masses that are necessary to get after his problem set. And so what we’ve constructed, in the POI we’ve constructed, is built to be able to where the services can didn’t leverage it at their level.
Dr. Karako: Basic training kind of deal.
MG Gainey: Exactly. And then integrate it into their training. But we are establishing the POI that will help all the other services move forward. But, you know, it’s kind of – you know, in this – the biggest challenge in counter UAS is addressing today while looking – rapidly looking forward to tomorrow, with either capability. So everything we do so we have to be able to train an element of the force now. And so that’s why our courses are focused on operator course, and planners’ course. And I believe the planners; course is significant. You know, I was in Jasionka, Poland, talking to one of the soldiers.
And he said, the reason we were able to successfully employ this capability is because when I got here it wasn’t employed properly, but I’d been to the planners’ course. And this was when it was at Yuma. The Army had done a lot of great work out at Yuma with PEO missiles and space and the Army G-38. And said – he said, because I went through this course, and I came and we weren’t getting effects, I was able to understand that something wasn’t quite right from a planning perspective, reach back capability and build on it. And I believe that’s what it’s going to take. It’s not this – joint counter UAS university is not the end all be all. It’s taking that first step, addressing the problem today, but allowing the services that come in and then scale it to get after and move towards tomorrow, to where you have to be at a space where you’re going to have to address this problem set.
And also what the sergeant major didn’t highlight but he also had a chance to talk, is the mobile training teams. So that’s another capacity. So right now, as units – and this is from a joint perspective – deploy out, we send mobile training teams to a BCT. And that mobile training team is able to train as many personnel as necessary within that BCT. We do the same with the Air Force. When the Air Force is deployed to a certain location, we try to send that MTT, if requested, to support that deployment moving forward. So these are some of the small things to address now, but understanding that it’s going to take service commitment to scale it and move forward to addressed the masses that’s necessary.
SGM Johnson: And the other piece that’s out of the JCU is the additional skill identifier, right? So every soldier, you know, sailor, airman, Marine – well, I’m not going to speak for the Marines yet because they’re still working through some things – but the other three services, the Army has an additional skill identifier and the Navy and Air Force have their equivalent of an additional skill identifier. So regardless of what unit that they those personnel go through after they’ve been trained, that additional skill identifier is there to identify them as a subject matter expert in employment of the counter UAS capability. So as, you know, units receive these personnel, they know who’s in their formation that’s been trained on this capability that they can leverage to incorporate into their – in their plan for defense against the UAS threat, and to continue to training others.
Dr. Karako: I’ve been deliberately avoiding the material thing. I want to hold off for one second there. But as you go out and train all these different folks with these additional skills, they’re going to – and with the absence of specific kit that they’re handed, they’re going to presumably use what they have. And so that brings to mind CAFAD. So how do you think about the combined arms for air defense for these classes of threats, given the diversity of stuff that lots of different units have that may not be tailor-made for this?
SGM Johnson: Yeah. So the Army – I mean, so the DOD and Army all still have – we still have work to do, right, as far as developing the doctrine, developing a mission essential task list that is going to bridge the gap and an employ these capabilities together. So we still have some work to do as far as developing that doctrine and how these systems are going to be integrated into larger systems and to be able to do combined arms maneuver and things of that nature.
MG Gainey: And we also have to be willing to learn from some lessons learned we’re seeing our partners go through. So, for example, you got some countries putting nets out there in front of their capability to be able to stop and slow down, fencing, whatever it is. You know, the – if you look at the three pillars of missile defense, you have active defense, which we talk about material a lot. You have the attack operations, which I highlighted earlier, and SOCOM has been designated as the left-of-launch lead for counter UAS to get after the attack ops piece or attack the network piece. And then you have the passive defense measures. So, you know, the ability to be able to warn and then leverage the passive measures that have been put in place on the installation, or how you leverage passive measures are all important because this has to be an enterprise approach to this problem set. It can’t just be one of those three in that area.
And then leveraging, like you highlighted, CAFAD, or whatever acronym you want to use, to be able to get after this problem set and to leverage ingenuity. We’re seeing a lot of it in the Ukraine, a lot of ingenuity being used to get after just leveraging .50 cals, leveraging – we’ve seen through some of our demonstrations that leveraging 30-millimeter guns with appropriate ammunition can be successful, leveraging our rocket systems, integrated and fused into a radar and a C2 system to be able to get after this threat. So there are several different ways leveraging some of the current capability and using some creativity and innovation to help us get after this problem set, while we continue to invest in some of the future technology like DE, high powered microwave, to bring additional capabilities on the masses to bear as we move forward.
Dr. Karako: Yeah. We’ve got a couple – several questions that have come in. Let me – let me start with, I think, something a little bit more generic. This is from Ryan – not generic, but more foundational. This is from Ryan Finnerty from Flight Global, a reporter.
And he says that there’s lots of comparisons made between the Ukraine conflict and World War One, with small UASs and precision munitions creating static lines. And so the question is, what technological capability or doctrinal change will break that stagnation in the way that armored vehicles and combined arms changed combat operations in the past?
MG Gainey: You know, a great question. And, you know, as you look at this problem set, and a lot of the points we highlighted just continued to reemphasize that this is a real and growing threat that we all realize. And it’s being leveraged – this capability is being leveraged in a way it hasn’t done before. And if you look at, you know, amongst the conflicts out there, and what’s going on with how the UASs are being leveraged and used, you know, it’s going to take that system of systems approach.
And what we what we’ve realized earlier is having a common C2, integrating several effectors, and mandating that those systems that are being developed integrate into that common C2, where the operator has the advantage of leveraging several systems as opposed to one or two to get after this problem set, is the way of foundationally that we have to move forward. And then as technology comes on board and technologies emerge, rapidly integrate this technology into your system of systems approach to be able to get after it. And that’s kind of how we’re approaching it from the joint counter UAS perspective against this threat.
Dr. Karako: You highlight the common C2 that, you know, back to the Ukraine thing, I mean, look, they don’t have the Nirvana of integrated fire control. They are somehow kludging stuff together and making it work. That seems like a lesson too, that in terms of the C2, something short of Nirvana. Maybe a single pane of glass versus integrated fire control might be good enough, especially for the lower tier stuff.
MG Gainey: Yeah, I mean, look what we did in the Army. You know, so, you know, everybody’s advocating for a new, more advanced C2. We took forward area air defense command and control – FAAD C2. The Army has been using that for short range air defense forever. Right now, that is the primary C2 system out there able to integrate fire control radars and deliver effects, and have been doing it successfully inside of the AORs, and the CENTCOM AOR. Again, I can’t get into details, but being able to integrate things like the Coyote interceptor, directed energy, and electronic warfare into that C2 allows the operators that have several effectors against this threat, and employing them very successfully.
So, again, taking a – what some would say, a C2 capability has been around a long time, but leveraging the successes of that while – you know, and this is how we as a JCO look at capability development. I leveraged PEOs from the services, give them funding, and focus on a capability gap. And so, for example, we have the Army focusing on decision aid tools inside of tools like FAAD C2 that then could be used by other services in whatever systems that are being used if it’s not FAAD C2 at the time. Going after the machine learning AI to allow the operator to process large amounts of data, that’s the next-level threat that we’ll face. And so invested in that now, still using the same C2, but finding ways to fight the today but looking at the future is kind of how we’re doing it and getting after that problem set.
Dr. Karako: So my mind there immediately goes to, you know, some of the big efforts that joint force and the Army is thinking about. Recognizing that the whole defense of Guam thing is still in flux and all that kind of thing, I mean, C-UAS has to be part of that too, I would think.
MG Gainey: It is. And whenever – and as a joint force, whenever you employ expensive, exquisite radars, doesn’t take much to go after those radars with UASs. And if you look at the UAS concept and in what the radars are being built and designed to go after, you know, large strategic-type missiles, you have to plan for counter-UAS capability, whether it’s inherent inside of that system, you know, with technology like high-powered microwave. You could potentially build that capability inside of radar for force protection, or it’s adding some of the capability that we’ve developed and employment in conjunction with it.
And so, as an Army, as we look forward to our IBCS, integrated battle command system, as our C2 of the future for the missile defense, well, as we look at the future of FAAD C2 and how we merge that capability together, you know, take a Coyote counter-UAS launcher, integrated into IBCS. Now you have the ability to integrate launchers into – and then have to be able to leverage the fire control radars out there. You build that agnostic, integrated air and missile defense system where you can leverage low-cost interceptors, or the interceptor based off of the threat of choice, as you move forward with the scale and sophistication of the interceptors that you have in your arsenal. All given to that one operator the ability to do that. So we are addressing that, you know, as an Army.
And I know, if you look at what the Navy’s doing with their integration, the Aegis, and integrate some of the technology. For example, the high-powered microwave technology that we’re working, the Navy is the service lead. You know, and during our demonstration, we brought out high-powered microwave, you know, the Epirus, y’all read about this, Leonidas performed well. The Army immediately bought unit of action to get it into force to start testing operational assessment. Well, the Navy continues to develop with the Army RCCTO to maturate that technology. We’ll then integrate that technology into their systems of systems approach as they look at how they get after the range of threats from a cost perspective technology, integrated into a common C2 on their ships.
Dr. Karako: Well, since we’ve kind of moved to the effectors and to the sensors as well, I wonder if you could talk a little bit about the technologies and the systems that you kind of winnowed down to. You’ve already alluded to the Coyote and other things like that, but other demos – recent demos or forthcoming demos, and procurement that you’ve been doing and that you seek the services doing that deserve some highlights?
MG Gainey: Yeah, I’m very pleased at the teamwork approach to the demonstrations. You know, we’ve done five demonstrations now, if you count the excursion demonstration that we were looking for capability out there to address a certain threat. And so if you look at those demonstrations, they were all focused on a capability gap area. And we essentially opened it up to industry. Said, hey, industry, we’re looking for capability to address this threat. Bring what you have to our demonstration and let’s – and let’s put it against the stressing threats, and let’s see how they perform, and then see how we want to move forward.
And what we found, pretty much what we expected. You know, our focus highlighted the high-powered microwave. You know, we have – you know, industry came with, you know, static capabilities, interceptors with high-powered microwave built into them. We then looked at how do you get after low-cost interceptors. That’s where the rocket piece came in. And industry integrating what’s called APKWS into a C2 and a radar to give you the ability to shoot a low-cost rocket at a one-way attack type of platform. So directed energy. And we also even looked at advance EW capabilities.
And what we found that, you know, as we do these demonstrations, and then as we take the successful capability that comes out of that, and then we, you know, task a service to then move forward with their PEO and fund them to be able to do that, we’ve seen that low-collateral interceptors – you know, the Air Force has now funded through the JCO to develop and deliver the three to four best low-collateral interceptors. And when I highlight low-collateral interceptors, now you’re talking whether it’s a net capture system, sure kinetic type system, or a system able deliver different type effects against UAS, where you can employ that in a place where normally you may not have authorities to deploy a high explosive-type capability.
All the way up into our next demonstration is going to focus on swarming. So we’ve essentially went to industry and said, hey, be prepared to defeat 30 to 50 UASs. How would you do this? What type of capability would you deliver? Small and large UASs. Industry responded. In May-June timeframe of ’24 we will execute that demonstration with the intent of looking to bring some capability out of that, that performs well, and put rapid prototyping funding against that with the service lead to move forward with capability against that next, I don’t want to say generation, but next few year type of threat that we will see scaled by the threat.
Dr. Karako: Can you walk us through that acquisition, the handoff process? The JCO is doing these demonstrations. You’re helping to figure out the doctrine and all these other things, and requirements. How is that handoff? What kind of a valley of death are you – is needing to be crossed here between you and the services?
MG Gainey: Yeah, so give you a good example. Low-collateral interceptors. So our first demonstration was low-collateral interceptors. And I highlighted, hey, industry, find a way to take out UASs without high collateral, high – it will meet the authorities that were provided to be able to defeat in a CONUS-type environment, or an installation where you’re not allowed to use some of the effectors because of FAR or freedom of air space navigation. So ran a demonstration. Narrowed it down to about four or five vendors that performed very well. Gave it to the Air Force and gave the Air Force a sizable amount of funding to be able to deliver for transition to the service the best capability.
So the Air Force worked with those vendors. Provided them RDT&E funding to get to the level that they required – need to be. And now they’re, in February, March timeframe, they’ll do the final fly off. Once they complete that fly off, they will then open it up from contract with the services and say: Services, you are now able to buy these four or five recommended systems to proliferate inside of your service moving forward. Simultaneously, right now what we do is instead of waiting till that final, you know, testing period, when it meets the threshold – safety for soldiers to use – we send them into the COCOM. So right now, every service has a low-collateral capability inside of every COCOM right now, testing it out, and providing that feedback to the Air Force that’s then calculating all of that information.
So providing a capability to the warfighter today, while we’re continuing to move forward with capability to address threats in the future. And so that’s how I’ve kind of balanced that moving forward. And that’s one area. We’ve also done that with directed energy. We’re also funding Air Force and the Army RCCTO to move forward with taking directed energy – 10 kilowatt, 20 kilowatt, and eventually 50 kilowatt – into theater, operationally assess it, make a recommendation. And then the services will come in with a transition and then buy it with their procurement dollars. I only focus on the RDT&E developmental funding, and then the services come in and buy it at scale to meet their service requirements based off of the technology that we’ve developed and how we’ve developed it moving forward.
Dr. Karako: We have a ton of questions that have come in. I’m going to get to a couple of them, but there’s just absolutely a ton.
This one is from Christina Castillo. You alluded to kind of some of the FAA and local things. And she asks: How will JCO address the policy and authority gaps and legal restrictions? The biggest and most likely threats to critical infrastructure, especially about the state and local level and that sort of thing, so.
MG Gainey: Well, great question, Christina. And, Christina worked for me developing capability gaps. So she’s very familiar with that area. And I appreciate that question.
We have to work closely. My team can’t address everything. You know, we’re a relatively small organization that try to take on as much as we can and address as much of the gap as we can. But this is an area that we have to work with OSD policy. And, you know, we can create the forums to get after the challenges with the COCOMs. Essentially, we help serve as a voice for the COCOMs where they see challenges and then work closely with OSD policy on how do we get after those authority challenges.
For example, as we work – we, as in JCO, are able to take the capability that we’re developing – we work closely with FAA, JNWC – and said, hey, this technology can be used in the airspace in a safe manner. Now we’re working through, you know, FAA’s process to test it, live air fly. And I’m specifically talking, you know, different type of non-kinetic capability. And then we’ll do the same thing with directed energy capability. Demonstrate that it’s safe for airspace and navigation, and then as we work through that process we have to leverage OSD policy because we can’t do it alone.
And then, you know, as we work through that process, get to the point where the FAA is comfortable with what we’re doing in the airspace and not limited to what freedom of navigation is trying to do. And then be able to deliver that capability to mass, where everybody’s comfortable with what we’re doing. So it’s a partnership. Leveraging the appropriate entity, whether it’s FAA or one of the other authorized organizations to leverage counter-UAS capability, and then leveraging the policy at OSD and our team to move forward and drive to get after these. Because that’s one of the biggest challenges, is leveraging. Because I have several capability out there – I don’t mean I, but we, as DOD – have several capabilities out there. And some of them, you know, are restricted based off of authorities from being employed to its full extent. And that’s what we’re trying to work through tight now.
Dr. Karako: Look, it’s a function of popularity of the topic. I’ve not seen this many good questions come in. (Laughter.) I’m going to keep working through them here.
Earlier, we talked about kind of the – not just the size and range but the innards, and the evolution of the threat on the innards here. This question is from Jen Judson of Defense News. She says: What are you doing to get after the use of non-RF controlled drones? Such as ones that use cellular connectivity or other means? Are there solutions out there to defeat drones connected in this way? Maybe in a future demonstration?
MG Gainey: Yeah. Absolutely. Thanks, Jen, for the question. I several times have talked with Jen about this topic. Yes. So as we look at future threats that I highlighted earlier, that was one of the big three areas I focused on – it was speed, autonomy, and size. And mainly autonomy with the way threats are starting to fly without – and in during one of our – my speaking engagement, I said, hey, we’re going to go to more kinetic solutions. And everybody came back, what are you doing? EW is still part of this. And I said, that’s not what I said. I just said we – at the time, we need to leverage more kinetic solutions because, you know, you have electronic warfare capability that can cut the link. That’s always going to be part of it. And we’re having success today with that capability, the electronic warfare.
But as you look at the lack of that link, it’s going to take other capabilities. And that’s why I’m excited about the directed energy capability where you can get a mass capability against – for less costs, when you’re looking at cost per shot. We’re looking at DE, and DE is having success out there. We have DE in CENTCOM. We have DE in INDOPACOM AOR. So it’s out there, and it’s operating. A lot of people don’t understand that, but it is out there right now. What we’re doing now is more of, you know, trying to figure out what is the right kilowatt to use appropriate to the threat. And we’ve tried several different kilowatts. And eventually we’ll decide which is the right one, as we move forward. And the high-powered microwave technology that I highlighted also we believe is going to be very good against this type of autonomous threat.
And that’s why capability for today, you know, leveraging on our kinetic 30-millimeter bullets, very successful against this type of autonomous type threat, rocket Coyote interceptor. But look into the future with directed energy and high-powered microwave on scale to be able to get after this threat. And then how do we look at leveraging navigational warfare to its full extent to be able to move forward and get after and help contribute to this space?
Dr. Karako: You know, the USS Carney a couple of weeks ago shot down –
MG Gainey: Mmm hmm. Great demonstration.
Dr. Karako: – some cruise missiles, and C-UAS is – C-UAS was part of that. Without kind of getting into the ins and outs of what’s going on in the past month in that part of the world, you said along the way there that, hey, this stuff is deployed – kinetic and non-kinetic – and it’s doing stuff. I don’t think that’s well enough known. Stuff is falling out of the sky. Stuff that is being sent in anger is being – is being taken out of the sky.
MG Gainey: Yeah. And, you know, you got a lot of great soldiers in harm’s way right now. You know, and it’s our job, you know, through the services – and services have been doing a great job – of delivering capability. And, you know, as we narrow it down – you know, one of the first jobs we had was to narrow it down. And we narrowed it down. We said about 10 systems are the systems that we initially narrowed down to, and integrate those 10 systems into a common C2, to eventually get after this single pane of glass that you highlighted. We’re not completely there yet, but we’re working to get there.
And to see those systems perform and watch those soldiers take the training that they have. And, you know, you look at COCOMs like CENTCOM and INDOPACOM, and USFK, you know, they’re taking it on from a training perspective. You know, you have CENTCOM doing things like sensing sands, Red Sands, where they’re bringing operators out, they’re working with the partners and, you know, doing live engagements, training engagements, to hone the operator skills against this capability. And, you know, we’re seeing, like, a highlighted –whether it’s directed energy, whether it’s electronic warfare, or whether it’s the, you know, Coyote Interceptor – all integrated into the FAAD C2 system. So the operator has the ability to leverage Coyote interceptor, electronic warfare, or directed energy, in some cases, is having them the ability to have success.
Now, again, you know, there’s still a lot of work to be done training, capability refinement. But if you look at where the capability started and how rapidly, you know, we’ve been upgrading and improving this capability over the last couple of years, it’s really impressive work by the services and what they’ve been doing.
Dr. Karako: Yeah. I think I will direct us to you, Sergeant Major. This comes in from someone who was invoked earlier, Rear Admiral Arch Macy.
He asks: Might one observe that in the future, as before everyone on the ground has had to be a rifleman, that in the future everyone on the ground also needs to be an air defender. I think that was kind of related to what you were talking about earlier about training.
SGM Johnson: Yeah, it was. You know, every soldier has to be trained to have ability to make that initial response to a threat. And that goes all the way back to the soldier that’s going to go through basic training, right? One of the efforts that’s taking place right now is the Center for Initial Military Training is rewriting the basic training POI to incorporate, react to counter-UAS. So that a soldier getting his first initial training into the Army is going to understand what the counter-UAS threat is, how to identify, how to respond to it. So we will have a baseline in the Army, and the other services, I’m fairly certain, am going to follow suit with various similar training portfolios.
Dr. Karako: Yeah. And there’s another question here that’s really more on the operational side as well. This is from Sam Skove from Defense One.
He says: Can you talk about what tools are needed to deconflict airspace for drone or counter drone operations? Now, to me, that sounds like well, the altitude would solve that for you in part, but thoughts on that?
MG Gainey: Yeah. So, again, I highlight earlier, that’s why we’re putting air defenders on some of the group three capability, because of that airspace deconfliction. When you look at some of the range that it’s – that our systems are capable of, we are surprised a lot, and, you know, when you get into the operational capability you have to have that ability to deconflict. But also, we build into these systems safety protections that help the operator, because, you know, we know there aren’t air defenders on there, to be able to help protect the airspace.
Build inside of our radars that capability for the operators to be able to see whether or not it’s manned/unmanned system so, you know, you’re able to take a little bit more risk. And with some of our EOIR cameras that are integrated into the FAAD C2 system of systems approach, allows the operators to visually see what they’re actually seeing on radar, but actually visually see it also. So all of these things are built in together to help the operator manage and, you know, have, you know, an assessed risk as we move forward in getting after this dangerous threat out there.
Dr. Karako: Yeah. Question from Jon Harper from DefenseScoop.
Jon asked: Can you provide more details about the left-of-launch offensive capabilities that JCO is looking at? We talked about that earlier.
MG Gainey: Yeah. So, SOCOM has been designated as the lead for the left-of-launch area. And essentially, I won’t speak for SOCOM, but SOCOM is getting after it. So we’re working closely with SOCOM on the strategy. We’re rewriting the strategy to take it from a right-of-launch – meaning, a defensive posture in how you defend against this – to incorporate more how do you get after this holistically with the right-of-launch, attack the network. So essentially, they’re looking at everything, you know, that it takes to get after holistically this UAS threat, without having to just rely on capability to the theater.
Dr. Karako: So, my colleague Bill Bodie here at CSIS asks: How would you characterize the performance of the industrial base in your mission area? What are they doing well? What would you like to see from industry that you’re not seeing today? And what should the Army and DOD do to incentivize innovation in this area?
MG Gainey: Yeah. So I think the incentive for innovation is there, with the funding that’s available. If you have a system that’s brought on board and leveraged against this capability, and we have no problem with industry responding either to demonstrations or coming forward to offer capability to get after a threat. And the industry has been great. And there’s been several times you know, I look at – you know, as we sent, you know, some of our units out the door, we’ve been able to leverage industry, because the biggest challenge is what I’ll get into next to answer your question, is the capacity piece. But, you know, when we really didn’t have the capacity, we were able to leverage industry to surge, in some cases, to provide soldiers with capability as they went out the door.
To what challenges the capacity and scale of the capacity and being able to respond, you see it in, you know, whether it’s Ukraine and other places, where there’s an insatiable appetite for counter-UAS capability. And as you look at simultaneously ongoing events with, you know, Ukraine, Israel, what’s going on in CENTCOM AOR, it’s a lot of demand on a lot of the same type of capability to get after this. And, you know, as DOD works with industry, you know, it’s putting that demand signal on industry now and being able to build a large amount of capacity to get after this threat I think is where we’re working closely now. Understanding that this threat is going to take a large capacity holistically, even with our partners.
Because now it’s not just, you know, U.S. and DOD. You have our partners looking at this capability, wanting this capability also. So there’s a significant demand for this capability across the board. And how we leverage industry and leverage the ability to prioritize, you know, the efforts moving forward, I think, is going to be some of the key critical areas as we continue to move forward. Leveraging how fast can industry deliver this capability to meet the demand that’s out there. Remember, we’re talking three areas. Something else happens, you’re looking at another significant demand signal for the same type of capability.
Dr. Karako: Let’s hope nothing else breaks out. We’ve got enough going on here. (Laughs.) But, you know, you’ve been highlighting just now, and I’ve heard you say it many times before, training and capacity. And so that I think is directly connected to the to the industrial base question there. But, you know, if – to some extent, every soldier needs to be an air defender with some skill level and equipment level, I mean, where is this going? What kind of a cost imposition strategy is the threat posing to us? Big, big picture here. This is a cost imposition strategy, I mean, is it not? And hopefully we’re doing it back in sufficient scale as well. But big picture, how do you think about that?
MG Gainey: You’re resourcing capacity?
Dr. Karako: Yeah.
MG Gainey: So I think the secretary fully understands this. And that’s why the left-of-launch piece is a significant piece as we move forward. You can’t just sit back and think you’re going to pay your way with capacity and capability out of this problem set. You’re going to have to leverage the full range of it. And I highlighted earlier where – you know, and also being willing to learn from our partners how they’re looking at innovative ways, because they don’t have the capacity to get after this. Whether it’s netting, fencing, whatever it takes to be able to decrease the impact of this capability.
We fully realize that the left-of-launch piece is going to be a significant area that we’re going to have to invest in and really get after. I’m a missile defender, so it’s no different than, you know, you can launch several missiles and you’re only going to have a finite amount of interceptors. And you can’t get in a shoot for shoot, one for one match, because it’ll never work out because, you know, as you look at what’s been developed and the numbers that are being developed, it’s just incredible. And you got to find a way on the left-of-launch to be able to get after this to level the battlefield.
Dr. Karako: But back to your – the fundamental pillars of air defense. You know, it’s the passive. It’s the deception. You know, if it’s a mission kill, it’s good enough in terms of this stuff as well, I would think.
Hey, look, they keep – they keep coming in. And this is a nice follow up to the previous one. This is Cal Biesecker from Defense Daily.
He asked: OK, if every soldier is an air defender, how do these dismounted troops sense that a potential small UAS is nearby? Is this wide area sensing or does there need to be more localized sensing? And how are you getting after that challenge? That’s a good one.
MG Gainey: So we have capability right now. And, again, the reason I love this job so much is it’s incredible how the services all come together. So, for example, SOCOM has done a lot of great work with the individual soldier in the way they operate with size, weight, and power capability. They’ve done a lot. And we’ve leveraged a lot from them. So we’ve worked closely with SOCOM on things that they’ve developed in the past. And we’ve pulled some of that capability, and have leveraged it inside of our dismounted formations, and vice versa. SOCOM’s a great partner in our demonstrations and has been able to leverage some of the work from the demonstrations that they’ve leveraged in some of their capability development.
So teamwork. Working closely with, you know, requirements from, you know, entities like SOCOM and other services to be able to have the capability. So that capability is resident right now inside of the capability that we’re delivering to the formations. Now, that’s today. But as we continue to move forward, and we look at the different range of threats that they have to defeat, we got to be able to arm them better to be able to get after the threat that’s out there.
Dr. Karako: I feel like the word “lasers” hasn’t been used enough today. You’ve talked about DE multiple times, but how do you think about lasers versus HPM, versus other things as well, jammers as well?
MG Gainey: Yeah. I look at them all as complementary. Right now, we haven’t leveraged that one’s better than the other, because we’re still in the operational assessment phase. And, you know, DE is performing well. You know, we still got things to work around to get after that. High-powered microwave we believe is going to work well also. And same with our jammer. So, again, system of system approach in a layered defense is why we’re moving forward this technology. And then there’ll be tough decisions as we move forward, depending on how the capability works out and delivers the effects that we want it to deliver, to where we’ll then be able to make a decision on where we want to invest more or less in certain areas.
Dr. Karako: Let me just pull that a little bit. Do you mean like range – relative range limitations on HPM versus lasers? You don’t have to worry about satellites perhaps so much? Weather as well. You have the sort of pros and cons in a way to each.
MG Gainey: Mmm hmm, yeah. Again, each has their pros and cons. And we have a lot of data from our demonstrations. And now that the Navy and the Army RCCTO, you know, we bought HPM unit of actions. We have HPM in operational assessment out there in the theaters. We’re learning a lot. And, again, all of them have pros and cons, that obviously I can’t get into. And same with directed energy. So, again, it’s too early to make a decision on which working better and how to get after, without highlighting system vulnerabilities.
Dr. Karako: Yeah. Sergeant Major, can I ask you about the training aspect perhaps of the DE systems? I mean, these are some fancy optics out in the field, and you’re going to have sandstorms and all this. So its operations and sustainment, but also training. You alluded, of course, to using contractors, C-UAS as a service and that sort of thing, but there’s some policy issues with that. Putting contractors out in harm’s way to do this, number one. And number two, is a tradeoff between the ability to do all the training or to hire contractors to do it. So thoughts on that?
SGM Johnson: I mean, that’s something that’s still we’re going to have to work through. I mean, it’s going to be a case-by¬-case, system-by-system analysis on that. I mean, so, you know, the sustainment of those systems. So, we still have to work through, you know, where the cut line’s going to be, where it’s going to be – where we’re going to be able to train a soldier to sustain it, train on it, and then put the system in a field, or is it going to be, a, you know, a contractor? So I think it’s going to be a case by case, you know, basis, but there’s going to have to be some tradeoffs, you know, because that’s going to require, you know, additional training. You know, where is that soldier going to get to training?
We’re going to get to a point where, I think, you know, it’s going to be incorporated into our – you know, our PME, our schools, you know, our advanced individual training, depending on where the system is going to reside and who’s going to – who’s going to own it and maintain it. So those things will – I think they’re going to fall into place, but we still have some work to do to do the analysis to figure that out.
MG Gainey: The good thing is we’re learning now.
SGM Johnson: Yeah.
MG Gainey: So we have DE in theaters right now. And the beauty of this, by putting them in theater for an operational assessment early, we’ve learned from our first original system, to by the time the second system went in significantly improved its sustainment operation, because we’ve learnt from some of those challenges you don’t get in a sterile environment of testing, putting it out there in the rigor. And you know, as we look at technology, you know – and I’ll put on my DAMO-Fires hat as an air defender, we have, you know, the 50-kilowatt system on the Stryker right now. That is being designed to go into the air defense divisional battalions right now as a complement to the Stinger-based systems that we have right now.
So soldiers are on those first four initial prototypes that were delivered to 4-60th ADA. So you have soldiers on that equipment. Now, you are 100 percent correct. There are significant challenges right now that we have to be able to train soldiers and work through, and then mature that technology to where you can take it out, you know, bounce it around, move it around, to where it’s still being able to deliver effects when you want to, when you need it, as you move forward. But the key is, we have it in the hands of soldiers right now. And we do have contractor support right now.
Dr. Karako: Well, I appreciate both y’all’s leadership on this. This is obviously a huge problem. You know, Shaan and I are already trying to figure out what our next CSIS reports and writings will be about. I don’t think the problem is going away anytime soon. And so, maybe to close out I would just ask you a question. Which is: You know, you said at the beginning, that if you do your job right, you might put the JCO out of business? Is that real, or is that – kind of what’s the future for JCO, do you think?
MG Gainey: Yeah, I believe right now, you know, as we look at – in the short term, you know, we had a recent RAND study that came in did an external assessment of the organization and highlighted the necessity in the efforts moving forward, working with the services, getting after it. You know, I think the JCO will become more joint right now. I don’t – we have the joint participation through an LNO, but we really leverage the jointness through our acquisition side where we fund the services to actually get after the capability development with our funding and our capability gap analysis and assessment. To now, where we’re moving where we’re actually building into our capability gap design, our policy development, our doctrinal development, and training development into the organization.
And will continue attacking it from that perspective as a joint organization. But continuing to leverage, from a joint perspective, the capability areas that we believe are necessary moving forward, and then allowing the services to then put their service-specific spin on it moving forward. To eventually, like I highlighted, to the point, yeah, there will be some time to where the services have the capability, have the capacity to move forward to where you can continue to keep a JCO organization continue looking after the capability development, or you can then power it back to the services and say, OK, the path been laid. Now just follow the path, and continue moving forward. There is an advantage for having someone looking at this problem set in and out. I mean, I tell you, over these past three years, I’ve looked at everything inside and out when it comes to UAS, counter-UAS. And having that full-time look is also helpful. But I also understand that at some point, you want to be able to transition and let the services continue running with this effort, so.
Dr. Karako: Great. Well, again, thank you very much. No shortage of things to talk about. Tons of questions. Really appreciate you all taking the time. And thanks, everybody, for tuning in.
MG Gainey: Thank you. (Applause.)