The future of MV-22B Osprey technology may be fast arriving.

In late March, Late last month, the Marine Corps teamed up with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to test-fire a precision-guided missile from an airborne Osprey. In a unique twist, the air crew coordinated the shoot with ground troops operating on the ground via handheld tablet technology. The PCAS, short for persistent close air support system, was featured at Talon Reach, a regular exercise conducted in the southwestern U.S.

During the demonstration, a joint terminal attack controller used the mapping software on his tablet to identify a target near an unmanned truck and then communicate its position to a PCAS module inside the Osprey, DARPA officials explained in a recent news release. Troops in the air and on the ground then confirmed the shot before the Osprey fired.

The munition was a nonexplosive version of the tube-launched AGM-176 Griffin missile. It traveled about 4.5 miles.

"The length of time from initiation by the JTAC to missile impact on target was just over four minutes — even better than PCAS' goal of six minutes, and more than seven times faster than the half hour or more it can take using current methods that rely on voice directions and paper maps," DARPA's news release states.

Officials are touting this enhanced communication and accuracy as another major leap forward for the Osprey and the Marines' ability to quickly plan and execute missions. Lt. Gen. John Davis, the service's Marines' deputy commandant for aviation, referenced the demonstration mentioned the testing during a round-table discussion in mid-April at the Sea-Air-Space conference in National Harbor, Maryland on Tuesday. Using tablets to link Marines on the ground with those inside an aircraft is becoming almost commonplace among those who've trained with such technology, he said. The demonstrations were, he said just one aspect of the futuristic modifications being made to the V-22 platform in training.

On March 27, Marines observed a demonstration of the DARPA's persistent close air support system, according to a news release from the agency. The PCAS demonstration had been incorporated into Talon Reach, a multi-annual infantry and aviation exercise which took place in the southwestern United States.

The system used tablets and mapping technology to help officials on the ground and in the air closely coordinate in real time in order to achieve heightened accuracy in planning and executing missions.

During the demonstration, according to the release, a joint terminal attack controller from the Marines' infantry officers course used a tablet to identify a target position near an unmanned truck and communicate the position to a PCAS module inside an Osprey, allowing air and ground teams to confirm the shot and execute the order.

The Osprey then fired a non-explosive version of a tube-launched precision-guided AGM-176 Griffin missile at a distance of 4.5 miles in order to support another Osprey pilot whose aircraft had gone down in the scenario.

"The length of time from initiation by the JTAC to missile impact on target was just over four minutes—even better than PCAS' goal of six minutes, and more than seven times faster than the half hour or more it can take using current methods that rely on voice directions and paper maps," DARPA officials said in the release.

During the discussion at Sea Air Space, Davis said use of tablets to link Marines on the ground with Marines inside the aircraft was becoming familiar and even expected among troops who trained with versions of the technology.

"We've got a lieutenant out there from the infantry officers course with tablets, basically pumping video from three different assets around theater to those lieutenants out in the objective area," he said. "They've all got their tablets, and bBottom line," Davis said, "they're acting like this is standard gear."

A resource-constrained environment, Davis said, had yielded a benefit to the Marine Corps by forcing leaders to find new and creative ways to do more with the gear available to them.

"Bottom line, constrained environment leads to better thinking," he said.

He called the PCAS test a positive byproduct of the service's otherwise challenging fiscal constraints. When money is tight, leaders are forced to find new and creative ways to do more with the gear available to them, Davis said, adding it "leads to better thinking."

The general also hopes In addition to the recent Osprey testing, Davis said, he wanted to see the service maximize resources by developing a mid-air refueling capability for the Osprey. With it, these passenger and cargo transports would double as aerial tankers, a function performed now by the Marine Corps' fleet of KC-130J Hercules. This would enable them to regularly flying about 2,000 miles, he said. in the Osprey with tanker systems providing mid-air refueling, the way they now did with the KC-130J Super Hercules. The Marine Corps has He said the Corps had requested funding for a V-22 refueling package for its fleet of V-22s in order meet that goal.

"So now we'll have V-22s that can fly ...basically extend the range and breadth of those assault support assets, flying across the battle space at 280 knots," he said.

These ideas are Ideas including arming the Osprey and adding a tanker refueling option were among several concepts outlined put forward in the Marine Corps' 10-year aviation plan, released last fall. The recent testing and demonstration reveals how determined officials hard the Marines are working to make those concepts reality.

Davis said the work will the Corps was doing enabled Marines to stay ahead of enemy capabilities and to be prepared for a variety spectrum of operations while facing growing and evolving threats around the world. "Be ready for the high-end fight; it's coming our way," he added. "Any fight, any time."

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