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ONR Reserve Component: At the Ready

By Capt. Keith Krapels
Office of Naval Research Reserve Component

Among many Navy milestones in 2015, it was the Navy Reserve Centennial.

Throughout the 70-year history of the Office of Naval Research (ONR), the Reserve Component (ONR-RC) has played an integral role in the application of advanced technology, and provided associated expertise across the Navy. One such example is ONR’s development of the first combat unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

 In January 2003 during the Gulf War, ONR, through its Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) and Science Technology Transfer (STT) programs, developed and deployed the Silver Fox UAV. Originally an oceanic surveillance vehicle, ONR adapted the capability to operate in contested overland airspace to support operations. The UAV adaptations included: doubling the payload; increasing range and endurance; acquiring and installing encrypted telemetry/autopilot datalink; L-band video downlink; day cameras; Forward Looking Infra-Red (FLIR) cameras; and developing the capability for line-of-sight communications for operations greater than 20 nautical miles. The Navy's unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), Silver Fox, contributed to Operation Iraqi Freedom as its first operational appearance.  Originally built to help the Navy spot whales, the UAV weighs 20 pounds and is 6 feet long with an 8 ft. wingspan.  It also has a 4-pound payload capacity and can stay aloft for five hours.  Operators use a laptop and a variety of cameras to control the aircraft.  Photo courtesy of the Office of Naval Research.
The Navy’s unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), Silver Fox, contributed to Operation Iraqi Freedom as its first operational appearance. Originally built to help the Navy spot whales, the UAV weighs 20 pounds and is 6 feet long with an 8 ft. wingspan. It also has a 4-pound payload capacity and can stay aloft for five hours. Operators use a laptop and a variety of cameras to control the aircraft. Photo courtesy of the Office of Naval Research.

 

ONR reservists were involved from project inception to deployment to facilitate funding, development and manpower surges.

The first eight Silver Foxes were transported to Bahrain on a reserve C-9 to conduct training and operations with a Navy Special Warfare Seal Team for several months. The Office of Naval Research’s reserve detachments supported the testing, training and operation of up to 20 UAVs. As someone who supported the Gulf War UAV development in 2003, I saw this capability fielded in months.

ONR reservists—in addition to supporting operations—accelerated the velocity of capability development by providing feedback from downrange. Damage to the fuselage would occur if it dragged a wingtip on landing, driving the main spars through the fuselage. We recommended a change to top mounting (from the then-current mid-fuselage mounting) with plastic breakaway mounting bolts to solve the problem.

According to the manufacturer Sensintel, Inc. (acquired by Raytheon) the “spiral development grounded in battlefront use and in employment for training and exercises, the Silver Fox UAV has proven to be the unmanned aerial vehicle of choice by many.” The last time I talked to the CEO, they had produced over 1,000 Silver Fox UAVs, sold to the Navy, USCG, USMC, SOCOM, OGAs, NOAA, etc.—and it all started with ONR Small Business Innovative Research grants and Science Technology Transfer efforts.

ONR Reservists have a history of delivering advanced technology solutions to the warfighter by actively employing each Sailor’s unique capability. The Silver Fox is just one example of Navy Reservists in action.

For further information on the ONR Reserve program go to: www.onr.navy.mil/en/Science-Technology/Naval-Reservist-Component.aspx or email ONR.NCR.ONR-RC.list.acos-comms@navy.mil.

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One comment

  1. Hello Capt. Krapels, (or webmaster)

    Just wanted to relay that the URL posted is missing the “:” after “http” for ONR-RC’s website. Thanks!

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