The RQ-2 is currently the sole UAV being operationally fielded by the United States Navy and Marine Corps in support of various missions. Originally developed by Israeli Aerospace Industries in the late 1970's and early 1980's, the system was originally purchased by the United States in the mid-eighties as a proof of concept system. Since then and primarily due to a lack of acceptable replacements, Pioneer has undergone a number of system upgrades to keep it abreast of advances in sensor and electronic technology. The aircraft came into public knowledge during Operation Desert Storm when a group of Iraqi soldiers surrendered to an overhead UAV.
Avionics, Flight Controls and Electronics:
Until approximately six months ago (at the time of this writing,) there were three models of the Pioneer in service identified by their avionics packages. The older RQ-2A aircraft were removed from service following the development of the RQ-2B, which features greater fuel capacity, an enlarged tail surface and an overall improvement of electronic systems associated with the airframe. Following the retiring of the RQ-2A the RQ-2B saw an almost immediate modification to RQ-2B Option II. The change from Option I to Option II was in the end more than just a facelift of the control systems used to pilot the vehicle in flight. In the end the air vehicle became something closer to the Shadow 600, commonly recognized as Pioneer's "big brother."
The Option II+ model that followed saw another improvement of the aircraft's control systems and an increase in fuel capacity from 44 to 47 liters. Finally, the Option II+ MIAG debuted which is currently the only version of the RQ-2B currently in service. The MIAG (or Modular Integrated Avionics Group) replaced the CPA (or Central Processing Assembly) and several units were removed from the airframe. Both the ATU (Airspeed Transducer Unit) and BPU (Barometric Pressure Unit) along with the Compass Flux Valve were deleted and absorbed into the MIAG with the advent of the Option II+ MIAG. In addition to the above removed units, the PCB (Payload Control Box) was also deleted with MIAG equipped aircraft.
VC-6 Detachment 6 was the last operational squadron to use CPA equipped aircraft due to the inability of MIAG equipped aircraft to be deployed aboard ship. The MIAG uses an internal magnetometer for compass information that cannot be properly calibrated on the steel deck of the LPD class ships that the Pioneer UAV deploys from. VMU-1 and VMU-2 (USMC Pioneer squadrons) retired their CPA aircraft several years ago due to the lack of need for ship deployable UAV assets.
Currently the air vehicle is publicly acknowledged as being able to carry three different payload types, which are the MOKED 200, MOKED 400 and 12DS DLTV/FLIR. The MOKED 200 is a daylight television (DLTV) only sensor, whereas the MOKED 400 is a Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) only sensor. The 12DS platform is considered to be the superior choice of the three given that it is capable of collecting and transmitting both FLIR and DLTV information from the same package, eliminating the need for time consuming payload changes. As an added advantage, the 12DS DLTV camera is color (versus the MKD-200 B/W only camera) which provides for easier detection and recognition of targets at extended ranges. This is still achieved despite the Pioneer system bandwidth restrictions that prevent the display of full color payload video at the GCS/PCS (Ground Control Station/Portable Control Station.)
Control over the aircraft's flight controls is exercised through a system of servos mechanically linked to the appropriate surface. The Pioneer UAV is a high wing, twin tail, and pusher-type design that is extremely stable in most phases of flight. In order to counteract the natural vulnerability of the aircraft to gyroscopic precession, P-factor and asymmetric loading the rudders have been canted inward fifteen degrees and to the right by five degrees. There are eight servos in the aircraft that control the ailerons, rudders, elevators, nose wheel and throttle linkage. These are the SAUL/SAUR (Servo Aileron Unit Left and Servo Aileron Unit Right,) SRUL/SRUR (Servo Rudder Unit Left and Servo Rudder Unit Right,) SEUL/SEUR (Servo Elevator Unit Left and Servo Elevator Unit Right,) NWSU (Nose Wheel Steering Unit,) and STU (Servo Throttle Unit.)
During normal flight the STU is connected to a linearization circuit to provide for even increases in throttle and to aid in the prevention of engine flooding during flight. Additionally, flight control inputs are countered automatically by the system such that if the operator releases the control sticks the aircraft will attempt to return to some semblance of straight and level flight. This is not to say that the aircraft cannot be made to stall or crash, simply that it takes either an extreme set of circumstances or an act of negligence on the part of the operator to induce such an event. In the event of a major flight control malfunction or a failure of the Autopilot Coprocessor (internal to MIAG) the Internal Pilot will disengage the Autopilot and enter what is termed inside the community as Disco (Autopilot Disengaged) flight.
Raw Airframe Statistics:
GVW: 451.9 pounds
Fuel: 47 liters 100 Octane AVGAS
Length: 14 feet
Width: 16.9 feet
Height: 3.3 feet
Engine: 26-HP magneto ignition, crankcase scavenged, horizontally opposed, simultaneous firing two-stroke directly coupled to a 29-inch fixed 18 degree pitch wooden laminate propeller.
Service Ceiling: 12,000 feet
Absolute Ceiling: 15,000 feet
Maximum Range: 185+ KM
Maximum Endurance: 5+ hours
Maximum Authorized Airspeed: 110 KIAS (Knots Indicated Airspeed)
Minimum Speed: 55 KIAS (Still Air) 60 KIAS (Rough Air) 65 KIAS (MIAG Autopilot software limit)
Stall Speed: 40-45 KIAS
Cruise Speed: 70 KIAS
VC-6 Detachment 6 (Navy)
VMU-1 (Marine Corps)
VMU-2 (Marine Corps)
Missions and Ground Based Components:
Typical Pioneer missions include intelligence collection, artillery spotting, NGFS (Naval Gunfire Support,) SAR (Search and Rescue,) BDA (Bomb Damage Assessment,) special operations support and other missions as required by need. The UAV does not carry ordnance of any form (defensive or offensive) unlike other UAV systems such as the Predator (RQ-1) and GNAT.
With the decreased footprint and logistical requirements of the Pioneer system the unit is a perfect choice for the Navy and Marine Corps requirement for a rapidly deployable short range, medium endurance unmanned aviation asset.
The ground component of the system is composed of several additional units depending on service and situation. During the downrange portion of the mission, the air vehicle is controlled by an Internal Pilot (IP,) Payload Operator (PO,) Mission Commander (MC,) Intelligence Specialist and Observer with the Internal Pilot (IP) exercising primary control. This operation is conducted from the GCS (Ground Control Station) with assistance from a second IP located in the PCS (Portable Control Station.) During the launch, local and landing phases of flight the air vehicle is controlled by the External Pilot (EP) who sits outside the GCS and visually controls the aircraft with detailed information concerning flight from the GCS or PCS IP.
Training as an RQ-2 IP/PO/IO:
Currently the United States Air Force is the only service of the four who uses commissioned officers as UAV pilots. The Navy and Marine Corps invariably use enlisted personnel from the ranks of E-2 through E-7 as Internal and External Pilots and as Payload Operators. (The U.S. Army uses the twin-engine Hunter system and enlisted personnel as pilots as well.) The distinction between the Navy and Marine Corps lies in the Navy IP is not cross-trained as a Payload Operator (PO) but as an electronics technician. Navy PO trained personnel are typically Aviation Maintenance Administrationmen (AZ,) IP's are Aviation Electronics Technicians (AT) or Aviation Electrician's Mates (AE.) EP's are generally Aviation Structural Mechanics (AM) or Aviation Machinist's Mates (AD.) Mission Commanders for the Pioneer system are always rated pilots or NFO's. This is the case with both services.
The Marine Corps trains technicians and mechanics for the Pioneer separate from the Internal Operators who are trained as both Internal Pilots and Payload Operators. An additional distinction can be made between Navy and Marine Corps IP/PO/IO personnel in that the USMC IO typically has no primary initial training other than the Infantry training received in boot camp. All Navy personnel trained as Internal Pilots and Payload Operators must first be rated in one of the RQ-2 Pioneer source ratings. This means that in most cases (90-95%) the pilot candidates will have attended a Navy A school for rate training and have had some fleet experience prior to becoming an IP or PO.
Training for the Pioneer program is conducted at Dillon Field, approximately thirty miles due east of Pensacola, Florida. Dillon Field or OLF Choctaw is currently the only site open for the training of operators and maintainers for the Pioneer system.
The use of enlisted pilots by the Navy and Marine Corps with rated commissioned officers acting as mission commanders is a practice that is extremely likely to continue for the foreseeable future. With the rapid decommissioning of S-3 Viking and F-14 Tomcat squadrons, a glut of NFO (Naval Flight Officers) has been created in the United States Navy. It is therefore unlikely (given the Marine Corps' own pool of available non-aviation officers) that the USN and USMC will adopt an Air Force style system of using officers as Internal Pilots and Payload Operators. The attitude among the rated pilots in the Navy is that stepping out of the cockpit and into "the Box" (as the GCS and PCS are commonly referred to) as a serious downgrade will not change this structure anytime soon as previously stated.
A1-SRRPV-NFM-000, NATOPS for the RQ-2B/RQ-2A Pioneer Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, CNAP (Chief of Naval Aviation Programs)
Class Materials from Internal Pilot Course NAMTRAGRUDET Milton Florida, Yurei 2002