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Exercise Talon Spear: Tested for A2E Concept

  • Published
  • 27th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs

The 27th Special Operations Wing's Remotely Piloted Aircraft enterprise conducted the first iteration of Exercise Talon Spear, Air Force Special Operations Command’s first Small Unmanned Aerial Systems (sUAS) collaboration exercise from June 20-23, 2023.

The three-day exercise was the first step for AFSOC on its path toward modernization through the Adaptive Airborne Enterprise, or A2E, concept. It marked the beginning of the evolution from using the MQ-9 platform exclusively for its intelligence gathering and strike capabilities to a node in a distributed command and control concept, furthering AFSOC’s power projection capabilities.

While AFSOC capabilities evolve to meet the needs of our National Defense Strategy, A2E aims to transform an MQ-9 Reaper into a mobile control center. The adapted MQ-9 will act as a host platform, or a “mothership,” commanding and controlling additional small UAS platforms that have emerging kinetic and non-kinetic capabilities and sensors of their own. A2E is yet another way to project power, enabling forces any place, any time, anywhere, to access contested or denied environments and execute core Special Operations Forces missions.

"The goal of Talon Spear was to make it a continuous improvement exercise," said Capt. Mitch, the exercise coordinator assigned to the 27th Special Operations Group. "Throughout the exercise, several industry and DoD partners integrated various systems, to include weapon systems, specific cameras, onboard computer systems, and tactical situational awareness tools.”

This first exercise focused on the integration of sUAS for a rapid deployment capability to support Agile Combat Employment (ACE). In a matter of hours, the team was able to unload, assemble and launch a complete support package. This rapid deployment was possible due to the modular capability.

"AFSOC’s ability to quickly design, execute, and iterate with joint and industry partners as we pathfind for the Air Force and United States Special Operations Command is key,” said Maj. Soren Olson, Chief of AFSOC's small UAS Requirements Branch. "Rapid experiments and demonstrations enable us to validate concepts and technology through success and failure. Pushing the envelope, sometimes to failure, is key to getting the right capability in the field for the next fight."

This won't be the last time we work to integrate sUAS for combat employment.

"In future iterations, we're looking to test other small unmanned systems and build upon that single operator multi-control software," said Mitch.

The future is this: AFSOC operators will have the capability to operate an MQ-9 reaper, while also managing and synchronizing sUAS platforms capable of delivering various payloads, from anywhere -- whether that be in the back of an AC-130, home station, or a hotel room halfway around the world.