The Pioneer Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) system provides real-time intelligence and reconnaissance capability to the field commander. This highly mobile system provides high quality video imagery for artillery or naval gun fire adjustment, battle damage assessment and reconnaissance over land or s ea.
A typical Pioneer system consists of up to eight air vehicles (a typical system utilizes five aircraft), a Ground Control Station, a Tracking Communication Unit, a Portable Control Station, four Remote Receiving Stations, pneumatic or rocket assisted launchers and net or runway arrestment recovery systems.
Since the initiation of the Tactical UAV ACTD in 1996, only reliability and maintainability improvements to Pioneer have been authorized. The number of deployed Pioneer systems is to be reduced from the current six to two by 2003, at which time VTUAVs are to begin entering operations. Pioneer is to be entirely supplanted by the VTUAV in the 2003-05 timeframe.
Since 1990, the Pioneer air vehicle's structural components have been modified to incorporate reliability and maintainability improvement, including a streamlined fuselage design that results in mission endurance capabilities exceeding six hours. The vehicle is equipped with high quality video sensors capable of performing accurate surveillance and reconnaissance missions under adverse environments and battlefield conditions. Outfitted with auto pilot, navigation and communication equipment and operating in either preprogrammed or manual control modes, the Pioneer performs its mission in are as where manned aircraft cannot survive.
Ground Control Station
The heart of the Pioneer system is the GCS-2000. This sophisticated control center directs the UAV throughout the mission from the safety of the highly mobile militarized shelter. Whether land-based or ship-based, the advanced electronics aid in mission planning and efficient execution of the most complex missions. The GCS consists of three electronics bays manned by two operators. The Pilot Bay includes all controls and displays required for safe effective operation of the airborne vehicle. The Observer Bay provides control and display of the imaging payloads carried by the vehicle. The Tracking Bay displays the UAV position, utilizing data obtained from the Tracking Communication Unit.
Tracking Communication Unit
The Tracking Communication Unit (TCU), housed in a separate S-250 shelter, contains a sophisticated jam-resistant 185-kilometer (100-nm) range data link. The unmanned TCU contains UAV communication equipment and antennas. The ability to access the TCU remotely by fiber-optic link -- up to 3280 ft ( 1,000 m) from the GCS -- enhances the survivability of the system and operating personnel.
The Pioneer system utilizes a jam-resistant, direct sequence spread spectrum up-link command channel at C-band. The video and telemetry down-link, also at C-band, utilizes a state-of-the-art high-power solid-state amplifier and directional antennas on both the TCU and air vehicle, assuring excellent quality video for the commander in the field. An omni-directional UHF backup link is provided for redundancy in this key subsystem.
Portable Control Station
The Portable Control Station (PCS) provides the external pilot the capability to control the UAV during preflight, launch and recovery operations. Easily transportable in either manpack or S-250 configurations, the PCS is designed to operate UAVs in a designated launch and recovery area, freeing the GCS for other battlefield assignments.
Remote Receiving Station
The small ruggedized Remote Receiving Station (RRS) provides real-time reception of the UAV video picture at remote locations. This capability allows a field commander to have immediate reconnaissance of an operational area and to view the impact of any changes to his battle plan.
Currently fielded are the gyro-stabilized high-resolution TV or FLIR payloads for day and night or reduced visibility operations. Also available for integration and testing is a radio relay payload for VHF and UHF frequencies. Recent demonstration programs have successfully integrated meteorological sensor, radial sensor, chemical detection and COMINT payloads into the Pioneer system. Additional payloads are being scheduled for integration and testing on-board the Pioneer.
A competitive fly-off was conducted and two Pioneer systems were procured in December 1985 for an accelerated testing program to be conducted during 1986. The initial system delivery was made in July 1986 and subsequently deployed on board the battleship USS Iowa in December 1986. During 1987, three additional systems were delivered to the USMC where they were operationally deployed on board LHA-class vessels as well as with several land-based units. The system became a genuine joint service program in 1990 when the U.S. Army fielded its Pioneer system.
When Navy Tactical UAV System enters the Navy and Marine Corps inventory, Pioneer systems will be phased out. The Pioneer air vehicles have logged over 12,000 flight hours with the U.S. Navy, USMC and U.S. Army.
Desert Shield/Storm Anecdote
The surrender of Iraqi troops to an unmanned aerial vehicle did actually happen. All of the UAV units at various times had individuals or groups attempt to signal the Pioneer , possibly to indicate willingness to surrender. However, the most famous incident occurred when USS Missouri (BB 63), using her Pioneer to spot 16 inch gunfire, devastated the defenses of Faylaka Island off the coast near Kuwait City. Shortly thereafter, while still over the horizon and invisible to the defenders, the USS Wisconsin (BB 64) sent her Pioneer over the island at low altitude. When the UAV came over the island, the defenders heard the obnoxious sound of the two-cycle engine since the air vehicle was intentionally flown low to let the Iraqis know that they were being targeted. Recognizing that with the "vulture" overhead, there would soon be more of those 2,000-pound naval gunfire rounds landing on their positions with the same accuracy, the Iraqis made the right choice and, using handkerchiefs, undershirts, and bedsheets, they signaled their desire to surrender. Imagine the consternation of the Pioneer aircrew who called the commanding officer of Wisconsin and asked plaintively, "Sir, they want to surrender, what should I do with them?"
The Navy has deployed Pioneer on four battleships and five amphibious LPD ships supporting worldwide operations in Africa, Northern Europe, the North Atlantic, the Western Pacific, Korea, the Mediterranean, and contingency operations in the Arabian Gulf. The Marine Corps has successfully integrated Pioneer support with Weapons and Tactics exercises (WTIs), Kernel Blitz exercises, and US Customs Service operations supporting drug interdiction missions.
The Navy modified the fifth ship, USS Ponce to support Pioneer operations . In 1998, Pioneer accumulated more than 300 at-sea flight hours and was continuously deployed with cruises on USS Shreveport; USS Denver; USS Austin; and USS Cleveland. Key recent events include 15 Air Vehicle buy; Modular Integrated Avionics Group integration; and Tactical Control System integration. These efforts will ensure the viability of Pioneer until its replacement is fielded early in the next decade.
Fuel Capacity 65 lb
Sensor Payload (max) 75 lb
Max Takeoff Wt 416 lb (
17 ft 1 in
Fuselage Length 9 ft 7 in
Fuselage Width 1 ft 4 in
Wheel Base 5 ft 6 in
Propeller Diameter 2 ft 5 in
Length 13 ft 8 in
Wing Area 30.1 sq ft
two-stroke, twin-cylinder, rear-mounted engine
Max Power 29 hp
12.9 gallons of 100 octane AVGAS
Radius 114 mi (100 nm)
Endurance 5 hrs
Battery Life 20 Min Flight Time
Visible Light/IR Miscellaneous
Sensor Imagery C-Band
Command and Control C-Band/UHF
Transponder Mode III IFF
Navigation DR/GPS/Ground Track
Data Link C-Band and UHF Tadiran - MKD-200
- MKD-400 Versatron - DS-12
|PROTECTION||Lightning Protection System
Releasable Imagery Yes
Pioneer's operational history includes Operations Desert Shield/Desert Storm. U.S. Army, U.S. Navy and USMC commanders utilized six operational units and flew over 300 combat missions. During these missions, the Pioneer supported combat operations and provided the battlefield commander critical intelligence.
USN assets were particularly successful in target selection, spotting naval gunfire and battle damage assessment (BDA) while the USS Iowa's 16-inch guns destroyed enemy targets and softened defenses along the Kuwaiti coastline. The USMC successfully used Pioneer to direct air strikes and provide near real-time reconnaissance for special operations. The U.S. Army had great success with BDA, area searches, route reconnaissance and target location.
Between 1985 and 1994, Pioneer units logged over 10,000 flight hours. The USN has deployed Pioneer on four battleships and two amphibious LPD ships supporting worldwide operations in Africa, Northern Europe, the North Atlantic, the Western Pacific, Korea, the Mediterranean and contingency operation s in the Persian Gulf.
The USMC has successfully integrated Pioneer support with weapons and tactics exercises (WTIs), Kernel Blitz exercises and U.S. Customs Service operations supporting drug interdiction missions. The U.S. Army has utilized Pioneer in support of exercises at the National Training Center, as well as other training exercises.
Sources: usni.periscope.com Info current Oct 1, 2000