The utility of unmanned systems has increased dramatically from the limited supplementary value offered once upon a time to Air Operations Centers (AOCs) and air commanders. Given their ability to provide critical intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) round-the-clock with increasing persistency, unmanned systems feature as a major element of operations across a broad spectrum of mission profiles for the Air Force today – from disaster relief operations to air combat. Additionally, next-generation unmanned platforms will see their utility widely expanded in high-tempo and contested airspaces as technological advances make it possible for these platforms to perform more complex tasks such as aerial refueling and suppression of enemy air defense (SEAD).
The growing autonomization of unmanned platforms promises unprecedented new possibilities within the next decade. However, significant progress is needed to achieve more effective teaming of manned and unmanned platforms. Manned-Unmanned Teaming (MUMT) is a high-priority focus for long-term force planning, not only immediate efforts to optimize operational capacity and performance. Interoperability – the ability of different systems to communicate, exchange, and use data from each other – is both a rationale for MUMT and also an enabler of it. In short, MUMT aims to pair manned and unmanned platforms with the necessary systems-level and operational integration to harness the respective strengths each has to offer.