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Close air support (CAS)—delivery of airborne munitions to support ground forces—is difficult and dangerous because it requires intricate coordination between combat aircrews and dismounted ground forces (for example, joint terminal attack controllers, or JTACs). DARPA’s Persistent Close Air Support (PCAS) program focuses on technologies to enable sharing of real-time situational awareness and weapons systems data through approaches designed to work with almost any aircraft. PCAS envisions more precise, prompt and easy air-ground coordination for CAS and other missions under stressful operational conditions and seeks to minimize the risk of friendly fire and collateral damage by enabling the use of smaller munitions to hit smaller, multiple or moving targets.
DARPA recently demonstrated its Persistent Close Air Support (PCAS) prototype system on an A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft, marking the system’s debut on a U.S. Air Force platform. The tests, which involved 50 successful sorties near Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, showed that a warfighter serving as a joint terminal attack controller (JTAC) on the ground could, in seamless coordination with a pilot, successfully command an airstrike with as few as three clicks on a tablet.