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Unmanned Aerial Systems Battle At Apollyon
by U.S. Air Force Samuel King
96th Test Wing Public Affairs
October 1, 2020

Military members on and around Eglin Air Force Base went to war in August 2020 against a fleet of unmanned aerial systems during the large-scale Apollyon exercise.

Unmanned aerial systems during the large-scale battle in the Apollyon 2020 exercise. (U.S. Air Force courtesy graphic)
Unmanned aerial systems during the large-scale battle in the Apollyon 2020 exercise. (U.S. Air Force courtesy graphic)

“The small UAS problem is just one example of a disruptive technology which is effective and economical for our adversaries and the DoD has yet to counter it confidently." said Capt. Joseph Haggberg, Apollyon Planning Team Flight Commander. “Not only did our team test new counter-UAS technology, but we had to consider the safety of both travelers and the community during a pandemic, which is unprecedented.”

The 96th Test Wing's groups and squadrons played a lead role in supporting this exercise from planning and logistics to equipment and analysis.

The 96th Cyber Test Group provided all logistical support for the exercise and the overall planning and execution of the event. The 46th Test Squadron's Apollyon Test Team demonstrated evaluation of mature, integrated cUAS systems-of-systems on their ability to counter small UAS in theater-representative scenarios. A successful medium-risk live fire of an air defense missile was also incorporated led by the 780th Test Squadron.

Over 20 c-UAS sensor and negation systems, integrated with the MEDUSA Command and Control network, were evaluated. The MEDUSA integration across multiple service domains highlighted another Apollyon outcome: increased tester experience with a Joint All-Domain Command and Control approach to negating small UASs.

“I believe this was just a sampler of what’s coming for the test community once we start integration into a JADC2 environment,” said Capt Haggberg. “It was fantastic seeing nearly every sensor connected to any shooter through a common interface and C2 network which created multiple layers and options for sensing and protection.”

Additionally, elements of an agile test process came together in the form of simultaneous data collection in a relevant environment and building operator experience with engineers and programmers nearby to incorporate operator feedback into their systems, according to Haggberg.

During the event, Apollyon teams formulated c-UAS concepts of operations, tactics, techniques, and procedures to benefit all Department of Defense branches. The test team directed 431 UAS sorties employing two operational and tactical level command and control venues.

The teams made 240 kinetic and non-kinetic negations in operationally representative unmanned aerial system environments. The planning team also overcame extraordinary challenges to develop a comprehensive COVID risk mitigation plan, which gave decision-makers confidence in authorizing over 300 visitors amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 96 TW team ensured participants followed all safety protocols, resulting in the first successful, large scale test event conducted at Eglin Test and Training Range since February 2020.

Both the 96th Range Group and the 96th Communications Squadron lent crucial communications support for Apollyon as well.

The Joint Assessment Division, based here, was responsible for the development of threat flight profiles and the reduction and analysis of all gathered data.

“The team knew COVID-19 wouldn’t stop our adversaries from using UASs so we couldn’t stop either,” said Haggberg. “The success of this event is a testament to all participants’ unshakable resolve to protect our service members.”

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