Americas Military

Redstone returnee leads unmanned aircraft systems


By KARI HAWKINS Assistant editor

No matter how the Army’s restructuring program evolves in the years to come, there is one aviation program that is sure to continue its upward climb among Army combatant commanders and their Soldiers.

And Col. Courtney Cote is humbled to be the new leader at the helm of its program management.

The Unmanned Aircraft Systems Project Office, which made a name for itself during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom-Afghanistan and which continues its large-scale support of Soldiers in contingency operations throughout the world, offers the Army one of the most capable, least expensive and most expeditionary group of aviation systems available by today’s technology standards.

And with manned/unmanned teaming now becoming the main aviation focus, the future will mean growth in programs that combine the capabilities of the Army’s helicopter fleet with such unmanned systems as the Gray Eagle and Shadow for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions.

“I’m glad I came in to Unmanned Aircraft Systems at this time, when the Army is making such huge decisions regarding force restructuring,” Cote said.

“The Army is committed to manned/unmanned teaming of aircraft systems. Our capabilities and platforms will evolve with the threat. We have been designing, developing and fielding unmanned aircraft systems for years now. They have been constantly in theater and they are battle tested, both the people who support them and the systems themselves. They are systems that are able to evolve to meet strategies as the Army transitions from a deployed force to a continental U.S.-based expeditionary force.”

Even with force restructuring and downsizing the mission – to provide ready and resilient troops to defend the U.S. and its allies – will not change and neither will the UAS role in support of that mission, he said.

“The Army made a decision to commit to manned/unmanned systems in its force structure,” Cote said.

“The mission is always the same. How we are going to accomplish the mission is what’s evolving. We have a lot to learn about what manned/unmanned teaming can do for us.”

Cote took over command of the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Project Office, Program Executive Office for Aviation, in early July. The assignment brings this senior Army aviator turned acquisition officer back to his home roots.

“It’s great to be home. It’s outstanding to be back and part of the PEO Aviation community once again,” said Cote of this third assignment with the PEO.

“I left here two years ago (after serving as a PEO Aviation product manager) and there was no hesitation whatsoever when presented with the opportunity to be responsible for this organization. I believe there is very little distinction between me and others who could have been selected to do this job. So, I am very grateful this opportunity was bestowed upon me. I recognize that I wouldn’t have this opportunity if not for a lot of people who made an investment in me.”

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