Friday, October 19, 2007

The Cadillac of the Skies

The iconic airframe of the War on Terror may turn out to be the MQ-1 Predator UAV and its derivatives. The family has been extended, uprated, redesigned and rearmed with no end in sight. Defense Industry Daily describes its progeny. "Our readers asked us to explain the differences between the MQ-1 Predator, MC-1C Sky Warrior, and MQ-9 Reaper. DID is happy to obligeā€¦"

Read the whole thing.


Blogger F said...

The Google Group "Recreation/Aviation/soaring" has a post about a UAV crashing in southern AZ. The post is on a soaring site because the claim is that these things (being used for surveillance of the US/Mexican border) pose a danger to sailplanes in a popular soaring area. I soar a long way from the border area, but I have to admit I wouldn't want to roll out of a thermal just to see a mindless robot droning toward me. At least with a pasenger jet there is a good chance his TCAS will alert on my transponder. Who knows what this thing that looks like a dragonfly sees/senses? I think some serious work needs to be done to integrate these into the national airspace system if they're indeed going to be flying where I do. F

10/19/2007 08:07:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

"While sympathetic to the Air Force's perspective, he noted that an executive agent approach that's advocated by some would make sense if we were fighting a conventional war.

"It's a different debate when you're talking about the kind of fight we are in today," Geren declared."
I find the Air Force argument unpersuasive.
One of the great advantages of the UAVs compared to modern manned fighters is the much lower cost of development, and shorter lead times, giving us the luxury to go back to something like the WWII model, in which a great variety of designs and variants are put to the test, and this "free market" then efficiently separates the wheat from the chaff.
With the great cost of development, high per unit costs, and long lead times, we are now saddled with a very few designs, often resulting in trying to make the best of a less than ideal outcome.

An example of the earlier model was the Air Force recognizing the superiority of the F-4, and adopting it, even though it originated with the Navy.

10/19/2007 08:13:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Cities subject to high-tech "solutions" at the border understandably rail at having their privacy rights sacrificed in the name of border security.
Same goes for universal UAV surveillance.
Many of these problems could be mitigated simply by our recalcitrant government admitting to the superiority of a physical fence.
The administration and many others continue to drag their feet, ignore the law, and continue to put our welfare and security in jeopardy.
Duncan Hunter reported on the Fence on the Dennis Miller Show:

Hunter's Bill:

Called for 854 Miles of DOUBLE Fence, signed by the president.
Built so far:
70 Miles of SINGLE Fence,
5.15 Miles of Double Fence.

Hunter's Bill called for 400 Miles of fence in Texas.
Not ONE linear inch of Fence has been built.

Bill has deadlines,
Arizona Deadline
May 30 '08
Only 5.15 Miles of 392, so far!

Hunter says you just contract it out 2 miles at a time to multiple contractors working simultaneously, and it could be built in 6 months.

10/19/2007 08:27:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

The right way to build the fence.
The government continues to pretend this is not possible, in order to justify their refusal to enforce the law and secure the border.

10/19/2007 08:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are no UAVs flying on the border, no matter how many companies have tried selling them to the fed gov to do surveillance. Why? Because various interagency turf fighting hasn't yet decided who is in charge of said airspace. So we'd be happy to do the work intergrating them into the national airspace if anyone would let us.

10/19/2007 09:00:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

I'd guess the one that crashed was flying prior to becoming junk!
(as opposed to being involved in an accident while being transported down the highway, for instance.)

10/19/2007 09:44:00 PM  
Blogger trish said...

Why Doug, whatever in heaven's name are you doing here?

Back at home?

10/19/2007 10:13:00 PM  
Blogger trish said...

They're no smarter than they were a year or three ago, guy.

10/19/2007 10:31:00 PM  
Blogger trish said...

But good luck.

10/19/2007 10:34:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

I moved that post to the previous thread, it's not that I did it to heed your advice!

10/19/2007 10:38:00 PM  
Blogger Elijah said...

On topic...

The Reaper can carry as much as 3,000 pounds of external payload. That payload typically is depicted as eight Hellfires, two 500-pound Joint Direct Attack Munitions, and two Sidewinder air-to-air missiles. However, the aircraft can also carry laser guided bombs and other types of ordnance. At present, USAF officials expect eventually to fit the Reaper with the 250-pound-class Small Diameter Bomb, giving it ability to hit 16 targets with precision on one mission.

The X-45 air vehicle is equipped with a suite of sensors including an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) and an electronic support measures system developed by Raytheon. The Raytheon synthetic aperture radar provides a resolution of 60cm at a target range of 80km.

Directed energy takes an unexpected turn and surfaces as a handy antimissile device that can be built into aircraft, ship and ground-based radars

10/19/2007 11:24:00 PM  
Blogger trish said...

I never read your links, elijah, or even the hyper-extended titles.

10/19/2007 11:45:00 PM  
Blogger RWE said...

Note that except for the MQ-9 the described vehicles are all piston-engined. Afghanistan was the first war since WWI in which the cool really neat new revolutionary aircraft was pistoned engined.

Back in the late 80's the Air Force had concluded that the A-10 would have to be replaced with the F-16. The A-10 was thought to be too slow to handle the environment of a war in Europe. The idea was that the Warthog would probably survive the first day of the war but would come back damaged and thus be useless for the rest of the war - which would last perhaps a week. Then came Desert Storm, which lasted more than a week and at the end they had lost four A-10's and four F-16's. So much for the difference in survivability. Then the USSR folded. And it still took the USAF a while to figure out that the A-10 was going to be valuable for decades - and now they are buying airplanes that are 1/4 as fast.

As for coordinating procurements - they gave up on that idea years ago for computers - even just inside one certain 5 sided building. One reason was that they demonstrated that they could not do it worth a damn. The other reason was that there was no real need.

The future for the military is going to be one of greater specialization, not less. Whether the traditional "one size fits all" military thought process pushed by the careerists will give way to more realistic approaches advanced by the true professionals is one of our most urgent questions.

10/20/2007 08:06:00 AM  
Blogger Teresita said...

As for coordinating procurements - they gave up on that idea years ago for computers - even just inside one certain 5 sided building. One reason was that they demonstrated that they could not do it worth a damn. The other reason was that there was no real need.

We're forced to suffer under the "Navy Marine Corps Intranet" (which ironically, no longer includes the Marine Corps) because the inertia of Rumsfeld's privatization of everthing is still playing out. The contractor refuses to support our existing labelmakers with drivers, but gosh, it just so happens they have some other labelmakers for sale that ARE supported. And if your printer runs out of toner you have to get on the phone to Bangladesh.

10/20/2007 08:40:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

Should plan now for post-tsunami toner orders!

10/20/2007 04:04:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

10/20/2007 04:35:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...


Interesting stuff. Thanks.

10/20/2007 07:29:00 PM  

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