mm326: Go figure! Even our robot forces are undermanned!

MUDGE’s Musings

This nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© is always intrigued when one of its obsessions interests pops up as news.

Danger Room is a military affairs blog (part of Wired.com) we don’t check into sufficiently often, but today we were rewarded with a new Predator tale.

The changing face of military aviation

ninth in an occasional series

The series so far…

No

Title

Link

1

U.S. pilot helped clear the fog of war

mm142

2

Go to war — Play videogames

mm155

3

Osprey: A Flying Shame

mm163

4

Abolish the Air Force

mm183

5

Proxy killers — Can you live with that?

mm211

6

A Maginot Line for the 21st Century

mm215

7

A shared obsession is a satisfying thing

mm225

8

Videogames. Real warfare. An unsettling

mm288

predatorfromdangerroom

dangerroom

Gates, Air Force Battle Over Robot Planes

By Noah Shachtman | March 21, 2008 | 2:53:00 PM

There may not be an open war, quite yet, between the Secretary of Defense and the leadership of the Air Force. But there is serious, palatable tension. And a nasty game of brinksmanship over the use of drones in the Middle East has only made things worse.

Last fall, the Pentagon’s civilian chiefs shot down an Air Force move to take over almost all of the military’s big unmanned aircraft. “There has to be a better way to do this,” complained Air Force chief of staff, Gen. Michael “Buzz” Moseley. Things only got more tense when Gates said that the future of conflict is in small, “asymmetric” wars — wars in which the Air Force takes a back seat to ground forces….

Now comes word from L.A. Times’ ace Peter Spiegel that Gates “has ordered the Air Force to put nearly all of its unmanned Predator aircraft into the skies over the Middle East, forcing the service to take steps that officers worry could hobble already-stressed drone squadrons.”

Pressure from the Defense secretary in recent months has nearly doubled the number of Predators available to help hunt insurgents and find roadside bombs in Iraq. But it has forced air commanders into a scramble for crews that officers said could hurt morale and harm the long-term viability of the Predator program.

It’s apparent that the use of robot aircraft is increasing in the two Middle Eastern theatres. And why not? They are inexpensive (if only in the military appropriations context), small and flexible (ideal for asymmetric warfare fought in alleys and caves), and the occasional loss of one is not accompanied by a body bag landing at Dover.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Gates, Air Force Battle Over Robot Planes | Danger Room from Wired.com

MQ-1 Predator

Let’s step back and take a quick look at Predator. This is from the site of Barnard Microsystems, Ltd., perhaps a subcontractor for Predator.

barnardmicrosystemsltd

The General Atomics ” Predator MQ-1″ UAV

The MQ-1 Predator is a system, not just an aircraft. A fully operational system consists of four aircraft (with sensors), a ground control station, a Predator Primary Satellite Link, and approximately 55 personnel for deployed 24-hour operations.

The basic crew for the Predator is one pilot and two sensor operators. They fly the aircraft from inside the ground control station via a line-of-sight data link or a satellite data link for beyond line-of-sight flight. The aircraft is equipped with a color nose camera (generally used by the pilot for flight control), a day variable-aperture TV camera, a variable-aperture infrared camera (for low light/night), and a synthetic aperture radar for looking through smoke, clouds or haze. The cameras produce full motion video while the SAR produces still frame radar images.

One starts to understand the dimensions of the Air Force personnel issue: one system, four aircraft, 55 personnel, 24-hours.

predatoreconomist Economist

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

General Atomics Predator MQ-1 UAV

MQ-9 Reaper

General Atomics increased some of Predator’s dimensions, including its power plant, and created what was long called Predator B, later Reaper.

defenseupdate

MQ-9 Reaper Hunter/Killer UAV

Reaper, (also known as Predator B) an outgrowth of the combat proven Predator A UAS, became operational in 2007 and as it began flying combat missions over Afghanistan. This Medium Altitude Long Endurance UAV overcomes most of the difficulties encountered with previous UAVs that commonly must compromise between conflicting demands for payload, speed, altitude, speed and persistence. With an operational ceiling of 50,000ft, and higher cruising speed, Reaper can cover a larger area, under all weather conditions carrying payloads of more than 1.5 tons. The aircraft is powered by a single Honeywell TP331-10 engine, producing 950 shp, provides a maximum airspeed of 260 kts and a cruise speed for maximum endurance of 150-170 kts.

reaper

Just a bigger, better mousetrap…

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

MQ-9 Reaper Hunter/Killer UAV

There’s a downside to success: increased demand. The report that the generals would have seriously considered clobbering the training program in order to get the trainers back into combat is a signal.

We’ve been at war in Afghanistan for 5½ years, and you couldn’t possibly miss this week’s tragic fifth anniversary of the George III/Tricky Dicks (Cheney, Rumsfeld) multigenerational chickenhawk misadventure we fondly call Iraq. All this has drained resources, both treasure and human, and pushed equipment and the men and women who are the teeth of the tiger well beyond the limits of prudence.

And so, even the guys and gals who sit in the comfy chairs in Nevada playing videogames with their Predators and Reapers are, not so surprisingly after so many unrelieved years of war, stressed.

But not shot at. Our kids on the ground in Baghdad and Kandahar are the ones we need to find the ways and means to support, protect and eventually bring home. The operators of Predator and Reaper are doing good work on the first two of those.

The voters for president and the national legislature between now and November will have a big say on the third element.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

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4 Responses to mm326: Go figure! Even our robot forces are undermanned!

  1. […] We wrote yesterday of one of our favorite topics: UAVs, unmanned aerial vehicles. We are reminded that not all of the robots under development for the military are flying. […]

  2. Great blog here! Also your site loads up fast! What web host are you using?
    Can I get your affiliate link to your host? I wish my website loaded up as
    quickly as yours lol

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