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  • UAV's, Really a Good Idea?

    Just finished a book written by a F-16 Wild Weasel pilot during both Iraq wars. He made a point that UAV's, in the present form, were totally worthless in a active threat environment with any triple-A, missile, or an air threat. Wasn't to warm to the stand-off weapons, his take was they just don't work in "Weaseling". Another comment sort of caught my eye. From the book
    "Then there's the problem of mentality. With a decade of permissive skies over Afghanistan and Iraq, some flawed conclusions are being reached. The love affair with stand-off weapons and un-manned aerial vehicles are perfect examples. Once again, those who are too old or who were never good enough for combat continue to advocate the replacement of manned aircraft." Wasn't too happy about having a non-combat officer made Air Force Chief of Staff either.
    Too Much To Do Too Little Time

  • #2
    It seems that every so often we have to relearn the lessons from earlier experiences.

    Like the notion that fighters did not need guns on them in the 60's it would all be missiles. Costs good people their lives..

    “Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.” -- Albert Einstein

    The US Constitution doesn't need to be rewritten it needs to be reread

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    • #3
      I see his criticisms as too platform specific. We began developing standoff weapons in the first place because we didn't think manned aircraft would survive many sorties against defended targets in a high threat environment. That problem hasn't changed.

      It's true that non-stealthy subsonic UAVs, cruise missiles and gravity bombs are the current solution to the current environment. Much of the technology however, (guidance, warheads, mission management, C3, etc.) could readily be applied to more robust (supersonic, hypersonic, stealthy, exo-atmospheric, etc.) systems that would be effective against a technologically advanced adversary.

      And I have no doubt what so ever that the big defense contractors would be only too happy to roll out these advanced systems once the check clears.
      Any metaphor will tear if stretched over too much reality.

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      • #4
        While I am sure he raises some fair points, he is also a fighter pilot. They never have the most unbiased view when it comes to UAVs. It is the nightmare assignment they all dread. His conclusions are probably tainted by his organic bias.

        Its the same for tankers like me and our relationship with Strykers.
        Кто там?
        Это я - Почтальон Печкин!
        Tunis is a Carthigenian city!

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Stryker 19K30 View Post
          While I am sure he raises some fair points, he is also a fighter pilot. They never have the most unbiased view when it comes to UAVs. It is the nightmare assignment they all dread. His conclusions are probably tainted by his organic bias.

          Its the same for tankers like me and our relationship with Strykers.
          Not so sure about that, I don't think there is any possibility that a UAV could fly the type missions he and the others flew. Also, some of the locations they found Surface to Air weapons would be almost untouchable for standoff weapons. He did mention that one time someone requested that they escort a UAV, they got turned down. I don't see how a UAV, even a stealthy one, could survive in a triple-A, or missile environment. The weapons would have to be stealthy also, or a darn big flying barn to have internal weapons. Of course then they could be seen optically.
          Too Much To Do Too Little Time

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          • #6
            Remember how the aeroplane was considered as a weapon in the first world war ………
            UAVs will be the weapon of the 21st century

            Micro reconnaissance Drones



            “Attack with aggression, but always have a plan of retreat”

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            • #7
              Originally posted by GCoyote View Post
              I see his criticisms as too platform specific. We began developing standoff weapons in the first place because we didn't think manned aircraft would survive many sorties against defended targets in a high threat environment. That problem hasn't changed.

              It's true that non-stealthy subsonic UAVs, cruise missiles and gravity bombs are the current solution to the current environment. Much of the technology however, (guidance, warheads, mission management, C3, etc.) could readily be applied to more robust (supersonic, hypersonic, stealthy, exo-atmospheric, etc.) systems that would be effective against a technologically advanced adversary.

              And I have no doubt what so ever that the big defense contractors would be only too happy to roll out these advanced systems once the check clears.
              I agree, the current fleet of UAVs is not suited for the Wild Weasel mission, but the platforms for that mission could easily be built. There are several platforms under development with low signature attributes which will make good platforms for the Wild Weasel mission. These platforms will have the ability to alter their signature while in flight which makes the “cat-and-mouse” element of the mission much more interesting. In fact, I would argue that the Wild Weasel mission is an ideal mission for UAV’s since the mission involves trying to be a target to get a SAM system to react while not actually getting shot down. Not risking a pilot seems like a good idea. In addition, the algorithms for this mission allow for more “free fire” opportunities since you are launching on a set of radar signals in which you have a fairly high confidence are emanating from a combat system. This allows for more autonyms launches.

              In fact the SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses) was the primary mission seen for the J-UCAS program.
              The X-45As successfully completed their test program on Aug. 10, 2005, by autonomously flying a pre-planned SEAD mission against simulated ground-based radars and associated surface-to-air missile launchers. This test also required the UCAVs to use their on-board, decision-making software to avoid a new, unplanned threat. Their computers independently determined which aircraft would attack the new target based upon their position, weapons and fuel. After the pilot-operator back at Edwards Air Force Base checked the plan created by the UCAVs' software, the X-45As successfully attacked and returned to base.
              LINK
              The services did not continue with this program because they were concentrating on the missions required for Afghanistan which is a permissive air environment.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by wellsfargo View Post
                Remember how the aeroplane was considered as a weapon in the first world war ………
                UAVs will be the weapon of the 21st century

                Micro reconnaissance Drones



                “Attack with aggression, but always have a plan of retreat”
                Don't see many hard-points for weapons. Yes it would probably make an excellent reconnaissance vehicle, but when you have to send in troops, who is going to escort them?
                Too Much To Do Too Little Time

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by PitchRate View Post
                  I agree, the current fleet of UAVs is not suited for the Wild Weasel mission, but the platforms for that mission could easily be built. There are several platforms under development with low signature attributes which will make good platforms for the Wild Weasel mission. These platforms will have the ability to alter their signature while in flight which makes the “cat-and-mouse” element of the mission much more interesting. In fact, I would argue that the Wild Weasel mission is an ideal mission for UAV’s since the mission involves trying to be a target to get a SAM system to react while not actually getting shot down. Not risking a pilot seems like a good idea. In addition, the algorithms for this mission allow for more “free fire” opportunities since you are launching on a set of radar signals in which you have a fairly high confidence are emanating from a combat system. This allows for more autonyms launches.

                  In fact the SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses) was the primary mission seen for the J-UCAS program. The services did not continue with this program because they were concentrating on the missions required for Afghanistan which is a permissive air environment.
                  Data on this vehicle looks very promising. However, it seems that the military always fights the last war, until a future conflict reaches out and bites them in the arse, then its scramble around and try to fix the problem.
                  Too Much To Do Too Little Time

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                  • #10
                    I may not be an expert, but wouldn't UAVs be handicapped by the fact that you could technically (albeit with some difficulty) jam the frequency that the aircraft is being controlled on, thus rendering the craft completely useless?
                    "The Bangalore Torpedo was 50' long and packed with 85 pounds of TNT and you assembled it along the way. By hand. I'd love to meet the ******* who invented it."

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by BCap View Post
                      I may not be an expert, but wouldn't UAVs be handicapped by the fact that you could technically (albeit with some difficulty) jam the frequency that the aircraft is being controlled on, thus rendering the craft completely useless?
                      Technically yes, but then there is the counter measure to counter the counter measure to counter the counter counter measure....ad nauseam. Also the jammer is radiating at the source can always be traced back to the point of origin.
                      Too Much To Do Too Little Time

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by BCap View Post
                        I may not be an expert, but wouldn't UAVs be handicapped by the fact that you could technically (albeit with some difficulty) jam the frequency that the aircraft is being controlled on, thus rendering the craft completely useless?
                        Besides having jam-resistant satellite control links, the amount of autonomy you can build into the vehicle make it more robust from a jamming perspective. That is one of the reasons I mention how good this type of vehicle is at the SEAD mission. You can send it out on the mission and you may only need to communicate with it to consent to weapons release, and even that consent may be given to the vehicle for SEAD. As I mentioned, on a SEAD mission the vehicle is looking for radar emissions which you have a high confidence are really from a threat systems.

                        Most of today’s UAVs have little autonomy and require a constant link which needs to be secure and takes up a lot of bandwidth.

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                        • #13
                          I'm just waiting for interceptor UCAVs equipped with sidewinders and a gatling gun designed to find and destroy other drones.
                          The Europa Barbarorum II team [M2TW] needs YOUR HELP NOW HERE!

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Frtigern View Post
                            I'm just waiting for interceptor UCAVs equipped with sidewinders and a gatling gun designed to find and destroy other drones.
                            Or just plain manned interceptors.
                            Too Much To Do Too Little Time

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by FTCS View Post
                              Or just plain manned interceptors.
                              Our planes can already pull more g's than a human pilot can tolerate even with training and a g-suit. It's just a matter of time before a human in the cockpit becomes a liability in certain circumstances. It's not a pleasant thought but there it is.
                              Any metaphor will tear if stretched over too much reality.

                              Questions about our site? See the FAQ.

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