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More drones for the military

The Department of Defense has offered its new 30-year aviation plan that outlines the aircraft the military intends to use in a variety of military situations. One of the most interesting things in the report is that the Pentagon expects to significantly increase the number of drones in the military fleets.
 
The report shows that as of fiscal year 2013 the military has 445 drones including versions of the RQ-4 Global Hawk, MQ-9 Reaper, and MQ-1 Predator drones. By fiscal 2022, the military will have 645 drone or unmanned aircraft in its fleet. The Army also wants to purchase 164 Gray Eagle drones to provide direct support to ground forces according to Pentagon. That purchase is interesting because the USAF was forced to retire multiple A-10 ground support fighters, which will be replaced with the multirole F-35 Lightning II fighter.
 
The aviation plan mentions the Army will "continue to sustain [the MQ-1C Gray Eagle] and make incremental improvements to the airframe, payloads, ground control stations and other enablers to keep the Gray Eagle program of record relevant." 
 
The document also notes that the Air Force was forced to divest 18 RQ-4 Block 30 aircraft and retain the U-2 due to budget constraints.
 
The military is placing an ever-increasing focus on unmanned drone aircraft in the new smaller and leaner fighting force the Pentagon wants. Drones are important because they don't put pilots in harm's way, and they can loiter over areas for an extended period. Drones are also typically much cheaper to develop and deploy than manned aircraft. 
 
“The military departments adjusted their plans to comply with a constrained top line by procuring fewer aircraft than desired,” Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter wrote in a letter to the leaders of the U.S. House Armed Services Committee on April 4.
 
Between 2013 and 2022, the DOD intends to spend about $770 million on aviation assets alone. That price includes money spent for fighter jets, attack helicopters, long-range bombers, airlift aircraft, cargo, and several other aircraft types. The 30-year plan also shows that special operations will also be using an increasing number of drones. 

Sources: Bloomberg, Scribd



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By chromal on 4/13/2012 11:34:57 AM , Rating: 2
Drones are fine, as long as you don't care about or need air superiority.

(start watching at 0:30 to see what a MiG-29 thinks of a drone.)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BypnhFI7HGY

As for keeping fighter/attack/intercept pilots safe, I think it's safe to say they're willing to take the risks or they are in the wrong line of work. Anyway, has a drone managed to safely land on a heaving aircraft carrier deck in a storm, yet?




By leviathan05 on 4/13/2012 12:03:27 PM , Rating: 2
Not sure why you are comparing fighter jets with recon drones in a battle of air superiority.


By mmatis on 4/13/2012 12:18:49 PM , Rating: 2
Different UAVs have different levels of capability. The drone shone in that video has fixed landing gear, and as such is a low speed, low performance, low cost item. The limiting factor in air superiority vehicles today is the human inside. He can take less g-loading than the airframe can handle. Furthermore, his life support systems add weight to the vehicle that could be used for something else if he wasn't there. A drone made to do so could defeat a manned MG-29. This one clearly was not.

As far as your carrier question:
http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2009/11/can-killer...
They're currently in development.


By chromal on 4/13/2012 9:45:52 PM , Rating: 2
Be that as it may, drones are not an air-superiority platform today. Lots of things may be in the future, but they're kind of irrelevant until they actually exist and are deployed, ne?


By Connoisseur on 4/13/2012 12:35:59 PM , Rating: 2
I'm no aviation expert, but isn't it pretty feasible that air superiority drones can be developed in the near future? Just like their support counterparts, they could be turned around faster from design to construction since a lot of the complexity is removed (pilot life support) and it could even have far superior performance due to the decreased weight and the lack of needing to worry about G-LOC.


By tayb on 4/13/2012 2:10:24 PM , Rating: 2
Not an aviator and I don't know much about planes but I do know that there are physical limits on the human body that drones don't have to worry about. I would think a drone could pull more aggressive maneuvers than any human pilot ever could. Maybe the technology isn't there yet?


By mellomonk on 4/14/2012 11:09:53 AM , Rating: 3
quote:
Anyway, has a drone managed to safely land on a heaving aircraft carrier deck in a storm, yet?


In 2013 the Northrop X-47B will begin carrier qualification. This is a development design that will eventually lead to a future carrier deployed UCAV. This is not a piloted drone like the Predator/Reaper, but rather an autonomous drone like the RQ-4. It should always be able to catch the wire regardless of deck pitching, weather, darkness, what have you. And if under the worst conditions it cannot, nobody will shed a tear.

The first generation of unmanned combat air vehicles will be bombers and strike aircraft, but piloted air superiority designs are on the drawing boards so to speak and are expected to be deployed in the next fighter generation. No G limits, better sensor/situational awareness, extended range, and no loss of life from mistakes.


Correction
By Bad-Karma on 4/13/2012 10:45:20 AM , Rating: 3
quote:
the Army was forced to retire multiple A-10 ground support fighters, which will be replaced with the multi-role F-35 Lightning II fighter.


The US Army doesn't have A-10s in their inventory. They belong to the USAF & ANG. Ergo, they will not be receiving any F-35s as replacements.

The Key West Accord of 1948 left the US Army with only rotary wing aircraft and only few fixed wing recon & medievac assets.




RE: Correction
By Brandon Hill (blog) on 4/13/2012 10:56:18 AM , Rating: 2
Thanks for the heads up, we'll correct the mistake.


The real reason
By tigz1218 on 4/13/2012 4:33:36 PM , Rating: 2
Call me crazy or whatever you want, but the way this country is moving, I am fully convinced that the end goal of these is to be used on us. When shit hits the fan in this country and people finally wake up to revolt they don't want army soldiers to side with them and help, the person in power can just flick a switch. A soldier without a single bit of humanity, this is Hitler's dream soldier.




....
By Iketh on 4/13/2012 11:14:25 PM , Rating: 2
Is it just me, or does 45% in over 30 years sound anemic? I mean, 30 years is a REALLY long time for technology...




Hmm
By wwwcd on 4/16/2012 7:53:52 AM , Rating: 2
I have one vote left for this topic. Drones, are f*ckin cyber's! They will eat all bread of human soldiers.




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