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Soldier launching a Raven
The Air Force and Army continue to rely heavily on UAVs

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) remain a reliable staple in the U.S. Military's winged arsenal. The use of remote drones not only puts less expensive machinery in the air, but it also takes American pilots out of harm's way.

According to the Associated Press, the Air Force's use of UAVs doubled between the months of January and October. During that same time period, the Air Force’s use of the Predator drone increased from 2,000 hours per month to 4,300 hours per month.

The Army also saw its UAV usage increase during the past year. The Army's 361 unmanned Ravens, Shadows and Hunters combined for a total of over 300,000 hours of service through the first ten months of 2007. The Raven, the Army's air surveillance workhorse, is expected to rack up more than 300,000 hours of flying time during 2008 alone -- more than double the figure from 2007.

"I think right now the demand for the capability that the unmanned system provides is only increasing," remarked Army Col. Bob Quackenbush, deputy director for Army Aviation. "Even as the surge ends, I suspect the deployment of the unmanned systems will not go down, particularly for larger systems."

"The demand far exceeds all of the Defense Department's ability to provide (these) assets," added Air Force Lt. Col. Larry Gurgainous of the Air Force's unmanned aircraft task force. "And as we buy and field more systems, you will see it continue to go up."

UAVs saw extensive action in both Afghanistan and Iraq during 2007. A Hunter MQ-5B/C UAV dropped a bomb on two suspected enemy insurgents in early September. The Hunter MQ-5B/C has the ability to loiter in the air for 15 hours and can carry up to 260 pounds of ammunition.

Boeing also gave UAVs a boost with the announcement of the High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) UAV. The HALE uses a hydrogen-based Duratec 23 four-cylinder engine to power the aircraft to 65,000 feet and stay aloft for up to one week.

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RE: Raven
By KristopherKubicki on 1/2/2008 9:37:39 AM , Rating: 2
It probably has the same profile as a bird, which makes it easy to overlook on radar

RE: Raven
By omnicronx on 1/2/2008 10:10:21 AM , Rating: 2
I was about to say the same thing. Even if it were recognized as a UAV on radar, you would have a fun time shooting something the size of a bird out of the sky ;) (even with AA, weapons fire, the works)... Although I think most people would notice a bird sized blip on the radar when its moving 100-200kmh ;)

RE: Raven
By therealnickdanger on 1/2/2008 10:23:13 AM , Rating: 3
AFAIK, radar can pick up small insects, depending on how it's tuned. Naturally we will want to continue to reduce the radar signature of UAVs and perhaps even introduce sporadic, bird-like flight patterns, but the whole point is that they are can do most of the work of a fighter/bomber/scout without risking any human life. If we lose a UAV: not a big deal, send out another.

I can almost see the future, where the sky is dark with thousands of tiny UAVs swarming all over... LOL!

RE: Raven
By omnicronx on 1/2/2008 10:42:39 AM , Rating: 4
I can almost see the future, where the sky is dark with thousands of tiny UAVs swarming all over... LOL!
I see it too! It's called Call of Duty 4!!

RE: Raven
By therealnickdanger on 1/2/2008 11:36:54 AM , Rating: 2
Such a great game.

RE: Raven
By Strunf on 1/2/2008 1:59:16 PM , Rating: 2
Really? I keep calling UAV but I've never actually saw one.

RE: Raven
By ImSpartacus on 1/2/2008 4:29:23 PM , Rating: 2
You don't see them. It's just a reality excuse for a 'radar' upgrade. A UAV would not instanted see every enemy on a battle field, indoors and outdoors, but its better than just calling it 'radar'.

RE: Raven
By lompocus on 1/2/08, Rating: -1
RE: Raven
By Gnoad on 1/2/2008 6:21:40 PM , Rating: 3
Apparently you never played Knight Rider on the NES.

RE: Raven
By SlyNine on 1/2/2008 11:25:57 PM , Rating: 2
Or Superman 64

RE: Raven
By sonoran on 1/2/2008 2:51:21 PM , Rating: 5
Even if it were recognized as a UAV on radar, you would have a fun time shooting something the size of a bird out of the sky

They should consider making some variants (perhaps low-speed kamikaze models) with wings of styrofoam. My roommate had a video where some gun nuts gathered to try and shoot down a remote-control aircraft, which happened to have styrofoam wings. They hit it lots of times, but most of the bullets (everything from M16 ammo to 50 caliber anti-aircraft rounds) just went right through the wings without doing any major damage - the thing kept right on flying until they hit it enough times to literally tear a wing off. It was unbelievable the amount of ornance they went through trying to bring that thing down. If it had been a UAV/bomb meant to fly in and strike a target, there would have been no way of stopping it from getting to its objective.

RE: Raven
By mmcdonalataocdotgov on 1/3/2008 11:12:11 AM , Rating: 2
There are high-speed kamikaze models. They are called Cruise Missiles for one. There are many more kamikaze models. They were the first UAVs (as opposed to dumb bombs).

RE: Raven
By Amiga500 on 1/2/2008 10:22:28 AM , Rating: 2
Yeap, same (flight) profile as a bird.

Modern radar sets will detect birds and some can detect insects. Trains and cars can also be detected.

Typically speed filters are applied to remove anything traveling slower than 150-200 km/hr (the operator can adjust as necessary) to reduce screen clutter.

So things like the raven are practically impossible to track on a large scale integrated defense network, more due to software filtering limitations than any hardware problems of the radar itself.

RE: Raven
By jpeyton on 1/2/2008 2:22:04 PM , Rating: 3
If the Raven is a UAV, my Toys'R'Us has shelves full of UAV technology available for civilian purchase.

RE: Raven
By Justin Case on 1/2/2008 2:27:59 PM , Rating: 2
It probably has the same profile as a bird, which makes it easy to overlook on radar

Not quite, due to the difference in shape and materials. Not to mention the altitude and flight pattern. If someone is looking for it, they'll probably be able to find it.

But have these ever been used against an adversary that even has radar? It's one thing to use toys against medieval targets. It's quite another to be able to face a real army.

I doubt these would last very long against the latter (which doesn't mean they couldn't still be a cheap and effective way to do recon).

RE: Raven
By beepandbop on 1/4/2008 11:37:16 AM , Rating: 2
In a world where insurgency warfare is the new way to fight a superior army of the 21st century, most armies the U.S. will be fighting will be terrorist or insurgent in nature. At the very noblest, our adversaries will be guerrillas, at worst, suicide bombers. With this in mind, UAVs will come in handy, because the enemy will be exposed, more and more. What's more, the UAVs can be controlled by remote control, and dodge ack ack fire--I doubt you can lock a SAM site missile (probably the most advanced ground defense the insurgents have--if even that) on a thing the size of a bird.

Even more advanced arsenals, like China's, or...Russia's, it'd be hard to lock on missiles--especially with all the other potential air traffic going on--I mean it's not like it's just going to be UAVs floating around.

RE: Raven
By Justin Case on 1/4/2008 2:20:47 PM , Rating: 2
You theory that guerillas are "more exposed" than regular armies seems a bit contradictory. If anything, guerillas are more likely to make use of cover, and move through "complex" environments (forests, jungles, cities), where they will be much harder to track visually.

In any case, my point is that it would be trivial for any nation with a real army and radar capability to develop an "anti-UAV" weapon (ex., an "anti-UAV UAV"). So radar detection isn't really an issue. These are not meant to be used against serious threats.

As long as we're careful to pick on poor and underdeveloped countries with no modern weaponry and no air capability, our UAVs should be alright... until the manufacturer decides it wants to sell a few more, of course, and then the "insurgents" will magically get a hold of anti-UAV weapons.

“So far we have not seen a single Android device that does not infringe on our patents." -- Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith
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