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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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The only problem
By Jellodyne on 1/2/2008 10:13:38 AM , Rating: 1
The only problem with our UAV strategy is that we're getting too few of them and spending too much. Instead of one $10,000,000 drone, we need like 25 $50,000 drones. And maybe a $100,000 computer system back on base coordinating them and creating and presenting a seamless battlefield picture from them. Cheap, dumb, but in control, if you will. Missiles? Bombs? For most jobs a simple kamakazee run would be as effective, have a couple with 20 pounds of C4 and maybe some boxes of nails strapped to them for that purpose. The only thing you'd need to lavish money on would be the security system.

RE: The only problem
By omnicronx on 1/2/2008 10:38:53 AM , Rating: 2
For most jobs a simple kamikaze run would be as effective, have a couple with 20 pounds of C4 and maybe some boxes of nails strapped to them for that purpose.
Thats it!! Fight fire with fire! Show those terrorist that we can play the kamikaze game too! Oh wait.. you are a moron... How on earth you would think sending 25 cheap UAV's to their death is in any way better than sending a reusable technologically superior UAV is beyond me.

RE: The only problem
By FastLaneTX on 1/2/2008 7:19:39 PM , Rating: 2
It's all about cost per sortie. If you don't have to worry about the planes returning, needing to be maintainable, etc. then they can be significantly cheaper to acquire and you can use very different tactics. For instance, with a single UAV you have to worry about getting shot down and spend tons of money and effort defending it, but if you can field ten of them in a flock and nine get hit before the objective, you still succeed... In reality, only one or two will get hit and you'll save money reusing your semi-disposable planes.

Why do we have disposable pastic flatware when reusable metal silverware exists? Different needs.

"A politician stumbles over himself... Then they pick it out. They edit it. He runs the clip, and then he makes a funny face, and the whole audience has a Pavlovian response." -- Joe Scarborough on John Stewart over Jim Cramer
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