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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 Misty Dingos on 1/2/2008 10:32:00 AM , Rating: 2
Producing a Raven sized stealth UAV is a real possibility. The materials would have to be developed to some degree I am sure.

The question is probably more why do that? The Raven is used by small units for locating insurgents and enemy combatants within a few hundred meters of the troops using and controlling the Raven. It flies very low so if there is radar it is not likely to be painted by it and even the best financed insurgent is not likely to have a radar system.

I could see the utility for special forces use of a stealth UAV for local use. But I am certain that if they did exist we would not get to find out about those. I am certain that noise would be their greatest concern. Anyone that has heard an RC plane flying will tell you that you can hear them half a mile away. Likely farther on a quiet night.


RE: Raven
By Amiga500 on 1/2/2008 11:05:19 AM , Rating: 3
I am certain that noise would be their greatest concern.

Not necessarily.

I know for a fact the psych ops crowd love loud UAVs to totally demoralise the opposition and indeed have specified that to the designers of their UAVs. I suppose it would be something akin to the Stuka in WW2.


RE: Raven
By Justin Case on 1/4/2008 1:49:15 PM , Rating: 2
How would a toy plane "demoralize the opposition"? These are recon tools, designed to track someone for a long time without alerting them to its presence. If you want to "demoralize" them you drop things that go "boom".


RE: Raven
By jimbojimbo on 1/2/2008 12:07:15 PM , Rating: 4
Some UAVs fly high enough with good enough cameras so that they are almost completely inaudible. Unless the enemy is in the middle of the desert with no other background noise they won't hear a thing. This is from experience.


RE: Raven
By Misty Dingos on 1/2/2008 1:34:37 PM , Rating: 2
When I wrote this post I did not know that the Raven UAV is powered by an electric motor.

Knowing that I would suspect that these little eyes in the sky are almost impossible for the bad guys to detect. It would really dumb luck to spot one flying a few hundred feet up in any conditions. The Raven has an operating altitude of 100 to 500 feet (AGL). But can operate at altitudes as high 14,000 feet (service celing).

As far as true stealth design, I would say that it could be made more stealthy but you are going to work at it.


RE: Raven
By Armorize on 1/2/2008 2:01:47 PM , Rating: 2
actually I believe they ARE working on stealth UAV's and already have the capability to do so. I saw something on the history channel about UAV's and their history starting with the predator and the predator2. they have one that looks sortof like an F-117A but its about 7ft long and about 4ft wide, somewhere in that region but it was only a test plane for now.


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