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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 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.

"It's okay. The scenarios aren't that clear. But it's good looking. [Steve Jobs] does good design, and [the iPad] is absolutely a good example of that." -- Bill Gates on the Apple iPad
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