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  (Source: U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Ricky J. Best)
USMC looks to utilize UAVs to help resupply soldiers in remote areas

The use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) overseas has normally involved smart bomb launches or reconnaissance, but the U.S. Marine Corps is developing a new UAV that will be able to help re-supply combat forces overseas.

The Marines are working with developers to create a new UAV that is able to carry up to 1,200 pounds of supplies on each flight, Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. John Amos, recently said to the House appropriations Committee's subcommittee focused on defense.

"I'm looking for something now," Gen. Amos said to the subcommittee.  "We want to get a solution into Afghanistan by this summer."

Both the Marine Corps and Army have noticed an increase of injuries related to the heavy amount of weight soldiers deployed overseas must carry, an Army official recently said.  The combat gear weighs up to 130 pounds, and a higher number of soldiers are being hurt by stress fractures, pulled muscles and other issues.  This issue is especially problematic as soldiers prepare to be deployed to Afghanistan, where they'll have to deal with rough terrain, mountains, and bad road conditions.

The UAVs, which the USMC hopes to have by summer, will help transport ammunition, food and water, and batteries to ground troops on patrol in remote areas.

The U.S. military has been thinking about possible ways to help soldiers, and UAV development has prospered since the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom.  The smaller craft are silent and fast, which makes them good for reconnaissance, but larger ones can be used to drop supplies or weapons.  The BBC published a brief list of commonly used UAVs by British and American troops in the Middle East.

Precision air drops used by the Army have been able to deliver as much as 26,000 pounds of supplies per day to troops deployed.

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RE: Easy?
By omnicronx on 3/13/2009 11:24:07 AM , Rating: 2
Carrying an extra payload is anything but trivial. I really doubt they can merely add on an additional ~100 lbs without making major design changes.

RE: Easy?
By rcc on 3/13/2009 1:32:59 PM , Rating: 2
I believe his point was that it is just another payload. If you have a UAV that can carry a pair of smart bombs, you can attach equipment canisters in their place, perhaps with GPS or RF guidance, and just drop them in the approximate location.

Indeed, if the Marines are looking at having anything in operation by this Summer, they are anticipating a very trivial modification, if any, to the dropping platform.

RE: Easy?
By grath on 3/13/2009 2:42:27 PM , Rating: 2
People are probably thinking of the Predator UAV, which carries two relatively small missiles and would not be able to provide a sufficiently useful resupply payload.

The larger UAVs such as the Reaper are far better suited for this application, wiki puts their payload capacity at 3,750 lb (1,700 kg), which well exceeds the target 1200lb payload stated in the article.

Of course, this is the military, government, and defense contractors we are talking about here. Since when are they disposed toward making efficient use of an existing system rather than pumping funding into the contractor to develop a new and somewhat redundant system? To quote the movie Contact "First rule of government spending: why build one when you can build two for twice the price?"

RE: Easy?
By mmcdonalataocdotgov on 3/16/2009 11:42:00 AM , Rating: 2
They can mod the bomb bay, and remove some of the ancillary equipment used for ordnance, perhaps. Put the payload in a bomb shaped carrier with a chute. They could even use some of the smart bomb capabilities to target where they need the drop in tactical situations. Much better than Llamas! Rrrrrrrrrrrrr-llamas!

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