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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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By mdogs444 on 1/2/2008 9:32:01 AM , Rating: 2
So just out of curiosity - would something as small as the Raven (pictured) be small enough to bypass the enemies Radar system? If not, I wonder if they can make it with no 90 degree angles like they are doing with modern battleships & stealth planes in order to bypass radar by reflecting it off at a different angle.

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.

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.

RE: Raven
By bhieb on 1/2/2008 12:55:44 PM , Rating: 2
Is there really a need for stealth. At least the current enemy doesn't really have radar. Today I assume they are being used as scouts to provide better visibility in urban areas that we already occupy. I guess in covert ops where you want to remain undetected stealth would be good, but in general these seem to fit the bill nicely.

RE: Raven
By FastLaneTX on 1/2/2008 7:15:18 PM , Rating: 2
Why bother? You can build more unstealthy planes for the same money, and you don't have to care if a few get shot down. Many countries use the same logic for their manned planes and even ground troops: field enough of them cheaply and you'll win by sheer numbers even if a few (thousand) pilots or soldiers die. When you've got a billion starving people, you don't particularly care about keeping them alive and military tactics change significantly. Western countries care a lot more about keeping their people alive, so we need robots for that strategy.

hydrogen combustion engine?
By Chubbbs on 1/2/2008 3:49:32 PM , Rating: 2
I didn't know there was such a thing as an hydrogen combustion engine, but apparently it's possible to "base" a hydrogen engine off a gasoline engine. If this is true, then why is everybody investing in those ridiculously expensive PEM fuel cells?

It seems like battery-electric drive should be the solution of choice for these smaller vehicles. By the time you consider the high-pressure tank and the combustion engine, the gravimetric energy density is better with lithium-ion and polyphase induction unless we're talking about capacities of over 100KWh. It would also be quieter and cooler in operation, which helps with stealth.

The military ought to put a lot more focus into unmanned ground vehicles. I don't understand why everybody has the urge to make the ground vehicles autonomous. Just make them remote control and have real humans operating them from a safe location. We'd lose a lot less soldiers if we could have unmanned supply convoys driven by remote control. No fancy weapons systems or automated battlefield logic. Just some remote control trucks with some cameras that can move stuff from A to B without risking our troops.

This isn't very difficult technology, and it should have been standard operating procedure from the beginning. This is certainly not the first war where attacking convoys is an important strategy. Our leadership acts as if no one could have foreseen the impact of IEDs in Iraq. I don't know whether to be extremely incredulous or embarrassed.

RE: hydrogen combustion engine?
By Keeir on 1/2/2008 4:28:39 PM , Rating: 2
I didn't know there was such a thing as an hydrogen combustion engine, but apparently it's possible to "base" a hydrogen engine off a gasoline engine. If this is true, then why is everybody investing in those ridiculously expensive PEM fuel cells?

For a few reasons. The basic problem is that a Hydrogen Internal Combustion engine is basically still an ICE with all the problems that entails. Additionaly, the relatively low density of hydrogen (gas) means that a Hydrogen engine is usually more intricate and lower power than an equivelent gas engine... in short, for car travel, an hydrogen combustion engine just doesn't work economically. (Although BMW has a 7-series with a liquid hydrogen engine).

RE: hydrogen combustion engine?
By FastLaneTX on 1/2/2008 7:11:09 PM , Rating: 1
Mazda made a Miata with a H2 ICE for a while. Two problems: ICEs are inefficient, and the compression means you're also creating NOx and SOx, which cause acid rain.

The reason for all the development in autonomous systems is that a centrally-controlled fleet is vulnerable to hacking and jamming. OTOH, dumb vehicles should be cheaper and more reliable, which means there's a place for them too. It all depends on how sophisticated the enemy is.

RE: hydrogen combustion engine?
By mmcdonalataocdotgov on 1/3/2008 11:16:19 AM , Rating: 3
Hydrogen ICEs only produce oxygen and water, not NOx and SOx.

By FastLaneTX on 1/3/2008 1:23:00 PM , Rating: 2
All ICEs produce NOx and SOx if they use atmospheric air instead of pure O2. An ICE doesn't just burn the fuel; it also burns (some of) the non-oxygen molecules in the air it takes in -- and N2 molecules far outnumber O2 molecules.

The compression and heat of that air in the ICE's cylinders causes those other gases to react with some of the O2 to form NOx, SOx, etc. The particular fuel that the ICE is burning has little effect on this problem, since the fuel is not the source of those gases.

By mmcdonalataocdotgov on 1/3/2008 11:21:51 AM , Rating: 2
This seems to be contradictory: "The military ought to put a lot more focus into unmanned ground vehicles. I don't understand why everybody has the urge to make the ground vehicles autonomous." Which did you mean?

The reason for autonomous ground vehicles is to set the convoy and forget it. Convoy work is less dangerous than most battlefield jobs, and if you still need a driver for each truck, just send them out with the truck. The idea is that now you need one programmer and no drivers and can send a convoy a mile long out on its own. If a truck or two is lost, send more out. No loss of life, and no battalion of drivers needed to supply the combat troops.

The trend here is that, if not as many people want to go into the military, and you need every man you have, then automate the repetitive tasks and make everyone a grunt. That is a tactical decision.

By SandmanWN on 1/2/2008 9:42:14 AM , Rating: 3
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.

Now thats a UAV. A week at a time! Not to mention 65,000 ft. There really is no hiding with this.

Any idea if this one is going to be armed? When will it enter service?

RE: Nice
By mdogs444 on 1/2/2008 9:46:03 AM , Rating: 3
According to one of the articles linked through this DT one....

"HALE is designed to stay aloft for more than seven days and carry payloads weighing up to 2,000 pounds. Potential applications include battlefield persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, border observation, port security and telecommunications. The long endurance autonomous aircraft will be a propeller-driven, lightweight structure with a high-aspect-ratio-wing. "

It appears that its more geared towards recon and suveillance rather than being armed.

RE: Nice
By Amiga500 on 1/2/2008 10:25:51 AM , Rating: 3
There is also talk of mounting massive mirrors beneath them (the airships) and using them as reflector stations for targeting a ground based laser. In this way, several emitters could be reflected onto the same target to ensure its destruction.

It would be kinda like the old Tesla coils in C&C - only the secondary stations will be airborne and won't add to the laser.

RE: Nice
By Master Kenobi on 1/2/2008 11:38:56 AM , Rating: 2
I think its more like the Prism towers, not the Tesla Coils. See Red Alert 2.

That army guy's thinking.......
By marvdmartian on 1/2/2008 9:25:46 AM , Rating: 3
"This is cool! And I don't even have to wind up a rubber band to fly this toy!!"

The future combat ace will be the future's uber geek. Isn't it amazing??

By BladeVenom on 1/2/2008 3:55:30 PM , Rating: 2
Soon we will be able to fight wars without even having to get out of bed.

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.

By sidhu663 on 1/4/2008 8:24:25 PM , Rating: 2
wait they killed 2 suspected insurgents? does this mean that we might have killed innocent people?

By BritishHenno on 1/22/2008 4:54:22 AM , Rating: 2
Unfortunately when the enemy does not wear a uniform and using innocent civillians as sheilds accidents are bound to happen during warefare. The thing I cant comprehend however is why people causemsuch a fuss when one civillian gets caught in cross-fire. Looking back to previuos wars where we used to carpet bomb cities, having one civillian casualty is good compared to having 20,000. As technology advances the casualty numbers will inebitably continue to fall.

About time
By ForumMaster on 1/2/2008 9:32:34 AM , Rating: 2
The IDF (Israeli Defense Force) has been using them extensively for much longer. We have some of the best UAV's and use them extensively. They loiter in the air, and upon detecting a target, fire a missile and destroy the target.

While they can never fully replace pilot's, they are a good step towards reducing the risk pilot's face whenever they get in a plane.

UAVs all good and well
By BritishHenno on 1/22/2008 4:48:54 AM , Rating: 2
UAV are very good at what they achieve, but I fear they are rather too basic for the modern battlefield. I geuss in the middle east they work well as the oposition forces do not have the technology capable of taking the UAVS out. But should a was with for instrance the east occur I belive they could easily be taken down befor they can gather and vital or important information. Surley money would be much better invested in continuing development in space on order to futther extend satelite imagery capabilities allowing them to show in greater details enemy movements at a touch of a button. Surely this saves time in the battlefield situation allowing for strikes to be mounted quicker to take the enemy by suprise.

"Mac OS X is like living in a farmhouse in the country with no locks, and Windows is living in a house with bars on the windows in the bad part of town." -- Charlie Miller
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