Feeds

Unmanned aircraft rubbish, says senior US pilot

And don't waste my time with your roadside bombs

Seven Steps to Software Security

One of the US air force's most senior pilots has cast doubt on the usefulness of unmanned aircraft.

According to Aviation Week & Space Technology, USAF general Ronald E Keys, chief of Air Combat Command, made negative remarks about drone aircraft survivability on Wednesday during a keynote conference speech.

General Keys, who holds a "command pilot" rating, flew F-4 Phantoms over Vietnam in 1969-70 and has logged more than 4,000 flight hours in various aircraft.

Reportedly, the general placed a large question mark over the chance of flying combat robots such as the US Predator-B/Reaper being able to survive in battle against countries such as China, Iran, or North Korea.

According to Keys, only one thing could limit the number of Predators that China could blow away - "How fast can they reload their missiles?"

That seems a trifle unfair. To be sure, a Predator could probably be shot down pretty easily by the Chinese HQ-18, but other missiles in the People's Republic arsenal could struggle to reach a Predator flying at its maximum 50,000 foot altitude. And Iran's best missile, the Russian TOR-M1/SA15, has a ceiling of 20,000 feet*. Also, a Predator only costs about $15m, being a very basic propellor-driven aircraft.

A manned F-22 Raptor stealth superjet could take on communist air defences much more effectively, but Raptors cost a lot more. In 2005 it was estimated that each jet will have cost the US taxpayers $345m to acquire.

It isn't the pilot that makes a Raptor better than a Predator. It's the stealth, the engines, all the rest of the amazing technology in the plane. High-tech stealth robot demonstrators have been built, but the USAF has shown no interest in buying any as yet.

The general also appeared to chafe at the way the air war in Iraq is being fought, suggesting that his pilots - and his flying robots - were being made to waste their time carrying out overhead flights looking for roadside bombs. He suggested that the number of bombs discovered per 100,000 flight hours was very low.

"It's a waste," he said.

"People come to me and tell me they want a Predator," he said. "I ask, 'What are you looking for?' Tell me what you're looking for... this is no way to fight a war."

Apparently, the only thing anyone cares about is whether the air force is meeting task orders from ground commanders. Keys felt there might be better uses for the aircraft. Apparently, his staff have worked out a "concept of deployment" to help fight roadside bombs which doesn't involve merely doing what ground troops are asking for, but he didn't go into specifics.

The Aviation Week & Space Technology report is here. ®

*Though Iran is said to have tested a partially home made version of the high-altitude Soviet SA-2, dating from the 1950s.

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
World Solar Challenge contender claims new speed record
One charge sees Sunswift travel 500kms at over 100 km/h
SMELL YOU LATER, LOSERS – Dumbo tells rats, dogs... humans
Junk in the trunk? That's what people have
All those new '5G standards'? Here's the science they rely on
Radio professor tells us how wireless will get faster in the real world
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.