Feeds

Unmanned aircraft rubbish, says senior US pilot

And don't waste my time with your roadside bombs

New hybrid storage solutions

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.

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Thought that last dinosaur was BIG? This one's bloody ENORMOUS
Weighed several adult elephants, contend boffins
Chelyabinsk-sized SURPRISE asteroid to skim Earth, satnav birds
Space rock appears out of nowhere, buzzes planet on Sunday
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
'Duck face' selfie in SPAAAACE: Rosetta's snap with bird comet
Probe prepares to make first landing on fast-moving rock
Square Kilometre Array reveals its 1.6TB-a-day storage and network rigs
Boolardy Engineering Test Array - aka BETA - is about to come out of Beta
LOHAN invites ENTIRE REG READERSHIP to New Mexico shindig
Well, those of you who back our Kickstarter tin-rattling...
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile
Data demand and the rise of virtualization is challenging IT teams to deliver storage performance, scalability and capacity that can keep up, while maximizing efficiency.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.