Feeds

Unmanned aircraft rubbish, says senior US pilot

And don't waste my time with your roadside bombs

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

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.

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
Post-pub nosh neckfiller: The MIGHTY Scotch egg
Off to the boozer? This delicacy might help mitigate the effects
The next big thing in medical science: POO TRANSPLANTS
Your brother's gonna die, kid, unless we can give him your, well ...
I'M SO SORRY, sobs Rosetta Brit boffin in 'sexist' sexy shirt storm
'He is just being himself' says proud mum of larger-than-life physicist
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
prev story

Whitepapers

Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
5 critical considerations for enterprise cloud backup
Key considerations when evaluating cloud backup solutions to ensure adequate protection security and availability of enterprise data.
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.
Managing SSL certificates with ease
The lack of operational efficiencies and compliance pitfalls associated with poor SSL certificate management, and how the right SSL certificate management tool can help.