We’ve been hearing about unmanned aircraft strikes on suspected terrorists in the tribal regions of Pakistan, in Afghanistan and lately in Somalia and Yemen, for years now. So it’s surprising that the U.S. government’s first official acknowledgement that it uses remotely piloted aircraft—drones, if you must—to take down terrorists came just one week ago.
The U.S. Navy grounded its fleet of 14 MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned helicopters following the recent crash of an aircraft in Afghanistan and a ditching at sea. The Naval Air Systems Command (Navair) said it is reviewing Fire Scout system performance and operational procedures. Loss rates of U.S. military unmanned platforms are not often discussed, but official data from the U.S.
French air force commander General Jean-Paul Palomeros, speaking on the recording of full-motion video (FMV) from airborne platforms–especially UAVs, said, “The challenge today is to exploit the amount of ISR data gathered and then disseminate it in a useful way to different customers.” A huge amount of expert manpower is required, he told AIN, but the general is not convinced that automatic target recognition software is the answer. Artificial intelligence would be best applied to make UAVs fly autonomously, he believes.
The Pentagon is now spending $3.3 billion annually to develop and buy unmanned aerial systems (UAS), but this sum is still only 8 percent of the total devoted to all aircraft, according to a new report on UAS by the U.S. Congressional Research Service. The report mostly rehashes previously published material, but it does contain an updated inventory of UAS platforms in service provided by the DoD’s UAS Task Force.
I have been following with interest the developing story of how Iran has reportedly managed to capture some of the U.S.’s most sensitive surveillance technology, and I still have to shake my head at what a waste it was.
The stealthy, jet-powered Predator-C UAV may be heading for Afghanistan, where it will be operated by “a classified customer,” presumably the CIA. The U.S. Air Force published a procurement notice stating its intention to award a sole-source contract to General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) for a single aircraft to serve as “a test platform” in a “multi-agency role” as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.
A new version of the General Atomics Predator/Reaper UAV series with multiple sensor control is ready for deployment to Afghanistan after successful trials. A U.S. Army MQ-1C Gray Eagle was fitted with two additional EO/IR sensors under each wing.
By the time that Tripoli fell with surprising ease to rebel forces, NATO had flown more than 20,000 sorties during Operation Unified Protector. More than one third of these were strike missions, although weapons were not released on every sortie.
Four American companies will demonstrate concepts for an unmanned carrier-launched airborne surveillance and strike (UCLASS) aircraft to the U.S. Navy.
Raytheon revealed a hyperspectral sensor, which has been adapted to the MQ-1 Predator UAV, at the Paris Air Show on Tuesday. The airborne cueing and exploitation system hyperspectral (Aces HY) is believed to be the first such sensor to enter series production for a tactical airborne platform.
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