UNMANNED SYSTEMS UPDATE
Jun 08. The military’s reliance on unmanned aircraft that can watch, hunt and sometimes kill insurgents has soared to more than 500,000 hours in the air, largely in Iraq, the Associated Press has learned. And new Defense Department figures obtained by the AP show that the Air Force more than doubled its monthly use of drones between January and October, forcing it to take pilots out of the air and shift them to remote flying duty to meet part of the demand. The dramatic increase in the development and use of drones across the armed services reflects what will be an even more aggressive effort over the next 25 years, according to the new report. The jump in Iraq coincided with the buildup of U.S. forces this summer as the military swelled its ranks to quell the violence in Baghdad. But Pentagon officials said that even as troops begin to slowly come home this year, the use of Predators, Global Hawks, Shadows and Ravens will not likely slow. “I think right now, the demand for the capability that the unmanned system provides is only increasing,” said 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.” For some Air Force pilots, that means climbing out of the cockpit and heading to places such as Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., where they can remotely fly the Predators, one of the larger and more sophisticated unmanned aircraft. About 120 Air Force pilots were recently transferred to staff the drones to keep pace with demands, the Air Force said. Some National Guard members were also called up to staff the flights. And more will be doing that in the coming months, as the Air Force adds bases where pilots can remotely fly the aircraft. Locations include North Dakota, Texas, Arizona and California, and some are already operating. One key reason for the increase is that U.S. forces in Iraq grew from 15 combat brigades to 20 over the spring and early summer, boosting troop totals from roughly 135,000 to more than 165,000. Slowly over the next six months, five brigades are being pulled out of Iraq that will not be replaced, as part of a drawdown announced by the administration, which began in December. The increased military operations all across Iraq last summer triggered greater use of the drones and an escalating call for more of the systems — from the Pentagon’s key hunter-killer, the Predator, to the surveillance Global Hawks and the smaller, cheaper Ravens. In one recent example of what they can do, a Predator caught sight of three militants firing mortars at U.S. forces in November in Balad, Iraq. The drone fired an air-to-ground missile, killing the three, according to video footage the Air Force released. (Source: AP)
10 Jun 08. Rockwell Collins, through newly-acquired Athena Technologies, has completed a successful flight test of a significantly damaged unmanned F/A-18 subscale model air vehicle. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) sponsored the flight demonstrations held this spring at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland. During the first flight test, nearly half of the airplane’s right wing was ejected to simulate battle damage and in-flight failure. During the second flight, almost 60 percent of the airplane’s right wing was ejected. Upon ejecting the wing section during both flights, Rockwell Collins’ Automatic Supervisory Adaptive Control (ASAC) technology reacted to the airplane’s new vehicle configuration, automatically regained baseline performance, continued to fly the plane, and then autonomously landed it using internal Inertial Navigation System/Global Positioning System (INS/GPS) reference only. The flight test campaign followed a similar successful DARPA sponsored demonstration in April 2007, during which an aileron was ejected in-flight from the unmanned subscale F/A-18.
10 Jun 08. Boeing, in partnership with ImSAR and Insit