09 Jan 12. Remember when the military actually put human beings in the
cockpits of its planes? They still do, but in far fewer numbers. According to a new congressional report acquired by Danger Room, drones now account for 31 percent of all military aircraft. To be fair, lots of those drones are tiny flying spies, like the Army’s Raven, that could never accommodate even the most diminutive pilot.(Specifically, the Army has 5,346 Ravens, making it the most numerous military drone by far.) But in 2005, only five percent of military aircraft were robots, a report by the Congressional Research Service notes. Barely seven years later, the military has 7,494 drones. Total number of old school, manned aircraft: 10,767 planes. A small sliver of those nearly 7,500 drones gets all of the attention. The military owns 161 Predators — the iconic flying strike drone used over Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere — and Reapers, the Predator’s bigger, better-armed brother. But even as the military’s bought a ton of drones in the past few years, the Pentagon spends much, much more money on planes with people in them. Manned aircraft still get 92 percent of the Pentagon’s aircraft procurement money. Still, since 2001, the military has spent $26bn on drones, the report — our Document of the Day — finds. (Source: UNMANNED)
10 Jan 12. The U.K.’s flagship unmanned aircraft program, the Thales
Watchkeeper, has failed to meet its target for delivering the first air
vehicles to troops in Afghanistan. Watchkeeper is among the ongoing U.K.
Defense Ministry procurements with the largest schedule delays, according to the National Audit Office. It was running more than a year behind schedule and also has come under scrutiny at the ministry. The program only barely escaped being named to the ministry’s “programs of concern” list when it was first issued last year. At the time, the government said another review was expected “around the turn of the year.” One of the key milestones for the program last year was to begin deliveries to deployed forces in Afghanistan. However, a Defense Ministry official notes that “Watchkeeper has not yet been delivered.” A reason for the delay was not given. The military was hoping to have sufficient numbers of Watchkeepers fielded to sustain three orbits in April, with the number of orbits to reach six in October. Fifty-four Watchkeepers are being bought under current procurement plans. The in-service date for the program was initially planned for June 2010. Once Watchkeeper is fielded, it is supposed to allow the ministry to start drawing down Hermes 450 unmanned aircraft being used on a fee-for-service basis in Afghanistan. (Source: Aviation Week)
BATTLESPACE Comment: This problem has been well covered and comes as no surprise. However the industrial participation element of the original
contract was supposed to establish a UK Centre of Excellence for this type of UAV. WE have seen little movement in this area but a lot of movement in increasing Hermes 450 sales from Israel. Did the U.K. taxpayer fund these upgrades to benefit the Israeli Defence Industrial Base?
04 Jan 12. ARGUS-IS equipped Hummingbirds set for Afghanistan. The US Army is to deploy to Afghanistan three Boeing A160T Hummingbird vertical take-off and landing unmanned aircraft systems (VTOL UASs) equipped with the Autonomous Real-time Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance Imaging System
(ARGUS-IS). This deployment is described as a Quick Reaction Capability and is an acquisition approach aimed at delivering cutting-edge and emerging technologies into theatre to add capability and inform requirements.(Source: Jane’s, IDR)
10 Jan 12. FAUN TRACKWAY – the defence division of Llangefni-based
FAUN-Zoeller – has secured a circa £800,000 order from the Australian armed forces. TRACKWAY’s UAV Landing Mat, which it unveiled for the first time at September’s DSEi defence exhibition to an international audience in London, acts as a temporary runway for unmanned aeri