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UNMANNED SYSTEMS UPDATE

29 May 07. The European Union’s nascent military ministry, the European Defence Agency, is mounting a push to allow flying robots to operate alongside regular air traffic. As things presently stand, Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs) are poorly integrated into civil air-traffic regimes and the laws which underpin them. Few UAVs are certified to fly in civil airspace. Most are military recce and weapons platforms which operate in segregated areas, either test facilities or combat zones, where regular commercial traffic doesn’t crop up. But the Brussels defence planners would like that to change. “The main target is to address the challenge of enabling UAVs to operate alongside conventional air traffic,” they say. This might not immediately seem to be defence-related, and indeed the Eurocrats wander even further off the strictly defence track at first. “This is the key to expanding the use of UAVs beyond the purely military into the security and ultimately commercial domains and to creating the scale of demand around which European industry can unite.” Flying robots for security use are already in the air, operating under the same exemptions as toys. But the EDA would seemingly like to see UAVs muscling in on the territory of police helicopters, perhaps allowing many more eyes in the sky, much less obtrusively, for the same or lesser cost. However, the officials don’t seem to be all that interested in establishing a Big Brother surveillance state. Rather, the goal is “a situation in which civilian and government-operated UAVs could operate alongside other manned aircraft in integrated airspace by 2012”.(Source: Shephard)
Comment: Once again the EU has put the cart before the horse. There is now way that any UAV system can be approved for operating in open skies until the approved sensors and safety devices such as exterior lighting, IFF, sensors and degradation protection are installed. A good example cam in Kosovo when a civil airliner flew into military airspace with non-LED IR lighting which bloomed a passing F-16 flight causing a crash. Using un-protected UAVs with no IFF or lighting would cause havoc in civil and military airspace which is why the RAF is sceptical about the Army having control over such systems as Watchkeeper which require no pilot training to operate and have no 24/7 capability, lighting or de-icing capabilities.

25 May 07. USAF’s Deptula Calls for ISR Investment Shift. The Pentagon should shift much spending from weapons to sensor platforms, but fifth-generation F-22 fighter jets are still needed, according to the three-star Air Force general who oversees the service’s ISR programs. Speaking May 24 at the first 55th Wing ISR Symposium in Omaha, Neb., Lt. Gen. David Deptula, the deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, said “ISR will lead the fight in the year 2025, and will be the key technology to get us from here to there.” “We can’t imagine what perils await us in the future,” Deptula told the gathering of intelligence officers, flight crews and defense contractors. “All we’re certain of is that the magnitude and speed of change will be the defining aspects of the future. “The enemy is evolving and adapting, and is highly malleable, like a liquid that gravitates toward our weakest points and defies our efforts to hold it in our grasp. Infesting urban areas and hiding among the civilian population, just finding the enemy has become our greatest challenge.” Meeting this challenge, he said, will require a shift from a Cold War mindset, which placed ISR in a distant, supporting role. “Then, we had the luxury of an adversary that was monolithic and predictable, and peering over the Iron Curtain was all we had to do,” he said. Deptula said the Cold War left the U.S. forces with a “shooter-heavy footprint,” that is no longer applicable to today’s fight. What’s needed now, he said, is an investment that makes ISR platforms and programs the centerpiece of the “global war on terror.

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