Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 internet speed test! No Flash necessary and runs on all devices. ×

First All-Drone USAF Air Wing 242

bfwebster writes "Strategy Page reports that the United States Air Force has announced its first air wing that will consist entirely of unmanned craft. The 174th Fighter Wing has flown its last manned combat sorties; its F-16s will be entirely replaced by MQ-9 Reapers. Reasons cited include costs (maintenance and fuel) and the drone's ability to stay in the air up to 14 hours, waiting for a target to show itself."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

First All-Drone USAF Air Wing

Comments Filter:
  • by BWJones ( 18351 ) * on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @03:29AM (#24564871) Homepage Journal

    This has been in the works for a while now, but I should mention that this is not the first all-drone USAF wing. The 432nd is. Last year when I visited Creech AFB and the 432nd wing [utah.edu], I was briefed on the Air Force's plans to start transitioning a number of wings to unmanned wings and the ANG wing from Syracuse was the first one on the list. Interestingly, it will not be the last either as the UAV mission has become the Air Forces single most requested asset. Additional ANG wings in California, Arizona, North Dakota, Alabama, Texas and Nevada are next. Look for additional changes at March AFB and Minot AFB.

    • Just remember this moment when you're running over a field of skulls from a hunter-killer UAV controlled by SkyNet.
    • by mcrbids ( 148650 ) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @04:53AM (#24565239) Journal

      Afraid I can't be too specific about what division, etc. but Beale AFB in Northern California has a "permanent temporary flight restriction" over it. Since it's just south of me, and on the way to just about anything interesting, I run into it all the time when I fly privately. (I'm a private pilot)

      It's not a big deal, really - in order to fly above the AFB's airspace, I have to be in touch with regional (NorCal) Approach Control and have to submit to their direction. (Why else would I be in touch with ATC?!?) But at least 1-2 days/week this "temporary" flight restriction is in effect, so they're flying UAV's all the time.

      The biggest problem with ATC is that it's completely segregated. Since it mostly works, it's not often criticized, but it does put a significant amount of load on the pilot. For an hour-long flight, it's not atypical for me to fly for 20-30 minutes before I get a flight plan opened and in positive contact with ATC, what with all the frequency change requests, briefings, waiting in line, and other handshaking chatter I have to do! God forbid I should crash in the first half of the flight!

      Another example, if I'm flying 3,000 feet over X airport, I'd think it would be a good idea for pilots at X airport to know. But unless I actually announce on the appropriate frequency, there's no way for them to know. And there's no easy way for me to know if I'm near an airport unless I'm using a GPS. And, cruising at 140 MPH means I'm only going to be over the airport and associated traffic for anywhere from 1-2 minutes. And the next airport is 20 miles away, 1/7 of an hour away, another 8 minutes or so. Remember when I said it took 20 minutes to get a flight plan opened? Further, it's perfectly legal for me to fly just 2,000 feet over the vast majority of smaller airports without announcing anything at all, even though it's common for traffic to fly in to airports a few thousand feet high if they aren't familiar and sort of "drop in" after announcing.
      effort to do things that should be 100% computerized. If aviation radios had the equivalent of TCP and self-announced their position a la GPS, it could be a real-time, fully-coordinated, highly secure and all-but-automatic system that required almost no actual human intervention on the radio for most tasks.

      Note: I wouldn't use TCP - it sucks ass when the packet loss gets any higher than a few percent - but there are a number of protocols that have been developed for such a purpose. For example, many game developers use UDP and then code lots of logic into the application, which extends UDP into a quasi-protocol.

      The technology really wouldn't be all that hard. Just break down the Earth into groups of coordinates, perhaps 30 seconds or so on a side. Then, a GPS unit would "announce" it's position into an IRC group of the coordinate block that applied. Depending on the speed of the aircraft, it would also "subscribe" to the coordinate blocks that are deemed appropriate - the faster the plane, the larger the radius of coordinate groups it would request updates from.

      Running a radio-based packet-switching network is pretty well understood - HAMs have been doing it for a long, long time, along with cell phone providers, Wifi, WiMax, UWB, and gobs of other technologies, any of which would probably be quite sufficient for the task. There is a *lot* of radio space available for aviation, [smeter.net] since aviation radio is one of the older technologies around, and simple packet-switching technologies allow many radios to share a common communications channel.

      Think IRC, with SSL enabled as appropriate. (granting an FAA-granted 4096-bit certificate would make it damned hard to spoof a radio call!) I could write the software in a few months. I could program the GPS unit with a GPU and a bare-bones Linux core in perhaps 6 months. But it would take me 10 years (at best) to get this rammed through the Gubbmint if I had nearly unlimited funds and some damned good lobbyists on my speed-dial. Augh.

      But, I digress. What was I talking about, again?

      • by Alioth ( 221270 )

        Mode S and other associated gubbins already exists for that type of thing.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by CBravo ( 35450 )

        It is called transponder. It is mandatory in larger parts of Holland above 2500ft (even for gliders).

        However, it would be nice to be able to receive the radarscope (without having a radar on board). ATC would be able to provide that on another frequency.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by mcrbids ( 148650 )

          There are a number of problems with a transponder.

          1) There's no identity attached to a transponder, except for a 4 digit code you can set yourself. (is that plane 5 miles directly behind you a little 90 MPH Cessna 150 or 250 MPH Turbine?)

          2) They only are useful to ATC. If you're not flying under ATC control, (perfectly legal!) or haven't contacted ATC yet for whatever reason, (such as opening a friggen flight plan) you don't know about the Turbine 5 miles directly behind you closing in at 150 MPH.

          3) They us

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jcr ( 53032 )

        If aviation radios had the equivalent of TCP and self-announced their position a la GPS, it could be a real-time, fully-coordinated, highly secure and all-but-automatic system that required almost no actual human intervention on the radio for most tasks.

        There are so many things about aviation that could be vastly improved by applying modern technology. Ever had a look at an ATC radar display? Best 1950s technology you can imagine when it comes to user interface.

        I can just imagine the reduction in ATC pe

        • by Oswald ( 235719 ) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @10:58AM (#24568751)
          There's not nearly as much low-hanging fruit available as you (and Boeing [boeing.com], who "back-burnered" this project after several years of shouting it from the mountaintops back in the first half of the decade) seem to think. Every single suggestion you made would be somewhere between useless and obstructive. It's not easy to think of ways to (further) fine tune systems that have been in use by thousands of people for decades. The FAA has been trying to improve the systems that controllers work with for years, and at least half of the "improvements" end up being half-assed. Worse, they keep kidding themselves that they've made our jobs easier, so they can allow staffing to erode.

          That's not to say the system can't be improved. It IS to say that the problem is very difficult. NATCA [natca.org] has said for years that the quickest and cheapest increases in capacity would come from adding runways. The fifth runway at ATL has more than borne out that position, taking airborne delays from a bi-hourly occurrence to something that is rarely seen in good weather.

      • As some other posters have said - transponders - even mode C - do this all the time; TCAS is a big help when flying around. Also, file your flight plan -before- takeoff and you should be able to pick up a clearance quicker.
    • by Alioth ( 221270 ) <no@spam> on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @06:18AM (#24565659) Journal

      What bothers me about this is that you take away risk to persons from war, and those persons are more willing to wage war...which leads to more war.

      Probably the only thing that has saved us since WWII is the fact that the leadership realised that they were personally no longer safe in the context of nuclear weapons - so to save their own skins, they strenously avoided world war 3.

      If we can wage war at no risk to ourselves, then war will become a more viable option - which is a bad development.

      • You can't wage war with just UAVs, especially if you need to conduct peacekeeping operations afterwards.

      • by BWJones ( 18351 ) *

        I am totally with you here my friend and agree completely. Eventually the technology will be equalized, but initially, those who can afford it will wield it against those who do not have the technology. What we can hope for is a change in the political winds while these technologies mature.

      • by db32 ( 862117 )
        I mostly agree. But the cold war taught the whole show of force as a deterent. If I can come out of nowhere and blow up your palace are you going to order missile strikes on your neighbor? (The problem of course is if I allow said neighbor to act aggressively towards you without consequence). At this point it becomes purely political wrangling and outside the scope of the military and its capabilities.

        In a nutshell, I think morons voting are far more dangerous than any weapon in the military arsenal.
      • If we can wage war at no risk to ourselves, then war will become a more viable option - which is a bad development.
        That really all depends on one's point of view, take for example using a fleet of UAVs to deter a large country from invading his smaller neighbor without risk on one's own soldiers, it might make peacekeeping missions more palatable to the rich 1st world countries to reduce tribal conflicts in the 3rd world.

      • You should know that the pilots of these craft are actually subject to a lot more stress from the job, because they actually watch the missiles fired from the point of launch to the impact and they are forced to see exactly what they're doing to the people they're attacking.

        I don't think that this has made war any easier, especially for those pilots.

        • by Ihlosi ( 895663 ) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @10:29AM (#24568237)

          You should know that the pilots of these craft are actually subject to a lot more stress from the job, because they actually watch the missiles fired from the point of launch to the impact and they are forced to see exactly what they're doing to the people they're attacking.

          Well, in that case, they should make "being a zero-empathy sociopath" part of the necessary qualifications for becoming a drone operator. That way, the extra stress doesn't appear, and the kill rate might actually go up a bit.

          Heck, anyone who has to see what dropping a couple of hundred pounds of explosives on a bunch of people will do in order to be somewhat distressed by doing that almost qualifies already.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by vertinox ( 846076 )

        What bothers me about this is that you take away risk to persons from war, and those persons are more willing to wage war...which leads to more war.

        I disagree.

        Humanity has never really thought about the consequences of war that much before they actually were fighting it.

        And even then, it tends to lead to situations like were having in Georgia right now where people are arguing who shot first or who killed the most people and then everyone gets in a fight again.

        In reality, unmanned fighting craft will be the

        • "...That still leaves calculated war crimes by the upper brass, but those things have always happened without unmanned machines as it is."

          What the grandparent poster is referring to is the same as what you're call "calculated war crimes by the upper brass". Reduced-cost war makes it easier to declare war. So, the balance of your extremely long post is moot.

      • What bothers me about this is that you take away risk to persons from war, and those persons are more willing to wage war...which leads to more war.

        Probably the only thing that has saved us since WWII is the fact that the leadership realised that they were personally no longer safe in the context of nuclear weapons - so to save their own skins, they strenously avoided world war 3.

        Iraq was a dangerous country run by an insane dictator who was a threat to his neighbors. He also didn't have nuclear weapons. Kick the door down and drag him out into the street by his hair!

        North Korea is a dangerous country run by an insane dictator who was a threat to his neighbors. They do have nuclear weapons, or at least there's an uncomfortable uncertainty about it. We negotiated with them and arrived ad a peaceful settlement all parties were happy with.

        Moral of the story: nuclear weapons keep your a

      • "What bothers me about this is that you take away risk to persons from war, and those persons are more willing to wage war...which leads to more war."

        While I understand your reasoning on this, I don't think it's valid... yet. These kinds of drones thus far are really only good against guerillas on foot or in trucks. A first class threat... say, Russian armored forces... would eat these drones for lunch. So drones like these really don't reduce the danger to US personell much, because A-10's, F-16's, and AC-

      • by Chyeld ( 713439 )

        This story [slashdot.org] doesn't seem to bear out your theory.

        Perhaps the old saw that the further removed from war becomes, the more inhumane one acts is just that. Certainly, I've heard more stories of people actually thrust into the face of war breaking and becoming inhuman, torturing and killing more for pleasure than necessity, than I've ever heard of these unmanned missions doing so.

        I think the Cold War has possibly been the worst thing we could have ever inflicted on the world. We've spent over 50 years playing R

      • "If we can wage war at no risk to ourselves, then war will become a more viable option - which is a bad development."

        Of course, this is only really bad when asymmetric- when robots are dying on one side, and people on the other. If both sides fought with robots, do we return to the era of small professional armies that fight largely with agreed-upon terms and leave the peasants (ie. the rest of us) alone?

  • by Evilest Doer ( 969227 ) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @03:30AM (#24564875)
    "The wars of the future will not be fought on the battlefield or at sea. They will be fought in space, or possibly on top of a very tall mountain. In either case, most of the actual fighting will be done by small robots. And as you go forth today remember always your duty is clear: To build and maintain those robots."
  • I hope that USAF has their drone skills maxed. It would suck to invest all that only to realize you need (Drones V) and Drone Interfacing maxed out.

  • by Hal_Porter ( 817932 ) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @03:37AM (#24564901)

    The correct term is Unmanned American.

    • Unmanned = Sexist (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tinrobot ( 314936 )

      Unwomanned would be as well.

      Unhumanned.

      • by RuBLed ( 995686 )
        Unhuhumanned...
      • "Unmanned drone" (Score:3, Informative)

        by hey! ( 33014 )

        A drone is a male bee. Male bees do no work. Nor can they fight. They are stingless -- the female bee's sting is modified ovipositor (egg laying organ).

        So an "unmanned drone" is a truly purposeless thing. Of course, they're heading there anyhow: their penises get ripped off during sexual intercourse, after which they die.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          only somewhat correct.

          The drones can fly, drones and queens mate in flight. The queen flies to mate only once takes sperm (and in fact the entire gonads) from many drowns in the course of this fight.

          She then uses this sperm over the course of her life. All fertilized eggs are female resulting in workers (in less modified with royal jelly casing them to become queens.

          Drones are unfertilized eggs.

          The drones penis is the same materials as the egg layer of the queen or the stinger of the female worker.

          Under the

        • by jollyreaper ( 513215 ) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @11:15AM (#24569025)

          So an "unmanned drone" is a truly purposeless thing. Of course, they're heading there anyhow: their penises get ripped off during sexual intercourse, after which they die.

          In human relationships, this is called "marriage," but we only die on the inside.

  • Surveillance Wing yes
    Ground Attack Wing possibly
    Fighter Wing, no way

    • Re:Fighter ?? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by jcr ( 53032 ) <jcr@mac.cOPENBSDom minus bsd> on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @04:25AM (#24565115) Journal

      Fighter Wing, no way

      Why not? The limit to the performance of a modern fighter aircraft is how many Gs the pilot can handle. Put the pilot on the ground, and you can make a far faster, more agile, smaller, lighter, and vastly cheaper weapon.

      -jcr

      • Re:Fighter ?? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by drik00 ( 526104 ) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @04:31AM (#24565139) Homepage

        The problem is that very few of the talented pilots want to do this stuff. I have quite a few friends that are either instructors or students in the USAF. Two I was talking with the other day said that if they were forced to do UAV flying, they'd have to find some way out of flying all together. For most of them, they signed up to be fighter pilots, so even flying a bomber would be a let down.

        They're competitive as hell by nature... I'm interested to see how this turns out for the USAF considering the antipathy I've seen towards piloting these things.

        J

        • Re:Fighter ?? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by jcr ( 53032 ) <jcr@mac.cOPENBSDom minus bsd> on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @04:46AM (#24565201) Journal

          The problem is that very few of the talented pilots want to do this stuff.

          So?

          Put the best pilot in the world in an F-16, and a much less skilled pilot on the ground, controlling an aircraft that can out climb, out turn, and out run him, and it's game over. Whatever his skills are, if he blacks out at 12 Gs, he loses.

          -jcr

          • Re:Fighter ?? (Score:5, Interesting)

            by HuguesT ( 84078 ) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @05:20AM (#24565349)

            That's potentially. Right now drones are itty bitty things with props, meant for long times in the air essentially for surveillance.

            Dogfighting requires situation awareness that is very difficult to achieve in a drone. One big problem is image throughput and controller display. It's not an unsolvable problem but it would cost a lot right now.

            On the other hand, dogfighting is a rare occurrence in modern wars. I don't think there were even one instance in Iraq. I think the F-14 did dogfighting in anger exactly twice in its entire career with the US Navy (a lot more in the Iran-Iraq war in the 80s, of course).

            • by jcr ( 53032 )

              Right now drones are itty bitty things with props, meant for long times in the air essentially for surveillance.

              Most are, but there are also drones that are just retired combat aircraft that have had remote control systems installed. Those are generally used for target practice.

              On the other hand, dogfighting is a rare occurrence in modern wars.

              Even more reason to quit putting pilots on board.

              -jcr

          • "Put the best pilot in the world in an F-16, and a much less skilled pilot on the ground, controlling an aircraft that can out climb, out turn, and out run him, and it's game over. Whatever his skills are, if he blacks out at 12 Gs, he loses."

            You've hit on something that rubs pilots raw, but is unavoidable; the biggest setback in making fighters with greater performance now isn't physics or even cost. It's the physical limits of the human pilot. We've had planes that could take more stress and more G's than

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by The_Hun ( 693418 )
          I wonder if there were any sentiments against long range missiles (where you don't even see the enemy).
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Caboosian ( 1096069 )
          I'm willing to bet that if you gathered some Falcon 4 gamers, they'd all do any training etc. required to pilot one of these bad boys. This, however, makes Ender's game spring to mind. In all seriousness, I wonder if gamers could make an ideal target for UAV pilots? Would said gamer have to become a fighter pilot to have the skills/knowledge to pilot said UAV, or could they be flying them while skipping the more intensive pilot stuff?
          • while an interesting thought, you'd probably have to engage in serious retraining for gamers. A game can be tweaked for playability and fun much more than a drone could. For example, 'interesting stuff happening' is much rarer for real life drone operations, part of the reason that they're having burn out problems.

            That and the lack of a cheap reset switch - I mess up in a game, resetting is quick. I mess up in the piloting of a UAV, it's millions to 'reset'.

        • by Eivind ( 15695 )
          So, you're saying there's a lack of people who'd want to sign up for what is, essentially, a real-life video-game ?
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by auric_dude ( 610172 )
          The pressure of flying and fighting half way across the globe whilst sitting in an air conditioned trailer somewhere in the USA can be a bit of a strain but don't worry the shrinks are on the job. http://blog.wired.com/defense/2008/08/flying-drones-f.html [wired.com]
        • Re:Fighter ?? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by couchslug ( 175151 ) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @06:19AM (#24565663)

          "I was talking with the other day said that if they were forced to do UAV flying, they'd have to find some way out of flying all together. For most of them, they signed up to be fighter pilots, so even flying a bomber would be a let down."

          That's why the Army needs to take over the drone program. The AF has shed a stunning number of missions and aircraft (it didn't originally want the A-10) and wants to only do air dominance.

          Fine, take away all other missions and give them to the folks who need them most. Have Army and USMC UAV operators do rotations on the ground as forward controllers, and they will surely be motivated to fly UAVs effectively.

          • " That's why the Army needs to take over the drone program. The AF has shed a stunning number of missions and aircraft (it didn't originally want the A-10) and wants to only do air dominance".

            I'll go further than that. I think we should re-integrate the USAF back into the Army. The Raison de "Etre of the USAF was long range strategic nuclear bombing, something that's now been replaced with ICBM/SLBM technology. USAF doesn't like doing the un-sexy missions that its called upon to do 95 percent of the time...

        • by misanthrope101 ( 253915 ) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @06:23AM (#24565691)
          Pilots in the AF want to grow up to be generals one day. Do you think a UAV pilot has the same shot at being Chief of Staff (with the subsequent job on the board of Boeing or whoever) as the YF-22 pilot? Neither do I, and neither do they.

          The fighter pilots are the aristocracy of the aristocracy of the AF. Even aside from the love of flying that drove them into that job, the perks of being a fighter pilot, the status and career path that conveys, are not things they're going to surrender willingly.

          • by jcr ( 53032 ) <jcr@mac.cOPENBSDom minus bsd> on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @06:39AM (#24565779) Journal

            , the perks of being a fighter pilot, the status and career path that conveys, are not things they're going to surrender willingly. ...which is why mounted knights maintained their position and status when firearms made their favorite mode of battle obsolete, right?

            Oh, wait.

            -jcr

            • by Deadstick ( 535032 ) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @09:42AM (#24567441)

              Armor went away fairly quickly, but cavalry persisted for half a millennium after the invention of firearms.

              rj

            • At least the spearmen will always be relevent.

            • , the perks of being a fighter pilot, the status and career path that conveys, are not things they're going to surrender willingly. ...which is why mounted knights maintained their position and status when firearms made their favorite mode of battle obsolete, right?

              Oh, wait.

              But it takes a serious way to clear out that cruft usually. The airplane came about so soon before WWI that there wasn't a lot of talk built up one way or the other concerning it. Before WWII, there was an understanding of the importance of bombers but navies were unconvinced about the effectiveness of aviation in naval combat. Even the Japanese, happy proponents of naval aviation, were astounded at just how successful their aircraft were. The particular instance I'm thinking of was the sinking of two Briti

          • "The fighter pilots are the aristocracy of the aristocracy of the AF."

            Well, they are now. USAF used to be a bomber culture in SAC's heyday under Curtis LeMay.

            Regardless, the fighter mafia's days appear to be numbered. Recently, the COS and the SecAF were sacked by SecDef; they insisted on ignoring the current wars in favor of looking at China. They were more interested in F-22's and F-35's than in cargo planes and unmanned drones, which is what is desperately needed. So SecDef Gates fired them, and in the f

        • Re:Fighter ?? (Score:4, Informative)

          by Deadstick ( 535032 ) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @09:38AM (#24567379)

          The Air Force has finally come out of denial on that point, and is creating a "UAV operator" career path that does not require rated pilots. Among other things, it will open the field up to a lot of people who have the technical chops but can't pass a pilot physical.

          rj

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by slashnik ( 181800 )

        And you think that the MQ-9 a faster more agile high G aircraft.
        Fine in the future I can see that the fighter roll could be taked over by a drone but not the MQ-9
        Which was my point

  • Hive mind (Score:5, Funny)

    by ozmanjusri ( 601766 ) <aussie_bob&hotmail,com> on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @03:45AM (#24564947) Journal
    First All-Drone USAF Air Wing

    What, they were all queens before?

    That explains Top Gun, I suppose.

  • Moving to UAV's (Score:5, Informative)

    by rossdee ( 243626 ) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @03:50AM (#24564961)

    Inthis area the Air National Guard is also moving to UAV's. The 119th (Happy Hooligans) based in Fargo retired their F16s a while ago, and now flies Predators. The refueling wing based in Grand Forks also flies UAV's now.

  • by jacquesm ( 154384 ) <j AT ww DOT com> on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @04:25AM (#24565107) Homepage

    As the personal cost of war for a country decreases the willingness to go to war goes up.

    From what I've read elsewhere the other day it seems though that drones have a 'hidden cost' attached to them, the people that control the drones get to see the result of their actions and they are having serious psychological issues as a result of that.

    • the people that control the drones get to see the result of their actions and they are having serious psychological issues as a result of that.

      What? As opposed to all those other people in the armed forces who don't see the results of their actions?

      It doesn't matter if you're doing it up close and personal with a rifle, or by remote control from a bunker in Arizona, killing someone is still going to have an effect on you.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by couchslug ( 175151 )

      "From what I've read elsewhere the other day it seems though that drones have a 'hidden cost' attached to them, the people that control the drones get to see the result of their actions and they are having serious psychological issues as a result of that."

      Do keep in mind that the Air Force culture outside the cockpit is _extremely_ corporate and pussified beyond belief. It's been so pussified for so long that many people don't know any different. (I did 26 years ending 2007, and know whereof I speak.)

      No won

    • by DG ( 989 ) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @07:56AM (#24566241) Homepage Journal

      Call me a heretic, but I'm coming around to the idea that armed UAVs are a better way to do business.

      A traditional piloted ground-attack aircraft is an expensive, valuable thing with an expensive, amphetamine-fueled, scared-shitless pilot stuffed in it.

      That pilot has a handful of seconds to ID his target, execute the attack, and then evade ground fire. Even in an environment where the USAF had total air superiority, there have been case upon case of pilots attacking the wrong target at the wrong time.

      And modern air-ground weapons are so powerful that the smallest mistake can have catastrophically bad results.

      But with the UAV, that element of personal risk is gone. Furthermore, instead of just one hopped-up, terrified, sleep-deprived individual making the go/no go call (and aiming the weapon to boot) you can have a series of targeting experts watching the video feed and making a soberly analyzed decision on fire/no fire.

      And yet, as mentioned, while the people shooting the weapons may be isolated from personal risk, the incredible clarity of the visual feed does not isolate them from personal *cost* - and that's not a bad thing. Taking a human life should never be a painless endevour.

      If we have to drop explosives on people, I'd rather that the people pulling the trigger have the opportunity to do a proper job of IDing the target, of assessing the likely collateral damage, and then making a calm and unrushed shot.

      DG

      • While all that's true, the risk and cost associated with attacking is vastly reduced with a UAV. With a fighter, you have to train that pilot and the plane itself is much more expensive to build - partly because of survivability. Send in a swarm of 100 UAVs in formation and even if 90 get shot down you're still pretty sure you'll achieve your mission. And you didn't lose any of your own brave soldiers.

      • by ErikZ ( 55491 ) *

        Yeah, but the cost of these "disposable" drones has been rocketing up. I think they're better also, up to the point where we're spending 100M on them each. Then it's officially crazy.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Bugs42 ( 788576 )

          Yeah, but the cost of these "disposable" drones has been rocketing up. I think they're better also, up to the point where we're spending 100M on them each. Then it's officially crazy.

          *sigh*
          $100 million each? Not quite. [wikipedia.org] More like $8 million.

          Wikipedia: your friend in not looking stupid since 2001.

      • Good post.

        I imagine the USAF is in a rush to deploy more UAV's since Gates fired their Air Force Secretary and their top ranking officers. Gates has expressed his frustration with the USAF on numerous occasions for their reluctance to embrace or deply UAV's fast enough or carrying their weight in Iraq and Afghanistan which needs UAV's not F-22's and B-2's. As I recall the Army was creating their own UAV force because they were fed up with the services the Air Force was offering.

        I'm curious to see if the A

    • by ErikZ ( 55491 ) *

      From what I've read elsewhere the other day it seems though that drones have a 'hidden cost' attached to them, the people that control the drones get to see the result of their actions and they are having serious psychological issues as a result of that.

      Sounds like scaremongering to me. Unless you believe that most jobs in the military has people insulated from their actions?

      Did you spend more than 5 seconds thinking about this or do you just automatically believe everything you read?

      • Actually, yes, I did think about it more than 5 seconds, I spent a good bit of time reading a couple of articles about it. I think it is one of the few positive things that I've read about the 'robot wars', and possibly one of the very few things that will safeguard against the further turning of war into a sort of Enders game like situation.

        The big point is that those pilots flying aircraft at least put their lives on the line, the ones flying drones are not personally at risk, and I'm sort of happy to fin

    • As the personal cost of war for a country decreases the willingness to go to war goes up.

      From what I've read elsewhere the other day it seems though that drones have a 'hidden cost' attached to them, the people that control the drones get to see the result of their actions and they are having serious psychological issues as a result of that.

      Never you fear. One of the next flight software upgrades will be putting those little fuzzy digital blurs over the maimed bodies, keep the battlefield nice and tidy.

      Have you watched any of the gun camera footage? Just the stuff that makes it onto Youtube is pretty frightening. Resolution will only improve with time and the lowlight images will be able to give you picture qualities with exquisite detail. It's bad enough when you can tell that moving blur is a human and those little puffs around him are 30mm

      • "it's not idle speculation, I think we'll certainly hit it within the next decade, depending on just how far developers try to push the envelope."

        I'm pretty sure that's spot on, and I really wished that there was a mandatory requirement for politicians to serve a tour of duty on the front line.

  • by kamathln ( 1220102 ) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @04:44AM (#24565193) Homepage

    SO when are these jobs getting Bangalored?

    • interesting... I can see them being auctioned off on the mechanical turk too. Makes you wonder who is fighting who, it's mostly about $ anyway.

  • by clickclickdrone ( 964164 ) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @05:39AM (#24565437)
    Are these things just remotely controlled or fully autonomous? I'm not sure which sounds worse safety wise but the idea of any fully autonomous system 'with weapons' strikes me as a bad move, not in any sort of T2 way, just that things will go wrong sometimes, no system is 100% perfect. (calm down Mac fans ;-) )
    • I'm not sure which sounds worse safety wise but the idea of any fully autonomous system 'with weapons' strikes me as a bad move, not in any sort of T2 way, just that things will go wrong sometimes, no system is 100% perfect.

      The computer controlling an autonomous drone doesn't have to be perfect. It only has to be better than the human pilot. If a computer shoots at its own allies less often than human pilots would, it's a success. And for the USAF, that's a pretty low standard.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by jacquesm ( 154384 )

      remote control, cameras + gps provide situational info.

    • Are these things just remotely controlled or fully autonomous? I'm not sure which sounds worse safety wise but the idea of any fully autonomous system 'with weapons' strikes me as a bad move, not in any sort of T2 way, just that things will go wrong sometimes, no system is 100% perfect. (calm down Mac fans ;-) )

      The Reapers are remote controlled. The Global Hawk, which was mentioned on /. yesterday is fully autonomous, but carries no weapons.

      Fully autonomous attack drones have been considered, but from what I recall when looking at the DARPA requests and planning was that there will not be an autonomous attack aircraft that can actually fire a missle or drop a bomb without a person there to push the button. They might find the target and get themselves into position, but the plane can't actually decide on its o

  • Let's get these out of the way:

    -- I, for one, welcome our new drone UAV overlords.

    -- In Soviet Russia, the drones unman you!

    -- 1. Buy drones
          2. Create all-drone aircraft wing
          3. ??????
          4. Profit!!

    Did I forget any?

    • Did I forget any?

      But does it run Linux?

    • by Phrogman ( 80473 )

      Can you imagine a Beowulf cluster of these?

      and finally can you imagine a UAV with a naked Natalie Portman, covered in hot grits.

      You know, as a Canadian, I don't have the slightest idea what grits really are, let alone why you would want to cover up a naked Natalie Portman with them, other than presumably so you could then eat them off her body. If so why grits? why not chocolate, or steak, or even forgo the food element entirely :P

  • It's a sad day for the world.

    Drone air wings will make it more likely that the US will launch more attacks and wars of aggression.

    But don't worry -- "our" corporate mass media will make sure we know the "rationalizations" and "justifications" for each attack. :-(

    • Re:A sad, sad day (Score:4, Insightful)

      by cowscows ( 103644 ) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @10:12AM (#24567937) Journal

      Actually, I doubt it. The US is already in a position where it can start wars where it basically has unchallenged air-superiority. If all it wants to do is bomb the hell out of somewhere, it can do that basically risk-free with manned aircraft.

      The reality is that although airpower is an essential part of modern warfare, it's not the only thing that matters. Eventually you need soldiers on the ground holding territory, and that pretty much always gets messy.

      As far as I can tell, UAV's create a shift in tactics for both airpower and the ground support, but it doesn't radically change the overall equation of war, at least not for the US.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Phrogman ( 80473 )

        Until the US devises and deploys the first UGS (Unmanned Guilded Soldier) robots on the ground. Then going to war essentially means the US sets up a secure base on the ground and a bunch of highschool grads play video games until they run out of "lives" (err, UGS units) or the enemy all dies and they beat the level, err win the war

        On a side note: why don't comments support the html DEL tag?

"Mr. Spock succumbs to a powerful mating urge and nearly kills Captain Kirk." -- TV Guide, describing the Star Trek episode _Amok_Time_

Working...