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E-Bomb – Direct Energy Warfare

6th Generation Aircraft - Airforces to End the Desire for Pilots

The rules of battle have changed over the entirety of military history. Tools such as technology, strategy, tactics and weapons have been the principal elements determining what kind of rules apply to the battlefield. What can consititute to a sixth generation fighter jets – Thats the question I am asking myself since past week. Although it might be too early to think of these questions, when even planes like JSf, PAK-FA or F-22 are not even fully opertional. The contemporary military rivalry is driven mostly by the ongoing military technical revolution. In particular, the weapons used on the future battlefield will play an important role in military affairs. Which weapons can play a key role in the future? I will try not to be too technical, such that the article is applicable to general public as well, however, I have included the research papers and appropriate links for those intending to explore more about E-Bombs or Electromagnetic Weapon Systems.

Sixth generation jet fighters are currently conceptual and expected to enter service in the United States Air Force and United States Navy in 2025-2030 timeframe. The technological characteristics may include the combination of fifth generation aircraft capabilities with unmanned capibility, unrefueled combat radius greater than 1000 nm and Direct Energy Weapon. It is latter which is a subject of this article. One form of this energy is Electronic Bomb (E-Bomb). This article aim to explore the technical aspects and potential capabilities of this type of bomb, target measurements and its comparison with other form of electromagnectic weaponry.

Research has shown that it is possible to develop such kind of device. Directed Energy research originated with research work done to determine the impact to important military systems operating in harsh electromagnetic environments. One of the most threatening and pervasive of all electromagnetic threats is that due to electromagnetic pulse.

These pulses can burst of electromagnetic radiation that results from an explosion (usually from the detonation of a nuclear weapon) and/or a suddenly fluctuating magnetic field. However, its not only the nuclear weapon who generates these pulses, Non-nuclear electromagnetic pulse (NNEMP) is an electromagnetic pulse generated without use of nuclear weapons. There are a number of devices that can achieve this objective, ranging from a large low-inductance capacitor bank discharged into a single-loop antenna or a microwave generator to an explosively pumped flux compression generator. To achieve the frequency characteristics of the pulse needed for optimal coupling into the target, wave-shaping circuits and/or microwave generators are added between the pulse source and the antenna. A vacuum tube particularly suitable for microwave conversion of high energy pulses is the vircator. These HEMP induced stresses can damage or severely disrupt some electronic systems, which are sensitive to transient disturbance. Significant potential damaging effects can occur at long ranges to virtually all systems located within line-of-sight of the detonation point. Thus it is feasible to say, that NNEMP generators can be carried as a payload of bombs and cruise missiles, allowing construction of electromagnetic bombs with diminished mechanical, thermal and ionizing radiation effects and without the political consequences of deploying nuclear weapons.

The fact that an electromagnetic pulse is produced by a nuclear explosion was known since the earliest days of nuclear weapons testing, but the magnitude of the EMP and the significance of its effects were not realized for some time. As a result of the test, a very short but extremely intense electromagnetic pulse was observed. This pulse propagated away from its source with a decreasing intensity, which is also to be expected according to the theory of electromagnetism.

According to the CBS reports dated March 2003 stated the application of experimental EM Pulse:

The U.S. Air Force hit Iraqi TV with an experimental electromagnetic pulse device called the “E-Bomb” in an attempt to knock it off the air and shut down Saddam Hussein’s propaganda machine. The highly classified bomb created a brief pulse of microwaves powerful enough to fry computers, blind radar, silence radios, trigger crippling power outages and disable the electronic ignitions in vehicles and aircraft. Officially, the Pentagon does not acknowledge the weapon’s existence.

Direct Energy Warfare

Military action involving the use of directed-energy weapons, devices, and countermeasures to either cause direct damage or destruction of enemy equipment, facilities, and personnel, or to determine, exploit, reduce, or prevent hostile use of the electromagnetic spectrum through damage, destruction, and disruption. The defensive part of Electronic Warfare includes the offensive actions such as preventing the enemy’s use of the electromagnetic spectrum through counter measures such as damaging, disrupting, or destructing the enemy’s electromagnetic capability. Such weaponry (DEW) is an evolving addition to the EW.

Characteristics of Direct Energy Weapons

The most common characteristics of the direct energy weapons is that they attack at the Speed of Light. This pose some advantage over conventional weaponry, This helps in defeating targets
such as theater and ballistic missiles before they can deploy defense-saturating sub-munitions. Another advantage of such weapons is that they can be used against multiple targets at the same time. The direct energy weapons are classified into four catagories; High Power Microwave (HPM), Charged Particle Beams (CPB), Neutral Particle Beams (NPB) and High Energy Laser (HEL). It is the latter which is highly potential for military applications (both stratagic and tactical missions). However, for E-Bomb it is HPM is a base. But offcourse when compared to Laser technology, the microwave technology lags in terms of research. HPM – use electromagnetic radiation to deliver heat, mechanical, or electrical energy to a target to cause various, sometimes very subtle, effects. When used against equipment, directed electromagnetic energy weapons can operate similarly to omnidirectional electromagnetic pulse (EMP) devices, by inducing destructive voltage within electronic wiring. The difference is that they are directional and can be focused on a specific target using a parabolic reflector. High-energy radio frequency weapons (HERF) or high-power radio frequency weapons (HPRF) use high intensity radio waves to disrupt electronics. However, High and low power, Pulsed Microwave devices use low-frequency microwave radiation which can be made to closely mimic and interact with normal human brain waves having similar frequencies. Although belong to the same family of technology, the E-Bomb deployment differes from that of HPM.

Potential for Aircraft Operations

Scleher, D. Curtis in Electronic warfare in the information age, has defined the potential of these kind of weapons for Aircraft Operations. DEWs have great potential for aircraft operations since crews can enhance their own survivability in the battlefield, where the aircrafts are susceptible and vulnerable to missile threats, by protecting themselves with electromagnetic shields. In such environment, DEW systems may prevent the aircraft from threats by decreasing the detection and targeting capability of enemy. They may also aid in hit avoidance by deflecting, blinding, or causing the incoming missile to break lock and finally, where necessary, to destroy the missile itself before it reaches its target. An additional approach might be to defeat the fusing system of the incoming missile. However, when deploying these bombs, getting the projectile successfully right is the key, such that useful damage can be produced. Further information about the deployment of these DEWs can be accessed from Electronic warfare in the information age. By this stage one difference between HPM and E-bomb is apparanet, despite belonging to same technological family, and this difference is their deployment. HEMP – High Altitude Electromagnetic Pulse is not a directed energy weapon. The reason why HEMP is defined as an electromagnetic weapon is that it produces similar effects in electromagnetic spectrum and can cause similar impacts on electronic devices. The potential effects of a designed HPM weapon strongly depends on the electromagnetic properties of the target. Since it is difficult to get the required intelligence, the complexity of real systems poses technical difficulties. A typical HPM weapon system basically includes a prime source that generates the intended power, an RF generator, a system that shapes and forms the wave into the intended form, a waveguide through which the generated wave travel, an antenna that propagated the wave, and the control unit that manages all the steps.

AGM-154 Joint Standoff Weapon l

Delivery system considerations for E-bombs are very important. The massed application of such electromagnetic weapons in the opening phase of an electronic battle delivered at the proper instant or location can quickly lead the superiority in the electromagnetic spectrum. This package might mean a major shift from physically lethal weaponry to electronically lethal attacks (via e-bombs) as a preferred mode of operation. Potential platforms for such weapons delivery systems are AGM-154 JSOW (Joint Stand Off Weapon) glidebomb (shown above) and the B-2 bomber (shown below). The attractiveness of glidebombs delivering HPM warheads is that the weapon can be released from outside the effective radius of target air defenses, minimizing the risk to the launch aircraft, which can stay clear of the bomb’s electromagnetic effects.

B2-Bomber refueling

Another delivery method of e-bomb may be the use of UAVs. The technology of UAVs is still developing and partly immature; however, improvements can be expected in the next decade.

The e-bomb targets mission essential electronic systems such as the computers used in data processing systems, communications systems, displays, industrial control applications, including road and rail signaling, and those embedded in military equipment, such as signal processors, electronic flight controls and digital engine control systems. I must point out that when e-bomb outputs are too weak to destroy these systems but strong enough to disrupt their operations, system performance can be degraded. The relation between the altitude (shown below) where the e-bomb is detonated and a representation of the lethality range. Target information (to include location and vulnerability) becomes an important issue.

E-Bomb Footprint: Source <a href="">Carlo Kopp</a>

E-Bomb – Science Fiction or a Fact?

Sor, can this hypothetical e-bomb be a significant weapon for the future battlefield? Theoratically, the military advantage obtainable with e-bombs is related mostly to their operational significance. Will future battlefields will be won by the countries that best manage the revolution in military affairs or technological revolution? If latter is the case, then one has to remind himself that technology is not a winner on its own, but it has been, and it will continue to be, a critical enabler. If everything else is equal, the side with better technology will win. Finally, can the country that first develops this new weapon have a significant and exploitable military advantage against other powers? Is is feasible for a nation to invest in this kind of bomb ? – The Debate Continues

As I have mentioned earlier, this piece is not research but infact just collection of some work, to explore the potential of EM technology in modern warfare as well as extending our previous discussion of Electronic Warfare For further reading about the subject I strongly suggest to read the following researches

Kopp, C. 1993. A doctrine for the use of electromagnetic pulse bombs. Air Power Studies Centre. Paper No. 15.
Kopp, C. 1996. An introduction to the technical and operational aspects of the electromagnetic bomb. Air Power Studies Centre. Paper No. 50.
Kopp, C. 2006. Directed Energy Weapons-Part 1. Defense Today May/June Publication.
Mazarr, Michael J. 1993. Military Technical Revolution-A Structural Framework. Center for Strategic and International Studies. Washington, D.C.
Scleher, D. Curtis. 1999. Electronic warfare in the information age. Boston: Artech House.


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Electronic Warfare Operations – Part I

O divine art of subtlety and secrecy! Through you we learn to be invisible, through you inaudible; and hence hold the enemy’s fate in our hands. – Sun Tzu (The Art of War)

Wedgetail Flares Test

The advant of technology and understanding the control of electronmagnetic specturm (EM) has taken the description of warfare to another level. Modern military forces rely heavily on a variety of complex, high technology, electronic offensive and defensive capabilities. EW is a specialized tool that enhances many air and space functions at multiple levels of conflict. Modern weapons and support systems employ radio, RADAR, infrared, laser, optical and electro-optical technologies. Modern military systems, such as the E-8C joint surveillance, target attack radar system (JSTARS), rely on access to the electromagnetic spectrum to accomplish their missions. So what exactly Electronic Warfare is?

EW is any military action involving the use of the EM spectrum to include directed energy (DE) to control the EM spectrum or to attack an enemy. This is not limited to radio or radar frequencies but includes IR, visible, ultraviolet, and other less used portions of the EM spectrum. As giving air and ground forces a superiority – the application of EW was seen in Operation Desert Storm (Gulf War) – Where self-protection, standoff, and escort jamming, and antiradiation attacks, significantly contributed to the Air Force’s success. Within the information operations (IO) construct, EW is an element of information warfare; more specifically, it is an element of offensive and defensive counterinformation. Electronic Warfare comprises of three main components: Electronic Attack – Electronic Protection – and finally Electronic Warfare Support, all includes the integrated Information Operations (IO).

Key to Electronic Warfare success is the control of Electromagnetic Spectrum Control. This is usually achieved by protecting friendly systems and attacking adversary systems. In reference to above mentioned three components of EW – Electronic Attack, limits adversary use of the electronic spectrum; – Electronic Protection – protects the use of the electronic spectrum for friendly forces, and Electronic Warfare Support – enables the commander’s accurate estimate of the situation in the operational area. All three must be carefully integrated to be effective. Friendly forces must prepare to operate in a nonpermissive EM environment and understand EW’s potential to increase force effectiveness.

Electronic Warfare for Air Forces

Air Force electronic warfare strategy embodies the art and science of employing military assets to improve operations through control of the EM spectrum. An effective EW strategy requires an integrated mix of passive, disruptive, and destructive systems to protect friendly weapon systems, components, and communications-electronics systems from the enemy’s threat systems. During the Gulf War, EF-111 RAVENS were used successfully against Iraqi radars and communications facilities. Conflicts in Vietnam and the Middle East provided deadly reminders of the necessity for effective EW against advanced threats and of the intense effort required to counter these threats. Current technology has given rise to new enemy capabilities, which includes the use of microwave and millimeter wave technologies, lasers, electro-optics, digital signal processing, and programmable and adaptable modes of operation.

Douglas B-66 Destroyer during Vietnam War

During the Vietnam War EB-66 was used against terminal threat radars, surface to air missiles (SAM) and anti aircraft artillery (AAA) as well as used as stand-off jamming platforms. EB-66 modified version of U.S light bomber B-66 Destroyer (shown above). The RB-66C was a specialized electronic reconnaissance and ECM aircraft with an expanded crew of seven, including additional electronics warfare experts. A total of 36 of these aircraft were built with the additional crew members housed in what was the camera/bomb bay of other variants. RB-66C aircraft had distinctive wingtip pods and were used in the vicinity of Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis and later over Vietnam. In 1966, these were redesignated EB-66C. After the retirement of B-66, General Dynamics/Grumman EF-111A (shown below) Raven came to play the role. EF-111A Raven was an electronic warfare aircraft designed to replace the obsolete B-66 Destroyer in the United States Air Force. Its crews and maintainers often called it the “Spark-Vark”, a play on the F-111’s “Aardvark” then nickname.

An EF-111A Raven aircraft supplies radar jamming support while enroute to Eglin Air Force Base during the multi-service Exercise SOLID SHIELD '87.

EF-111A achieved initial operational capability, in 1983 EF-111s first saw combat use with the 20th Tactical Fighter Wing at RAF Upper Heyford during Operation El Dorado Canyon in 1986 (retaliatory attack on Libya), Operation Just Cause in 1989. The EF-111A served in Operation Desert Storm in 1991. On 17 January 1991, a USAF EF-111 crew: Captain James Denton and Captain Brent Brandon (“Brandini”) archived an unofficial kill against an Iraqi Dassault Mirage F1, which they managed to maneuver into the ground, making it the only member of the F-111/FB-111/EF-111 family to achieve an aerial victory over another aircraft.

Operational Concepts

The effective application of electronic warfare in support of mission objectives is critical to the ability to find, fix, track, target, engage, and assess the adversary, while denying that adversary the same ability. Planners, operators, acquisition specialists, and others involved with Air Force EW must understand the technological advances and proliferation of threat systems in order to enable friendly use of the EM spectrum. To control is to dominate the EM spectrum, directly or indirectly, so that friendly forces may exploit or attack the adversary and protect themselves from exploitation or attack. Electronic warfare has offensive and defensive aspects that work in a “movecountermove” fashion. To exploit is to use the electromagnetic spectrum to the advantage of friendly forces. Friendly forces can use detection, denial, disruption, deception, and destruction in varying degrees to impede the adversary’s decision loop. For instance, one may use electromagnetic deception to convey misleading information to an enemy or use an enemy’s electromagnetic emissions to locate and identify the enemy. To enhance is to use EW as a force multiplier. Careful integration of EW into air and space operations will detect, deny, disrupt, deceive, or destroy enemy forces in varying degrees to enhance overall mission effectiveness. Through proper control and exploitation of the EM spectrum, EW functions as a force multiplier and improves the likelihood of mission success.

Billion Dollar Market For Electronic Warfare

Forecast International’s “The Market for Electronic Warfare Systems” projects an estimated $28.4 billion will be spent over the next 10 years on the development and production of the major EW systems. Some 44,807 units of leading Electronic Countermeasures (ECM), Radar Warning Receivers (RWRs), Electronic Support Measures (ESM), and other EW systems that make up this analysis will be produced. The top-ranked EW producers cited in the analysis (out of a total of 22 companies considered) are Northrop Grumman, BAE Systems, Raytheon, ITT, and Lockheed Martin. While production of leading missile countermeasures systems has helped position some of these companies at the top of the ranking, others are leading the development of all-important, next-generation technology. It is important to add that today’s EW market leaders are firmly established because of their ability to provide much-needed EW systems for immediate deployment to the battlefield. To cite just one example, despite some defense budget tightening, the Pentagon is expected to spend over $560 million through FY13 on procurement of Northrop Grumman’s Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures (LAIRCM) system for various Air Force aircraft. The service has declared that its long-range desire is to equip a total of 444 aircraft with the system. The market for systems to defeat improvised explosive devices (IEDs) will also warrant close monitoring in the years ahead. With the recent surge of U.S. troops into Afghanistan, there has also been an increase in the occurrence of IED attacks. To counter these attacks, a competition is currently under way for development of a Counter Radio-Controlled Improvised Explosive Device (RCIED) Electronic Warfare (CREW) 3.3 system of systems. The U.S. Naval Sea Systems Command in October 2009 awarded firm-fixed-price contracts to two companies for CREW 3.3 System of Systems development. ITT Force Protection Systems was awarded $16 million, while Northrop Grumman Space and Mission Systems, Network Communication Systems was awarded $24.3 million. International ventures will also have a significant impact on the EW market through the new decade. The primary platform for ITT’s ALQ-214 Radio Frequency Countermeasures (RFCM) system is the U.S. Navy’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. Through its association with the jet fighter, a potentially growing export market for the ALQ-214 has begun to emerge. For example, the system will equip the F/A-18Fs purchased by Australia a stopgap measure until its F-35 fleet is ready for service.

I will continue the implementation and integration of three major components of Electronic Warfare in my next post. Please do check back


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Sino-Pakistani Ties: JF-17 to carry Chinese missiles SD-10

Domestic SD-10 medium-range air-intercept missile

Further signs of deepen military cooperation between Islamabad and Beijing was seen today, when recently Pakistan Air Force decided to buy air-to-air SD-10 (shown above) – (said to be a variant of Italian Aspide missiles supplied to China in late 80s) missiles and avionics to arm its 250 JF-17 Thunder fighter fleet from China. Air Chief Marshal also revealed that his country may also opt to acquire other advanced defence missile systems including Chinese Surface to Air Missiles (SAM) systems. Pakistan has opted to go in for full Chinese armament systems for the jointly developed fighters, furthermore, SD-10 (mid-range missile) will become the standard Beyond Visual Range (BVR) weapon of the JF-17. This clearly seems that Pakistan Air Force has no plans to install wetern devices on its recently built combat aircraft. The first 50 JF-17s entering Pakistan Air Force service will most likely incorporate only Chinese avionics and other systems, however this may only be temporary. Once JF-17 enters full production, retractable in-flight refueling probes will be added and avionics from other sources may be integrated. Like other partnerships between two nations, it is obviously very impressive but “so called” chinease replicas do not sound appealing to me, what concerns me here is SD-10s’ life span compared to fifth generation amrs out there. However, I do hope they have long enough shelf life.

JF-17 can be armed with up to 3,629 kg (8,000 lb) of air-to-air and air-to-ground ordnance, as well as other equipment, mounted externally on the aircraft’s seven hardpoints. One hardpoint is located under the fuselage between the main landing gear, two are underneath each wing and one at each wing-tip. Internal armament comprises one 23 mm GSh-23-2 twin-barrel cannon mounted under the port side air intake, which can be replaced with a 30 mm GSh-30-2 twin-barrel cannon. The PAF is also seeking to arm the JF-17 with a modern fifth generation close-combat missile such as the IRIS-T or A-darter. These will be integrated with the helmet mounted sights/display (HMS/D) as well as the radar for targeting.

JF-17 Thunder

Global Times quoting unnamed sources claimed that the French consortium has withdrawn from a reported 1.2 billion euro contract to supply radars and missiles for the first wave of 50 JF-17 fighters, after pressure from India. French sources had reported that a joint bid had been made by French aeronautic company ATE along with Thales Group and MBDA. The Pakistan Air Force Chief is currently on a visit to China to attend the Zhuhai Air Show now underway in southern China, where the JF-17s were a major attraction.

Nov. 16 (China Military News cited from APP): Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar Suleman, Chief of Air Staff, pakistan Air Force (PAF), said on Tuesday that pakistan-China joint production JF-17 Thunder fighter jet has bright prospects in the international aviation market. It has many added features which make it much more attractive than any other fighter aircraft of its category, said the Air Chief. A low price tag and much less maintenance and operational cost compared to the other planes of its class make it attractive for the buyers, he said. Pakistan, having the second biggest fleet of aircraft after host China, is participating for the first time in this exhibition. As many as ten K-8 trainer aircraft and three JF-17 fighters are taking part in the show that demonstrates the all-weather and time-tested friendship between the two countries. To a question regarding further expansion of cooperation between Pakistan Air Force and China, Rao Qamar Suleman replied that the two brotherly neighboring countries have a long history of cooperation in all fields particularly defence. He expressed the confidence that with the passage of time these bonds of friendsip would further consolidate.

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Zhuhai 2010: What is there for Pakistan Air Force

Airshow China 2010, held from 16 – 21 November in Zhuhai will showcase the importance of the country to the international aerospace industry, with a slew of indigenous aircraft produced by Chinese companies reflecting their ambitions. Here is a glimpse of Pakistan Air Force presance at Zhuhai. Other than JF-17, Pakistan eyed on J-10, who will be joinging their fleet in near future. Chinese officials indicated that it would also develop new versions of the type. A B-model aircraft has already been proposed, with this to have a thrust-vectoring engine and an active electronically scanned array radar. Moreover, China is likely to accelerate the modernisation of its fighter fleet over the next decade, and is looking to induct additional indigenous aircraft and order new types from Russia. A naval version of the J-10 is also on the cards, with sources saying that China hopes to get its aircraft carrier programme up and running in the next decade. But with an indigenous naval fighter expected to take too long to develop, China is reportedly negotiating with Russia’s Rosoboronexport arms agency for an interim batch of 48 Sukhoi Su-33 fighters. Pakistan Air Force has sent their aerobatic team “Sherdils” to fly with K-8 trainers and JF-17 Thunder fighter aircrafts at the airshow.

Static JF-17 at Air Show China - Zhuhai 2010

The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) is to send three JF-17 (shown above) Thunder fighters to Airshow China 2010 at Zhuhai. Following the type’s international debut at this year’s Farnborough International Airshow in July when two aircraft attended the static display, the PAF is to send an additional aircraft to Zhuhai to take part in the flying display.

Pakistan acrobatic teamSherdils used K-8 advanced trainers, were bought to replace the Sherdils’s aging T-37 trainers.

Other highlights of the show includes the display of BP-12A (shown below) long-range, GPS guided rocket, This new BP-12A VLS rocket system has a module warhead design that can fit different munitions in accordance to different mission profiles. Its SY400 based motor propels it to a range up to 400 KM, making it one of the longest, non-Ballistic, rockets available today.

In recent years several aircraft have caught the eye of Western observers. In addition to the J-11B, which is reportedly comparable with classic Boeing F-15s, the fighter receiving the most attention is the Chengdu J-10 (shown below), said to be similar to the F-16. Bitzinger believes that China will eventually induct around 300 J-10s and 300 J-11s.

JF-17’s Potential in Market

Furthermore, China is in discussions about selling the Chengdu Aircraft/Pakistan Aeronautical Complex JF-17 Thunder fighter to up to eight countries.The third-generation, single-engine fighter, which was jointly developed by Pakistan and China, is being pitched as a replacement for several existing types. These include the RSK MiG-21, Dassault Mirage 5, Northrop F-5 and Chinese models, such as the Nanchang A-5 and Chengdu F-7. Three Pakistan air force JF-17s, along with a number of other Pakistani aircraft, are in Zhuhai and a JF-17 participated in the flying display. There were also around 170 officials from the service at the show.

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UAV – New Way to Wage War

UAV – Unmanned Arial Vehicle, will only exist if they offer advantage compared with manned aircraft. Contrary to advantages, disadvantages are obvious to some of us as we see and hear everyday. An old military adage (which also applies to civilian use) links the use of UAVs to roles which are dull, dirty or dangerous (DDD). To DDD add covert, diplomatic, research and environmentally critical roles. So, is this the point of UAVs ? Leaving economics of the operation aside, I guess the answer is yes.

Military and civilian applications such as extended surveillance can be a dulling experience for aircrew hence DULL, but the UAV, with high resolution colour video, low light level TV, thermal imaging cameras or radar scanning, can be more effective as well as cheaper to operate in such roles. Other than environmental monitoring over nucler contaminated areas, Crop-spraying with toxic chemicals is another DIRTY role which now is conducted very successfully by UAV.For military roles, where the reconnaissance of heavily defended areas is necessary, the attrition rate of a manned aircraft is likely to exceed that of a UAV.Due to its smaller size and greater stealth, the UAV is more difficult for an enemy air defence system to detect and more difficult to strike with anti-aircraft fire or missiles. Looking at the positive side the UAV operators are under no personal threat and can concentrate specifically, and therefore more effectively, on the task in hand. Power-line inspection and forest fire control are examples of applications in the civilian field for which experience sadly has shown that manned aircraft crew can be in significant danger.

Typically, the UAV is smaller than a manned aircraft used in the same role, and is usually considerably cheaper in first cost. Operating costs are less since maintenance costs, fuel costs and hangarage costs are all less. The labour costs of operators are usually lower and insurance may be cheaper, though this is dependent upon individual circumstances. On the assumption that the disposable load fraction of a light aircraft is typically 40% and of this 10% is fuel, then its gross mass will be typically of order 750 kg. For the UAV, on the same basis, its gross mass will be of order 35 kg. This is borne out in practice.

MQ-9 Reaper

Recently (as per 27 Oct 2010) Raytheon has tested a new UAV weapon Small Tactical Munition (STM) (0.6m-long (2ft), 13lb (5.9kg) bomb) at the Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona. The dual-mode, semi-active laser seeker and GPS inertial navigation system enable it to engage fixed and moving targets in all weather conditions.

With US army moving its concentration from Irqa to Afghanistan, and continuous use of UAVs in Pakistan tribal areas by USA the demand for small unmanned air vehicles is moving into higher gear as well. US Army plans to buy 3,000 Raven small UAVs with already 2,000 in hand.

From the CIA’s silent war in Pakistan – two UAVs extensively used, the Predator and the Reaper, both made by General Atomics, a San Diego defense contractor. The Predator is the older of the two; the first one was delivered to the Air Force in 1994. By the end of the 1990s, the CIA was using it to track bin Laden. Capable of flying for up to 40 hours without refueling, the drone was a “brilliant intelligence tool,” recalls Hank Crumpton, then the CIA’s top covert-operations man in Afghanistan. Although the CIA was keen to weaponize the drone early on, the Air Force resisted the idea until 2000. Even then, firing the weapons was another matter. The Predator’s firepower is limited, but the Reaper can deliver laser-guided 500-lb. bombs like those commonly found on the F-16 jet, together with Hellfire missiles.

But why use UAV, Times (CNN) published a report in Jun2 2009, The CIA’s Silent War in Pakistan saying:

“If we were sending F-16s into FATA–American pilots in Pakistani airspace–they might have felt very differently,” says James Currie, a military historian at the U.S.’s National Defense University.

“The basic problem with all aerial reconnaissance is that it’s subject to error,” says George Friedman, who heads the security firm Stratfor. “But in a place like Pakistan, errors have enormous political consequences.”

Critics of the drones ask if it makes sense for the U.S. to use them when every strike inflames Pakistani public opinion against a pro-U.S. government that is at the point of collapse. And yet Pakistani leaders like army Chief of Staff General Ashfaq Kayani seem to have concluded that using drones to kill terrorists in FATA is generally a good thing. This is a major change in direction; although former President Pervez Musharraf allowed drones to operate, he placed severe limits on where and when they could strike. After Musharraf resigned last summer, the shackles came off. The U.S. struck a tacit bargain with the new administration in Islamabad: Zardari and Kayani would quietly enable more drone operations while publicly criticizing the U.S. after each strike. The arrangement has worked well for the U.S.

While the drones may seem a technological marvel and strategic asset to those waging the campaign on the American side, they don’t impress the local tribesmen. Is the drone war winable ? Question yet to be answered.

Sources: CNN, Times (,8816,1900248,00.html), FlightGlobal

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