Unmanned Helos - Are they neccessary?

Scotth

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U.S. military to experiment with unmanned helicopters
Faced with increasing casualties from roadside bombs in Afghanistan, the U.S. military will experiment with remote-controlled, unmanned helicopters to deliver supplies to remote outposts, the U.S. Navy said.

The U.S. Navy is seeking a contractor to operate the program, planned for the last quarter of 2011, Eric Pratson, leader of the U.S. Navy team behind the project, told CNN.

“This is a rapid deployment effort being led by the Navy in response to an urgent needs requirement for a Cargo UAS (unmanned aircraft systems) capability in support of Marine Corps forces engaged in Operation Enduring Freedom,” Pratson told Stars and Stripes, which first reported the plan.

Lockheed-Martin and Kaman Aerospace say their K-MAX unmanned helicopter system can do the job. They tested it at the Army’s Dugway Proving Ground earlier this year and it met or exceeded requirements, according to a Lockheed-Martin statement.

“It keeps our Marines readily resupplied and out of harm’s way,” Dan Spoor, Lockheed Martin Aviation Systems vice president, said in a statement.

The company says the K-MAX can operate day or night, deliver up to 3,450 pounds of supplies to up to four locations per trip and hover at 12,000 feet.

Boeing is also vying for the contract with its A160T Hummingbird unmanned copter, the company said Wednesday. It said the A160T passed a Marine Corps test in March, successfully delivering 2,500 pounds of supplies during a simulated mission.

“This capability will save lives by getting troops and trucks off of roads where they are highly vulnerable to IED attacks,” Vic Sweberg, director, Boeing Unmanned Airborne Systems, said in a statement.

Boeing’s website says the A160T can stay aloft for 24 hours and operate as high as 30,000 feet, 10,000 feet higher than conventional copters. It has a payload of 2,500 pounds, Boeing says.

http://news.blogs.cnn.com/2010/10/21/u-s-military-to-experiment-with-unmanned-helicopters/?hpt=Sbin

My first reaction is why? Does anyone see this as the future or even needed?

Who cares if a helo can stay up 24 hours if it only has a payload of 2,500 pounds. Mabye they think it will take 24 hours of flying to make up for what one truckload of supplies can carried? Your not really saving any man-power either because someone in a remote location still needs to fly the helo and you still need people to fuel and service a bird.

Why not spend all that money on expanding the current fleet of Chinooks or designing the next generation of heavy lift or even medium lift helo's?

Seems like a hugely expensive and unnecessary tax payer expense for some geewizz technology that really won't out perform anything that our current technology can do.
 

RackMaster

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It would be safer for flying resupply loads into high risk areas, whether it's due to terrain or incoming fire. You could use it as an armed hovering surveillance platform capable of defending itself.
 

JBS

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Helos don't need runways. They can drop cargo in heavily congested cities,, or in a small clearing in the treeline. Fixed wing can't do that. As a gun platform, helos can provide cover on a continual basis, whereas fixed wing can only provide it during a specified- and relatively short- window. After it passes, it must again reposition, bring its ordnance to bear, and can then remain in that window of opportunity until it has to turn out again.
 

fox1371

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The benefit that I can see from it, is that it can remain stationary. That way you can get the angle you want on somebody you're watching quicker. Of course, they're stressing resupply missions being its' main mission...and I think that while we may not NEED it, I definitely don't think that it can hurt. I don't think I'd ever turn down an asset in the sky.
 

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I see the flight time being the biggest asset in this day and age of shifting allies. If you are having to stage further away than you once use to, the added alt and time will be a huge asset when some country says we can't base there for an assault or supply. I.e. Saudi Arabia
 

AMRUSMCR

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Ask a bunch of guys on a remote FOB in crappy terrain that have a hell of a time getting re-supplied what they think.
 

fox1371

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Ask a bunch of guys on a remote FOB in crappy terrain that have a hell of a time getting re-supplied what they think.

Yeahhh it sucks. Got stuck in the middle of the desert south of the helmand for almost a month after our ferry back across broke down. Ran out of chow/water/fuel. It just took them awhile to get air resupply out to us. This little UAV that they're working on could have been a big help. I'm sure everyone here has been in a similar situation at some point or another.
 

pardus

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I expect to see unmanned tanks, fighter aircraft, boats etc... in the near future
 

Ranger Psych

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Ok... I'll start at the top:

2500 lbs payload is fucking FANTASTIC at full fuel capacity. Since I don't feel like digging for numbers, I'll use something easy as an interim math number, a Stock Hughes 500E.

A Hughes 500 has 2.8 hours of flight endurance with 400 lbs of fuel onboard. It has a total useable fuel capacity of 403 lbs giving it that 2.8 hours. At that fuel burn it burns 143 pounds/hour.

So, using that fuel burn as just a number to work with... you are looking at an semi/totally autonomous rotary wing platform with a gross weight above 8000 lbs at a minimum... because with 24 hours of fuel as well as that 2500lb payload you're looking at 6000 lbs right there... that's not even counting airframe weight.

To put it into perspective with Apples to apples...

2 pilots at risk flying a bird that can only carry 1500 lbs for 2.8 hours
No pilots at risk flying an aircraft that can carry 5500 lbs for 3 hours

Nevermind that bird can carry a thousand pounds more than the hughes, for 24 hours straight. That bird's got better time aloft AND weight capacity than a damn cessna 206! With NO RUNWAY NEEDED!
 

Teufel

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Sounds great in theory. Our (USMC) cargo helicopter pilots tend to be a little squeamish when it comes to landing in small or dusty LZs, this would theoretically solve that problem until some squadron CO proves unwilling to risk losing his expensive new toy. We'll see how this works out. Until then, the only rotary wing helo support I trust are flown by Army warrant officers.
 

Marauder06

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No crew rest issues, no downed pilot recovery issues, reduced training pipeline for flight personnel... I can see a lot of positives for this.
 

SpitfireV

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Ok... I'll start at the top:

2500 lbs payload is fucking FANTASTIC at full fuel capacity. Since I don't feel like digging for numbers, I'll use something easy as an interim math number, a Stock Hughes 500E.

A Hughes 500 has 2.8 hours of flight endurance with 400 lbs of fuel onboard. It has a total useable fuel capacity of 403 lbs giving it that 2.8 hours. At that fuel burn it burns 143 pounds/hour.

So, using that fuel burn as just a number to work with... you are looking at an semi/totally autonomous rotary wing platform with a gross weight above 8000 lbs at a minimum... because with 24 hours of fuel as well as that 2500lb payload you're looking at 6000 lbs right there... that's not even counting airframe weight.

To put it into perspective with Apples to apples...

2 pilots at risk flying a bird that can only carry 1500 lbs for 2.8 hours
No pilots at risk flying an aircraft that can carry 5500 lbs for 3 hours

Nevermind that bird can carry a thousand pounds more than the hughes, for 24 hours straight. That bird's got better time aloft AND weight capacity than a damn cessna 206! With NO RUNWAY NEEDED!

Comparing it to a H500 isn't a fair comparison since they're not designed or used as cargo helicopters. A better comparison would be to a Blackhawk or a Chinook, Puma or Merlin.
 

Scotth

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No crew rest issues, no downed pilot recovery issues, reduced training pipeline for flight personnel... I can see a lot of positives for this.

Those are some solid points that I didn't consider along with a few others in this thread. I guess overall, when I read stories like this one or that blimp article that Pardus posted in another thread. We have huge expenses coming down the pipe maintaining our current fleet of AC. We are spending money on new gee wiz technology when almost every airframe in the military is being pushed to the limit. After 10 years of war the life span of all the aircraft currently in our inventory have been greatly reduced and will need replacement far earlier then ever planned.

Our country's economy is in the tank and were running huge deficits. Military spending cuts are coming or huge tax increases or continued huge deficits because those are the only realistic option ahead for our nation. I would rather see the money being spent today get directed to rebuild and replacing our current military equipment then money being spent on gear that might be nice but have limited use. Instead of spending money on R&D on remotely piloted helicopter that will have limited mission capability we spend that money and buy a handful of Blackhawks to replace the ones being worn out today. Instead of spending 1/2 a billion on a blimp program we buy a C-17 or two.

There just isn't enough money to do everything and neither party has a realistic plan to make our current spending work.
 

fox1371

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We could sell all of our old equipment to Pakistan!!!! They can buy it off of us with the money we give them!!!!
 

AWP

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Ask a bunch of guys on a remote FOB in crappy terrain that have a hell of a time getting re-supplied what they think.

I've only been on the resupply bird to those types of places and I know the answer; I can see it on their faces when we land.

Ok... I'll start at the top:

Those numbers exceed a Cessna 208's.....and even FedEx and the USPS use those for short haul missions here in the states. The Casa 212 almost doubles the capacity of this helo...on paper. Knowing what some of the Presidential flights carry out of Bagram, 3,450 lbs. outperforms even the Casa.
 
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