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Air Force Drones Hit 1 Million Combat Hours 113

Posted by samzenpus
from the when-can-I-go-on-break? dept.
coondoggie writes "If you needed any more evidence as to how important unmanned aircraft have become to the US military operations, the US Air Force today said drones have amassed over one million combat hours flown. While that number is impressive, it took the planes known as Global Hawk, Predator and Reaper, almost 14 years to do it, but it could take only a little over another two years to cross the two million mark according to Air Force officials."
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Air Force Drones Hit 1 Million Combat Hours

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  • by darien.train (1752510) on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @03:05PM (#36533952) Journal
    "A moment of silence, please, to honor the brave robot we lost today in Libya: http://is.gd/e1Oyyj [is.gd] "- Original Link [twitter.com]
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Murdering goat herders from 50000 feet by remote control is the most extreme form of cowardice I have ever seen or heard of.

    • by flyingsquid (813711) on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @04:11PM (#36534884)

      Murdering goat herders from 50000 feet by remote control is the most extreme form of cowardice I have ever seen or heard of.

      Engaging the Taliban with robots is not a fair fight. It's not honorable. But the point of combat isn't a fair fight, it's not to gain honor, it's to win. And winning means making the fight as unfair as possible- fighting him on your terms, not his, using tactics and terrain where you can use your strengths and your equipment to your advantage. So instead of engaging the Taliban on foot, you engage him in such a way that he can't hit you back. That means engaging masses of Taliban with AK-47 assault rifles with A-10s tankbusters armed with 30 mm gatling guns designed to take out Soviet armor. Chasing down footsoldiers with Apache gunships. Obliterating Taliban headquarters with GPS guided artillery rockets which allow you to put 200 pounds of high explosive within a meter of where you're aiming, from 25 miles away. Or having some guy in Nevada shoot at a truck carrying Taliban leaders with a Reaper drone.

      Fighting unfairly is nothing new. That's why armies try to take the high ground, and have better weapons and armor than their enemies, and to attack with superior numbers, and better discipline. Because it makes the fight unfair. Fighting unfairly is how the Battle of Agincourt was won. The English used a weapon- the longbow- that allowed them to take out the French knights before the French could get them. It was unfair, it was dishonorable, and it delivered the French a crushing defeat. And fighting unfairly and dishonorably is also how the Taliban fight. The Taliban have trouble beating the U.S. in a firefight so they have increasingly used improvised explosive devices that allow them to attack U.S. troops without exposing themselves. They pretend they're civilians so the U.S. doesn't know who to hit. They hide in the middle of civilians so that it's impossible to attack them without hitting civilians. They use suicide bombers. Is it fair? Is that honorable? Of course not. But their goal is to win, not to be honorable, or to fight fair.

      There are limits to what's acceptable. Killing civilians deliberately, or with reckless disregard, is one of these, and sometimes the U.S. military has done this. And whether the U.S. really should be in Afghanistan at this point is debatable. But fighting unfairly is the whole point and it's naive to argue otherwise.

      • in these 'contingency operations', then its kind of hard to understand what 'winning' means. nobody can tell us. can you?

        i read somewhere that you can't win a counter-insurgency by pissing off the entire population.

        and i read another thing about this place called vietnam, where we killed hundreds of thousands of them, someting like 10-2o times more than they killed of us. and they still won.

      • by tehcyder (746570)

        Engaging the Taliban with robots is not a fair fight. It's not honorable. But the point of combat isn't a fair fight, it's not to gain honor, it's to win.

        It's not killing armed Taliban fighters that is the problem, genius, it's flattening entire villages because someone told you that the Taliban might be there, and, oh dear, looks like we were wrong, there's another nail in the coffin of winning hearts and minds.
        We are not fighting against the whole of Afghanistan, we are fighting against the Taliban - that's the difference from WWII.

      • The English used a weapon- the longbow- that allowed them to take out the French knights before the French could get them.

        Technically the French tried to charge across a muddy bog in heavy armour, they were sitting ducks once the horses got stuck, so it had less to do with longbows and more to do with a really bad tactical decision.

    • Them's some mighty selective notions of "honor" and "cowardice" you got there, skippy! Care to explain your reasoning further (mostly so I can dissect your straw men, sneer at your ad hominems, Godwin you relentlessly, and generally mock your pathetic attempts at antidisestablishmentarianistic trolling).
      • Main Entry: antidisestablishmentarianism
        Definition: originally, opposition to the disestablishment of the Church of England, now opposition to the belief that there should no longer be an official church in a country

        • by Xaedalus (1192463)
          Damn it, wickedskaman! You've undermined my mojo!!!! I must cry now.
          • by tehcyder (746570)

            Damn it, wickedskaman! You've undermined my mojo!!!! I must cry now.

            Try not showing off with long words you don't understand next time you post, or else buy a dictionary.

            • by Xaedalus (1192463)
              I'll be sure and do that just as soon as you develop an appreciation for self-depreciating humor in the revelation of one's personal error. Now go be a douche to someone else, your work is done here.
    • by couchslug (175151)

      War is not sportsmanship. It is never supposed to BE sportsmanship.

      When war is resorted to, the enemy is either to submit, or die.

      • i believe our executive branch just told us that the UAVs in libya are not a 'hostile act',
        so i am trying to figure out how you can be in a 'war' if its not 'hostile'.

        or is it 'contingency operation' ? i get them confused.

        • by swalve (1980968)
          You are the same jackass that was bleating about BHO not going into Libya gunz-a-blazin' right up until he did, and then it was the worst idea ever.
      • by tehcyder (746570)

        War is not sportsmanship. It is never supposed to BE sportsmanship.

        When war is resorted to, the enemy is either to submit, or die.

        We are not at war with Afghanistan, you utter clown.

    • by calzakk (1455889)

      Murdering goat herders from 50000 feet by remote control is the most extreme form of cowardice I have ever seen or heard of.

      This is Earth, not Kronos. Cowardice is irrelevant, winning is everything.

  • A good thing... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by steve buttgereit (644315) on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @03:26PM (#36534260) Homepage

    ...that these things, by today's definitions, are neither hostile nor a part of war. It would be a much less peaceful world otherwise.

  • When my dad was in Viet Nam he flew C-130s in combat situations, and while he was there he led the entire Air Force in combat hours. I remember he had 1,142 combat missions, I don't remember the number of combat hours, but I think his career total including C-141s and non-combat hours was maybe 10-11,000. So he probably had what, 1-2,000 combat hours? It probably cost a million dollars to train him. I realize humans are controlling these things, but still, the efficiency of the whole thing is pretty stagger
  • by schwit1 (797399) on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @03:31PM (#36534350)

    UAVs are smaller, more versatile, cheaper to buy and maintain, stealthier, don't get tired(in the traditional sense) and can loiter for greater periods. The Canadians estimate each F35 at $150M. I don't see an advantage for the F35 that UAVs won't meet or exceed in a few more years. The F35 is a plane looking for a mission, like the Comanche attack helicopter was.

    • by Ihmhi (1206036)

      Well, UAVs are still pretty new militarily. Originally they were just surveillance devices until someone figured out how to strap some Hellfire missiles onto the thing.

      The thing we've yet to see is UAV to UAV combat. Most UAVs have air-to-ground missiles. What happens when someone starts building air-to-air UAVs to target the Predators and the like?

      • Derp, I forgot to add - I think we're seriously going to see what basically amount to Protoss Carriers in the next 10-20 years. A C-130 or AC-130 that can launch and retrieve fighter-style drones from its bays, and not have any latency or signal loss issues over long distances.

        • by timeOday (582209)
          Latency may not matter much, since UAV-on-UAV combat will be handled at long ranges, by smaller single-use UAVs called missiles :)
        • by couchslug (175151)

          There is nothing useful about that idea. One needs to refuel and reload and maintain combat systems, and a flying platform is a terrible place to do it.

        • by mcrbids (148650)

          Carriers? That's just silly.

          The latency for a radio link of 250 miles is in the order of a few milliseconds, and 250 miles is enough range to make finding a semi-mobile "home base" somewhere between tough and impossible.

          As a pilot, I routinely hear radio calls 250 miles away when flying 10,000 feet; having a radio-relay essentially circling near the home base at 10,000 feet to support drone activity for a 500 mile circumference is a small price to pay. And the cost of having two such relays circling at 10,0

          • by Ihmhi (1206036)

            I'm pretty sure someone thought it was silly to launch airplanes off of boats a hundred or so years ago.

            You're missing a crucial bit here. The whole thing is about mobility. Let's say that we need to deploy a whole butt-ton of UAVs somewhere and fast. There really isn't a rapid deployment system for a fleet of UAVs as far as we know.

            A carrier plane would allow more than a few possibilities. First, you can resupply and re-arm closer to the actual deployment zone. Broken UAVs can make it back to "base" before

        • by hitmark (640295)

          I could have sworn i have recently read about a UAV that could be dropped out of a cargo plane in flight.

        • by AmiMoJo (196126)

          Speaking of signal loss why don't the enemy jam these things? I know they are not RC planes and won't just drop out of the sky if the radio link is cut, but they still need orders to attack and use GPS for navigation.

        • Already been done experimentally back in the 50's. The B-36 could "dock" with fighters [wikipedia.org], but I guess the concept didn't turn out to be a very good idea...

    • UAVs are smaller, more versatile, cheaper to buy and maintain, stealthier, don't get tired(in the traditional sense) and can loiter for greater periods. The Canadians estimate each F35 at $150M. I don't see an advantage for the F35 that UAVs won't meet or exceed in a few more years. The F35 is a plane looking for a mission, like the Comanche attack helicopter was.

      You will be hard pressed to find a more strident critic of the F-35 than myself. I think it's an overpriced, under-performing, designed-by-committee farce. That said, it's still a fighter. UAV's, thus far, are not. I keep hearing people say "we should get rid of manned planes because UAV's do the job better and cheaper". Well, in many cases, yes. UAV's are pitch-perfect for things like long range maritime surveillance. But we're still going to need manned aircraft for many, many decades. We're nowhere near

      • The current generation jets like the F-22 and F-35 are already capable of supplying more performance than the human pilot can use by a wide margin. Unless inertial compensator's are invented the current generation will most likely be the last. What would be the point of re-designing for more performance when the current models already exceed the human ability to fly? UAVs might be vulnerable to jet attacks but the question is could a jet destroy 50 UAVs before being targeted and destroyed. The Constellation
    • by Graymalkin (13732)

      Drones can currently only operate in theaters where we have complete air superiority. In a theater where the opposing ground forces had effective surface-to-air or air-to-air defenses drones wouldn't be very practical.

      There is a push for the development of UCAVs that would be able to carry air-to-air weapons as well as more directly engage surface-to-air targets but there's still limitations like communication lag or communications in general. A stealthy fighter can operate as long as it has fuel and it doe

      • if you are bankrupt.

        ask Adolf Hitler.

      • by hitmark (640295)

        A UCAV with a proper sensor setup may have better situation awareness then a pilot. Nor do they get stressed or tired. Main problem would be IFF and target selection, and liability in case of a civilian or blue on blue incident.

  • by kamapuaa (555446) on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @03:42PM (#36534490) Homepage

    I like the program and hope to see it expanded. I think the US should have these continually flying sortees all over the world. So if a bad guy shows up in Europe, the US can easily take him out with a Tomahawk missile or two.

    • by AliasMarlowe (1042386) on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @03:53PM (#36534650) Journal

      I like the program and hope to see it expanded. I think the US should have these continually flying sorties all over the world. So if a bad guy shows up in Europe, the US can easily take him out with a Tomahawk missile or two.

      I'd prefer if they started by doing this in Manhattan.
      I heard there are some non-patriots actually inside the Beltway in D.C.

    • Tomahawk missiles are not currently launched from UAV's. You mean Hellfire missiles. They are small enough and still keep the stealth profile to a minimum.
    • Gross. Why the hell should my country be policing the world? Why should my tax dollars go towards funding anything other than an investment in my own country. Let the other countries find the bad guys within their borders. I, for one, am sick and tired of funding the unofficial, undeclared world police.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Well for example if Greece is going to default on its debt, it will have financial implications to the US as well. So the US could just let them know that they have a Hellfire missile within range of the Greek parliament.

        • I guess Greece is not about to default for the lulz but because the economy is really fucked up there. Do you point your gun to a homeless person to oblige him to be a normal prosper citizen? Does it work?

          I hope you're joking AC, but I have less faith in society than in your particular bit of nonsense.

          As for the world police enthusiast, no, you can create havoc in underdeveloped countries but you can't just start to roam the world skies as "the finger of God" ready to kill anyone anywhere anytime.

          You probab

  • by Paul Fernhout (109597) on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @03:46PM (#36534534) Homepage

    http://www.pdfernhout.net/recognizing-irony-is-a-key-to-transcending-militarism.html [pdfernhout.net] ... because they are created essentially to force humans to work like robots in an industrialized social order. Why not just create industrial robots to do the work instead? ... There is a fundamental mismatch between 21st century reality and 20th century security thinking. Those "security" agencies are using those tools of abundance, cooperation, and sharing mainly from a mindset of scarcity, competition, and secrecy. Given the power of 21st century technology as an amplifier (including as weapons of mass destruction), a scarcity-based approach to using such technology ultimately is just making us all insecure. Such powerful technologies of abundance, designed, organized, and used from a mindset of scarcity could well ironically doom us all whether through military robots, nukes, plagues, propaganda, or whatever else... Or alternatively, as Bucky Fuller and others have suggested, we could use such technologies to build a world that is abundant and secure for all.

    (I know, I'm like a broken record on this -- for those who remember broken scratched records...)

    • The one big problem with that theory is that everyone needs to recognize that it's wasteful of resources to fight wars. As long as you have one group that's willing to continue the fight, (Al-quida) your stuck. My biggest complaint about George W. Bush was that he didn't use the war as a chance to break our dependance on foreign oil. Not for environmental reasons, but for basic strategic ones... It's the heights of stupidity to pay for your enemies war.
      • Remember, the USA helped create bin Laden by funding and training and arming him to fight against the USSR...

        Yes, I agree on the need to switch to alternative energy and energy efficiency. The total US military budget is somewhere around US$1 trillion per year (or more with interest). That's a lot of solar panels and wind turbines and home insulation. Amory Lovins (IIRC) suggested decades ago that just the operating cost for two years of the US Persian Gulf deployment force would be enough to imporve US ene

    • the street without any way to feed themselves.

      you want to have robots picking the crops and building things . fine.

      who decides what the robots pick and what they build?

      and how much of it they pick and how much they build?

      its going to be the people who own the land and the people who own the raw materials that the robots work with.

      everyone else is going to be sent to die.

  • I'll bet that's gonna leave a mark
  • by Kiyooka (738862) on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @04:00PM (#36534746)

    Robots dehumanize war, but if war shifts away from human casualties, isn't this a good thing?

    Will drones ever be cheaper than training a grunt?

    • by idontgno (624372)

      At what point does the dehumanization of combat come full circle and become robots fighting robots, may the side with the last robot standing win?

      I can't tell if this would be Heaven or Hell... because a war with no appreciable human cost becomes the war that never ends.

      It is well that war is so terrible - otherwise we would grow too fond of it.

      -- Robert E. Lee
      Battle of Fredericksburg (13th December 1862)

      • That will never happen. They will go for the command & control systems instead of seeking robotic attrition.
      • by TubeSteak (669689)

        At what point does the dehumanization of combat come full circle and become robots fighting robots, may the side with the last robot standing win?

        When African and the Middle East are finally pulled out of their poverty and can afford robots.
        Until then it'll be child soldiers, suicide bombers, and improvised explosive devices.

        I can't tell if this would be Heaven or Hell... because a war with no appreciable human cost becomes the war that never ends.

        It just becomes a war of financial attrition instead of human attrition.
        Once your country can no longer afford the warbots, the opposing force either kills your people, or you surrender.

      • not armed combatants.

        if you make the soldiers robotic, then you will have an ever increasing percentage of dead who are civilians.

  • by nimbius (983462) on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @06:54PM (#36536606) Homepage
    an accomplishment really, its like gloating about the uptime counter on the
    quarter million dollar accounting server with occasional atrocious mathematics.

    Less war machines...more science machines.
  • The US is still using the proverbial 1% doctrine, where if there's a remote chance the bad guys are there...well fire away! The President even admitted the hit rate for the OBL raid was about 55%. What no one seems to give a shit about is if you adopt that 1% chest-thumping policy, you're wrong 99% and killing innocent civilians. In fact, wasn't it the current regional commander who admitted we're killing far more civilians than tur'rists?

    I'll be more impressed with these drones if we see them performing

  • There is so much technological progress now that U.S.A. is not on war with anybody, imagine if U.S.A. was on war!!!!

A LISP programmer knows the value of everything, but the cost of nothing. -- Alan Perlis

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