War against ISIS shows limits of drones
Why not just send in the drones?
That seems the easy solution against the Islamic State, which has the capacity to shoot down jet aircraft and is vicious canada goose outlet michigan enough to burn captured pilots alive.
Yet as of March 31, only a handful of the more than 5,500 airstrikes carried out by the US and allies against ISIS were conducted by remote control drones. Whatever Hollywood may tell you, the drone revolution is still in its infancy.
That’s because while the US military has more than 8,000 drones, relatively few are armed and they are not as powerful as you might think.
The Air Force operates two types of drones that carry weapons, the MQ 1 Predator and the canada goose outlet sale toronto MQ 9 Reaper, both made canada goose lorette uk by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. of Poway, Calif. The Predator, originally designed canada goose outlet florida only for surveillance, was modified in 2001 to carry two laser guided AGM 114 Hellfire missiles. The Reaper, a larger version of the Predator, typically carries four https://www.zoetermeerinbeeld.nl Hellfires and two precision guided 500 pound bombs. The Air Force owns about 160 Predators and 140 Reapers, but not all are available to fly combat missions.
Meanwhile, the nature of drone operations means the armed fleet is spread thin.
ZUMA WireTo fly one Combat Air Patrol, defined as keeping one Predator or Reaper over a given canada goose uk size guide target canada goose outlet las vegas area 24/7, requires three to four aircraft canada goose outlet store near me one flying the patrol, another on its way to take the first one’s place, a third returning to base for maintenance and refueling, and a fourth already on the ground and being serviced. Given the size of its fleet, the canada goose baby uk Air Force currently can fly 65 armed drone patrols a day.
But with global responsibilities that include flying Predators and Reapers not only over the Middle East but canada goose on sale for black friday parts of Asia, Africa and sometimes elsewhere, only a few patrols have been devoted to the parts of Syria and Iraq where Islamic Canada Goose online State targets can be found a fact revealed, perhaps unintentionally, by Air Force budget documents released in February. A canada goose outlet toronto store slide in a presentation titled “United States Air Force Fiscal Year 2016 Budget Overview” warned that if Congress let automatic, across the board budget cuts known as sequestration take effect, the service would have to reduce canada goose outlet store uk its 65 daily armed drone patrols by 10, “equiv to Iraq/Syria today.”
Even if the armed drone fleet were far larger, though, today’s drones couldn’t do much damage to a foe such as the Islamic State because they carry very little firepower.
“They are a great asset to have,” said Eliot Cohen, a Johns Hopkins University professor and former Pentagon official who directed a Gulf War Air Power Survey for cheap canada goose the Air Force from 1991 to 1993. But “you’ve got to be realistic about what you can actually accomplish with them.”
The laser guided Hellfire is perhaps the most accurate air to ground weapon in the world, but its warhead weighs a mere 13 to 45 pounds, depending on the variant. Such a weapon is ideal for targeting an individual or a vehicle, as the CIA does in counterterrorism targeted killings, but the Hellfire falls far short of the firepower needed to attack big targets.
The larger Reaper can carry around 3,000 pounds of munitions the rough equivalent of six 500 pound bombs but that pales in comparison to the manned B 1 bomber, which can carry 80 such bombs, a payload of 40,000 pounds.
Why that’s important was dramatically illustrated in a Jan. 26 CBS News broadcast that showed how the Air Force needed nearly two dozen satellite guided bombs to destroy a building the Islamic State was using as a weapons factory. A B 1 dropped 16 GPS guided 2,000 pound bombs and six 500 pound bombs on the structure, their fuses timed to dig into the earth.
Rather than delivering firepower, the value of the Predator canada goose outlet kokemuksia and Reaper against the Islamic State is their ability to loiter over the war zone virtually around the clock, gathering intelligence, finding targets and leading manned aircraft to them with the aid of daylight video and infrared cameras, laser designators Canada Goose Outlet and other sensors.
But if the number and firepower of today’s drones limits their role in such conflicts, that probably won’t always be the case.
The Predator and Reaper are the drone equivalent of World War cheap canada goose china I’s biplanes, and future drones will be far more capable. The Navy is experimenting with a drone technology demonstrator the size of a conventional fighter plane, and one vision for the new F 35 Joint Strike Fighter sometimes called the “last manned fighter” is that its pilot may fly with a swarm of drone escorts equipped to penetrate tough canada goose outlet air defenses and rain weapons on enemy ground targets.