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Predator C Avenger Makes First Flights 304

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the video-game-warfare dept.
stoolpigeon writes "General Atomics' new unmanned combat aerial vehicle, the Predator C Avenger, has been making test flights. This new Predator has a stealthy design, 20-hour endurance, is jet powered and has an internal weapons bay. A number of photos have just become available. 'The aircraft was designed so the wings can be folded for storage in hangars or aircraft carrier operations if a naval customer is found. Cassidy, a retired admiral, has talked about a possible Navy role for Predator C since 2002. The Navy was interested in the Predator B's capabilities, but didn't want to introduce any new propeller-driven aircraft onto carrier decks. The UAV also comes with a tailhook, suggesting that carrier-related trials are planned. The inner section of the cranked wing is deep, providing structural strength for carrier landings and generous fuel volume while maintaining a dry, folding outer wing. Right now, the US Air Force and Royal Air Force are considered the most likely users.'"
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Predator C Avenger Makes First Flights

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  • F-22 (Score:4, Insightful)

    by p51d007 (656414) on Friday April 17, 2009 @06:19PM (#27620943)
    Possibly part of the reason they want to cancel the F-22. Yes, I think UAV's will eventually be the planes of the future, but you still need manned aircraft for a while. With a UAV, you have no environmental system for a pilot, plane can out turn (G's) one with a pilot, and most importantly, you don't put the pilots life at risk.
  • by meringuoid (568297) on Friday April 17, 2009 @06:24PM (#27620997)
    So we'll be having parades of unmanned planes on trailers going down streets on Veterans Day? Salute our brave button pushers.

    Works for me. You may like wars to be about heroism and patriotism and motherhood and apple pie and dulce et decorum est pro patria mori and all that bullshit, but I prefer them to be won, as quickly as possible, and with as few people getting hurt as possible. If that can be achieved by using robots instead of humans, that's just fine.

  • Re:F-22 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by meringuoid (568297) on Friday April 17, 2009 @06:28PM (#27621051)
    Yes, I think UAV's will eventually be the planes of the future, but you still need manned aircraft for a while. With a UAV, you have no environmental system for a pilot, plane can out turn (G's) one with a pilot, and most importantly, you don't put the pilots life at risk.

    I can't imagine why anybody would build another fighter jet after the F-22. I mean, yes, in terms of performance and stealth and all that it's every flyboy's wet dream. But the Battle of Britain was seventy years ago, and the days of heroic pilots taking each other on in exciting single combat are long gone. Planes now are just missile launch platforms, and the contest between them mostly a matter of getting the first radar lock and then letting rip; is it not therefore better to use cheap mass-produced drones for that task, rather than risking some technological masterwork and the colossal ego behind the stick over hostile territory?

  • by jstults (1406161) on Friday April 17, 2009 @06:38PM (#27621153) Homepage
    A "grossly obvious fact" for your consideration: "Those who 'abjure' violence can only do so because others are committing violence on their behalf." http://www.george-orwell.org/Notes_on_Nationalism/0.html [george-orwell.org]
  • by meringuoid (568297) on Friday April 17, 2009 @06:42PM (#27621193)
    You strike me as the type of person who would become a doctor and then refuse to perform abortions because it was against your "morals".

    Nonsense. He's the type of person who had the ability to become a doctor, but would refuse to do so if it would come with the expectation that he would perform abortions, and so instead found a different line of work. That's a perfectly morally acceptable way to behave.

    And he asks a worthwhile question too. It's similar to the question often asked of defence lawyers as to how they can defend people they know to be guilty. If you're a programmer of weapons systems, how does that sit with your conscience? Especially unmanned warplanes: while the current generation are remotely controlled by some guy with a joystick, future models are expected to be fully autonomous - which means that somebody, somewhere, right now, is working on the AI code to control them. AI code to make decisions as to whether to fire weapons. AI code to decide whether to kill somebody.

    How can that person sleep at night? Since there's a realistic possibility that such a person is reading /., the question's well worth asking, and the answers could well be very interesting and illuminating.

  • Re:F-22 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by meringuoid (568297) on Friday April 17, 2009 @06:48PM (#27621279)
    We need manned aircraft right now, and the F-15 is not only good enough, it's far far more than good enough.

    Not necessarily. The US isn't going to sell anybody any F-22s. But the European nations are selling Typhoons to every friendly nation that has the money. And history shows us that a friendly nation today can be distinctly hostile tomorrow: that's how come there are F-14s in the Iranian air force. Skip the F-22, and some day the US might find itself going up with F-15s against Typhoons, and that's a bloody dangerous thing to be doing. F-22 represents a clear advantage over any rival aircraft of any nation for the foreseeable future, and that's what the Pentagon pays the big money for.

    I expect that the F-22 will be the last of the breed - the high water mark of the fighter jet family, rarely used, and sidelined in its own lifetime by cheaper robot drones. This century's Mallard train. But in the meantime it might just turn out to be worth having.

  • by Vinegar Joe (998110) on Friday April 17, 2009 @06:48PM (#27621287)

    Gandhi threw the British out of India using active, aggressive, non-violent resistance.

    I wonder how long Gandhi would have lasted using "active, aggressive, non-violent resistance" against Stalin or Mao.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 17, 2009 @06:54PM (#27621361)

    Isn't the issue here the cavalier attitude that being able to fight wars with out cost will engender. The idea of the citizen soldier was born specifically because when a society had no personal investment in a conflict they became endemic.

    See Also: The mercenary wars fought in late medieval Europe.

  • by j. andrew rogers (774820) on Friday April 17, 2009 @07:01PM (#27621427)

    Gandhi threw the British out of India using active, aggressive, non-violent resistance.

    That strategy worked because the opponent was the British and Gandhi understood how to exploit the culture he was fighting. It would have been a foolish strategy if it had been, say, the Soviets.

  • by copponex (13876) on Friday April 17, 2009 @07:06PM (#27621499) Homepage

    The previous Predators cost 9 million for the aircraft itself, and another 20 to 30 million for the controlling systems, from what I could read. It can carry 14 hellfire missiles, which are $25,000 a piece. I think we're spending 3 billion per year just on the aircraft acquisition.

    So, every day, we send out these 10 million dollar drones, which cost a few thousand per hour to operate, with $350,000 of ammunition. 25% of these aircraft have been lost in operations. Meanwhile, $75,000 would build a school, supply it, and provide money for staff for five years in Afghanistan.

    So when you're trying to prevent a young muslim from becoming a radical, what's the better option - allowing him the chance to have an education, or blowing up his brother's wedding party and then air dropping him some pudding cups with little American flags on them?

    The fact that people keep choosing the second option astonishes me.

  • by spire3661 (1038968) on Friday April 17, 2009 @07:10PM (#27621537) Journal

    This has been answered MANY times, Ghandi's approach only works when the oppressor in question is capable of shame.

  • by meringuoid (568297) on Friday April 17, 2009 @07:12PM (#27621555)
    Isn't the issue here the cavalier attitude that being able to fight wars with out cost will engender. The idea of the citizen soldier was born specifically because when a society had no personal investment in a conflict they became endemic.

    Depends what you want to do. You couldn't fight a war like the current campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan with drones alone - those are wars of occupation, with large numbers of infantry on the ground. The advantage comes with conflicts like those we saw from time to time in the 1990s: faction A (we like) are fighting faction B (we don't like), but we lack the will for a proper war, so we just bomb faction B's facilities and units and let faction A take advantage. That's the kind of situation where drones would be wonderful. Mind you, I don't think the risk to pilots is a major deterrent to our leaders in that case: it's more a matter of how the scenes of devastation on the ground will play with the voters, and those are the same whether it's a human or a drone that did it.

    See Also: The mercenary wars fought in late medieval Europe.

    According to Machiavelli, the problem with those wasn't so much that the availability of mercenaries let leaders go to war with less risk to their own people: it was that the mercenaries themselves were unreliable and disloyal. For a start they'd fight only for their pay, and so their stomach for a losing battle was considerably less; and if the mercenaries won their battle, then whatever lands had been conquered were held by the triumphant prince only so long as he kept the loyalty of the mercenaries. Whose price, of course, just went steeply upward. Better, he said, to triumph by your own arms. This, at least, is not a problem with machines, which will happily sacrifice themselves for you, more willingly than even the most jingoistic soldier.

  • Re:F-22 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland@@@yahoo...com> on Friday April 17, 2009 @07:15PM (#27621587) Homepage Journal

    What do you think happens now if your enemy could 'start jamming all frequencys'?
    The plane become useless.
    Fortunatly, that's not a practical scenario.

    These plane can fly themselves.

    You are really thinking about UAV's 15-20 years ago.

    All the problems you talk about have pretty much been solved.

  • by spire3661 (1038968) on Friday April 17, 2009 @07:16PM (#27621593) Journal

    Decision to fire a weapon, or to be more precise the ORDER to go 'weapons hot' will remain the same as it is today, from the chain of command. It will not be making 'decisions' to fire, but rather acting on orders, just like we have today with human pilots. While yes it may run variables to determine best target, time to fire etc, the 'decision' to allow weapon fire will always come from above. I understand what you are getting at but I felt the impression you were giving was too skynet-esque for my taste.

  • Re:F-22 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hazem (472289) on Friday April 17, 2009 @07:24PM (#27621681) Journal

    UAV's are awesome right up until your enemy decides that it is easier to just jam all available frequencies while launching their attacks. Frequency hopping will help but if you start losing even momentarily control your weapons start falling off target and aircraft can be dangerously uncontrollable.

    The problem with jamming is it's really hard to hide a jammer (basically a broad-spectrum transmitter) from systems designed to locate transmitters. We already have aircraft designed to locate and take out radar systems http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EF-111A_Raven [wikipedia.org]. This shouldn't be too hard to adapt for jammers as well. Maybe those could still be flown by human pilots.

    And as the AUVs become even more autonomous, the need for high bandwidth communication will diminish, making jamming even less of a problem.

    But even if you do start losing AUVs fast, they're much easier to replace than planes with pilots.

  • Re:F-22 (Score:2, Insightful)

    by konigstein (966024) on Friday April 17, 2009 @07:33PM (#27621771) Homepage

    Another critical aspect is the distance/lag between the operater and the drone. THAT, in my unprofession and entirely biased opinion (IANARAWAO "I Am Not Anything Remotely Associated With Aerospace Operations") is that major key. When ms count, operators can be seconds away.

    And then there's the whole "what happens when the enemy deploys jammers that interrupt all frequencies" thing..

  • Re:A new (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mpthompson (457482) on Friday April 17, 2009 @07:40PM (#27621823)

    Unfortunately ShieldW0lf is part of a growing of subculture here at SlashDot who advocate murder as a perfectly legitimate method of advancing their social grievances. I ran into a few the other day advocating the murder of all cops.

    I guess it's all part of the new "hope and change" we are experiencing here in America.

  • F-15 is *OLD* tech (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 17, 2009 @07:42PM (#27621835)

    Do you have any real inkling of just how old the technology in the F-15 is?

    Try this: make a timeline. Start at 1945. End at today - 2009. Now, put the year of the first flight of the F-15 - 1970 - on that timeline. In scale. Realize that the technology of the F-15 predates it by a few years.

    Yes. The F-15 reaches fully two-thirds of the way back to the days when propeller-driven P-51 Mustangs were the front-line fighter of the US Army Air Force.

    And get this: F-15 technology dates to 45 years ago. Aircaft have been flying for only 106 years.

    Yeah. You could say the McDonnel Douglas designers of the F-15 did one helluva good job. But don't forget those guys probably cut their teeth working on DC-3 designs. Literally.

    That means most F-15 airframes are getting old, too. And need to be replaced because they're worn out.

    Hell, it's even worse of the US Navy. It's "new" front-line fighter is the F/A-18E/F "Super Hornet". That's nothing more than an overgrown YF-17, which lost the Air Force competition for a "light weight fighter". In about 1973 or so. And that's the US Navy's "new" fighter.

  • Re:F-22 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Animats (122034) on Friday April 17, 2009 @08:29PM (#27622315) Homepage

    But the Battle of Britain was seventy years ago, and the days of heroic pilots taking each other on in exciting single combat are long gone. Planes now are just missile launch platforms, and the contest between them mostly a matter of getting the first radar lock and then letting rip;

    Actually, no. Aerial combat was important in Korea, in Israel's wars, in the first Gulf War, and in the recent Georgian debacle. If the other side has air, you had better have fighters. "American troops have not had to fight under a hostile sky since WWII. This did not happen by accident." as USAF types like to say.

    It's worth bearing in mind that the two big US wins against a serious opponent in recent decades were both against Saddam Hussein, who was totally incompetent at running a major war. (He had three, two against the US and one against Iran. The one against Iran was a long inept bloodbath.) Someday the US may have to take on someone who 1) has a substantial military force, and 2) a clue about how to use it.

  • by grantdh (72401) on Friday April 17, 2009 @08:45PM (#27622447) Homepage Journal

    There's going to be a whole lot of pissed off Navy pilots if they make a UAV that can land on a carrier deck at night in crap weather. Their main reason for superiority over all other pilots will be shot to hell.

    When Navy pilots say "Flaring to land is like squatting to pee" then land based pilots will be able to come back with "Oh come on, landing on a carrier is so simple, even a computer can do it!" :)

  • Re:F-22 (Score:2, Insightful)

    by bgray54 (1207256) on Friday April 17, 2009 @08:58PM (#27622551)
    You might be right about the dogfighting days being over. But just remember that the same argument was made 4 decades ago when they decided that F-4s didn't need guns.
  • Re:F-22 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Bender0x7D1 (536254) on Friday April 17, 2009 @09:30PM (#27622745)

    When ms count, operators can be seconds away.

    As long as the operator is in the same hemisphere, the furthest distance the signal has to travel is to a geostationary satellite and back, about 72,000 km. The speed of light is 300,000 km/second. Even with the inefficiencies in the satellite and equipment, it is going to be less than a 1 second delay for the stimulus to be transmitted to the station, and the operator's response to be returned. Of course, this doesn't include the reaction time of the human, which is around 190 ms for a visual stimulus [wikipedia.org].

    As long as energy weapons aren't in general battlefield use, there will be plenty of time for an operator to react. The latest Sidewinder missile travels at Mach 2.5. If a launch is detected 2 miles away, (which is pretty close - a Sidewinder's range is from 0.6-11.3 miles), this gives almost 4 seconds for action to be taken. Even with the extra time for the signal to be transmitted, the higher G forces that can be tolerated by an unmanned drone will probably give it a higher chance of survival than a manned aricraft.

    Of course, IANARAWAO, either.

  • Re:A new (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ShieldW0lf (601553) on Friday April 17, 2009 @09:46PM (#27622841) Journal

    Right. I'm a brutal asshole who advocates the act of murder. And the people who make and sell killer robot drones are a social grievance.

    I think you need to re-examine things.

  • Re:F-22 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by stoolpigeon (454276) * <bittercode@gmail> on Friday April 17, 2009 @10:18PM (#27623031) Homepage Journal

    Pilots might be willing to take the risk, but the loss is not only visible and politically damaging, but expensive. Pilots are the cream of the crop and it takes a long time to train them.
     
    Training UAV pilots takes much less time and is much less expensive. I've read about high school drop-outs that picked up their ged and are now top notch uav pilots for the army.
     
    I think robots are going to change the world in many, many ways. I think UAVs will also start to be used more and more by police forces. Think of the cost for police helicopters and airplanes that are used for surveillance and the people who fly them. UAVs will provide more coverage at a much lower cost. And this is all just airborne stuff. We aren't even talking about the stuff on the ground and in the water.

  • Re:A new (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 18, 2009 @12:29AM (#27623683)

    Troll? His view is perfectly valid.

    While you may not agree due to the large amount of propaganda and FUD that you (the American public) gets fed, there is no moral difference between the predator drone shooting an Iraqi insurgent and that insurgent using an IED to kill an American soldier.

    There are no "good guys" or "bad guys" in war. There is only perspective. A civilized and educated people would understand this. America is neither.

  • Re:F-22 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sumdumass (711423) on Saturday April 18, 2009 @03:41AM (#27624483) Journal

    So your saying that a computer on board a UAV has the ability to choose a flight path, watch the ground, chose an indiscriminate target, determine that it is unfriendly with enough certainty to avoid the international backlash of killing innocent civilians or your own troops, determine the proper ammunition or armerments to use (*missiles or machine guns) and take action all without any contact from a human or a base or a command center or anything external to the UAV. And this has been around for a while now?

    Am I reading this right? Because as far as I know, outside a limited scope of autonomous guns guarding a demilitarized zone in which anyone entering from could be considered a threat, all the parameters get programed in as the UAV is in action. Even on the ground or with our automatic systems, we rely on freind or foe transponders to signify friendly troops or aircraft and distinguish them between incoming missiles or other threats. I seem to remember several allied fighter being fired apon in the last active engagements because the the Friendly acquisition systems were malfunctioning and we ended up taking it off an automatic response so that we could hail the radar contact just in case.

    Please tell me the name of this system that a UAV has that can set a patrol pattern, discover a truck load of people, determine that they are armed and not a humanitarian mission taking medical supplies to civilians somewhere, then target it with the appropriate weapons to ensure it's destruction without any contact from any other system or human (remember, we are talking about jamming communications). I'm really interested in this AI function that surpasses everything I know about.

  • Re:F-22 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sien (35268) on Saturday April 18, 2009 @07:00AM (#27625295) Homepage

    We as Chinese will feel unsafe until our technology is superior to yours. We cannot yet sleep safely at night.

    As your economy, due to shocking mis-management and two unwise wars is already effectively depends on our savings we don't think that overtaking your military technology will be too tough in the next 50 years.

    We believe that we must be ready for any contingency. With 4 times as many people and sustained 7 percent plus growth rates we will approach, catch and overtake you.

    You may not be able to sleep safely in future.

    Or we could work out ways to get along.

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