Australia should boost stocks in drone aircraft, military lobby group says

2014-02-25

Australia should boost stocks in drone aircraft, military lobby group says

AN influential air power lobby group wants Australia to acquire long-range unmanned combat aircraft that can fire precision missiles against targets without risk to pilots.

According to the Canberra-based think tank, the Sir Richard Williams Foundation, so-called unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs) are developing at such a rapid rate that they could replace manned fighters by the late 2020s.

In a report entitled ‘Protecting Australia with UAS (unmanned aerial systems)’ launched today the foundation, which is run by former air force chief Errol McCormack, said that UCAVs must be considered in the long-range strike role that the RAAF lacked since the retirement of the F-111.

Former Labor Defence Minister Stephen Smith kicked off a debate about Australias possible purchase of unmanned strike aircraft, but there has been little public reaction to contentious issues such as accidental civilian casualties from remote controlled drone strikes in Afghanistan.

At present such strikes are carried out by unmanned aircraft such as Predators and Reapers that are not capable of defending themselves from attack.

However successful trials with aircraft such as the Northrop Grumman X-47B flying from US aircraft carriers indicated that technology was advancing rapidly.

“While for the foreseeable future, Australian aircrew will still drop weapons, some will do so from the cockpit of an aircraft and some perhaps from the confines of a ground station, the report said.

Ahead of a major air power conference in Canberra next week, the Williams Foundation said that a cultural shift was underway inside the Australian Defence Force to prepare it for opportunities presented by unmanned aerial systems.

Australia needs to start looking at the future acquisition of long-endurance unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAV) and their ability to deliver strike effects, it said.

But current UAS limitations, including lack of survivability in contested and denied airspace and the lack of assuredness of communication links and satellite coverage, need to be addressed before their potential can be fully realised.

The report cites RAAF Chief Air Marshal Geoff Brown pointing out that strike UAS did not make their own decisions on target selection and acceptable levels of collateral damage.

According to the Williams Foundation unmanned platforms must be able to communicate between each other, to a controlling aircraft or to a ground station.

A jammed signal could significantly degrade UCAV combat performance; this is less of an issue for manned fighters because of the skill and judgment resident on board in the aircrew. So while the human element of a fighter aircraft may be able to be stripped away, other areas will need to be enhanced and this will come at a cost.

In the short-term Australia is more interested in the surveillance capabilities of unmanned aircraft such as the US Navy Triton and the Abbott Government has signalled that it will spend $2.5 billion the capability.

The Triton (or US Air Force Global Hawk) can remain aloft for 30 hours and cover a vast area of ocean or land with a complex suite of sensors on board.

ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) is the growth area for ADF unmanned operations, the report said.

The Foundation said the Australian Defence Force must position itself as an informed and influential buyer to promote the development of multi-role UAS.


Region:  USA and Canada
Contry:  USA / Australia
Category:  UAV
Company:  Northrop Grumman / Global Hawk



USA GA-ASI UAV
Name:  Predator   Region:  USA and Canada    Country:  USA    Category:  UAV    Company:  GA-ASI   
Predator

Use(s): long-endurance reconnaissance, surveillance, target acquisition/designation, weapons delivery, communications relay, SIGINT Manufacturer: General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) Customers/Users: US Air Force, US Navy, Italian Air Force Powerplant: Rotax 914hp turbo Dimensions: length: 8m, wingspan: 17m Weight: empty: 567kg, MTOW: 1,043kg, max payload internal: 204kg, external: 136kg Performance: speed: 120kt, endurance: 40hr, ceiling: 25,000ft Payload: EO/IR, Lynx SAR/GMTI, SIGINT/ESM, Hellfire missiles Data Link: C-band LoS, Ku-band BLoS SATCOM Guidance/ Tracking: INS/GPS Launch: conventional wheeled Recovery: conventional wheeled Structure Material: semi-monocoque composite using pre-iimpregnated bi-directional graphite skin and Nomex honeycomb stiffening panels Status: in service

USA GA-ASI UAV
Name:  Predator B / MQ-9 Reaper   Region:  USA and Canada    Country:  USA    Category:  UAV    Company:  GA-ASI   
Predator B / MQ-9 Reaper

Use(s): reconnaissance, overland and maritime surveillance, target acquisition/designation, weapons delivery, communications relay, EW, SIGINT Manufacturer: General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) Customers/Users: US Air Force, US Navy, UK Royal Air Force, US Department of Homeland Security, NASA Powerplant: Honeywell TPE 331-1 OTkW turboprop Dimensions: length: 11 m, wingspan: 20m Weight: empty: 1,678kg, MTOW: 4,763kg, max payload internal: 385kg, external: 1,361kg Performance: speed: 240+kt, endurance: 30+hr, ceiling: 50,000ft Payload: EO/IR, Lynx SAR/GMTI, SIGINT/ESM, multi-mode maritime radar, AIS, communications relay, Hellfire missiles, GBU-12 and GBU-38 Data Link: C-band LoS, Ku-band BLoS satcom Guidance/Tracking: INS/GPS Launch: conventional wheeled Recovery: conventional wheeled Structure Material: semi-monocoque composite using pre-iimpregnated bi-directional graphite skin and Nomex honeycomb stiffening panels Status: in service

USA GA-ASI UAV
Name:  Predator C Avenger   Region:  USA and Canada    Country:  USA    Category:  UAV    Company:  GA-ASI   
Predator C Avenger

Use(s): reconnaissance, overland and maritime surveillance, target acquisition/designation, weapons delivery, communications relay, EW, SIGINT Customers/Users: not yet being used Manufacturer: General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) Powerplant: PW545B turbofan Dimensions: length: 13.4m, wingspan: 20.11m Weight: MTOW: 7,257kg, max payload: internal: 1,855kg, total: 2,722kg Performance: speed: 400kt; endurance: 20hr, ceiling: 50,000ft Payload: EO/IR, Lynx SAR/GMTI, SIGINT/ESM, communications relay, Hellfire missiles, GBU-12/49, GBU-16/48, GBU-31, GBU- 32, GBU-38, GBU-39, Data Link: C-band LoS, Ku-band BLoS satcom Guidance/ Tracking: INS/GPS Launch: conventional wheeled Recovery: conventional wheeled Structure Material: semi-monocoque composite using pre-impregnated bi-directional graphite skin and Nomex honeycomb stiffening panels Status: in production and test

USA Northrop Grumman UAV
Name:  X-47B UCAS   Region:  USA and Canada    Country:  USA    Category:  UAV    Company:  Northrop Grumman   
X-47B UCAS

Use(s): the Navy UCAS demonstration programme consists of two X-47B aircraft that will demonstrate autonomous launches and recoveries from an aircraft carrier in 2011 Manufacturer: Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems Weight: max payload: 4,500lb, 2,041kg Performance: ceiling: >40,000ft, mission radius: >1,500+nm Payload: potential payloads include EO, IR, SAR, ISAR, GMTI, MMTI, ESM Launch: catapult Recovery: conventional wheeled Structure Material: composite Status: in flight test Overall Length: 11.6m (38.2ft) Wingspan: 18.9m (62.1ft) Height: 3.2m (10.4ft) Aircraft Carrier Takeoff Gross Weight: 20,412kg (44,500lb) Speed: High subsonic Power Plant: Pratt & Whitney F100-220U



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