Title: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles: A Brief Look At The United States UAV-RPA Strategic Vision
Authors: Raul Colon
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II. Today’s UAV and RPA Platforms

Three main factors had combine to make the UAV systems more attractive to today’s armed forces.

(1) Technology: Major leaps in technology had made the implementation of a vast array of sensor systems into an unmanned aircraft more feasible today. Sensors and weapons payloads storage on UAV are been miniaturized for storage efficiency. Smaller and more capable systems provide the UAV and RPA greater capability per unit weight. New data link network are providing high bandwidth connectivity for UAV command and control, payload release and data transfer. Increments on microchip capabilities, added with an improve software, internal navigation systems and global positioning systems integrations; enables the UAV to acquire an almost autonomous flight control system. The use of new composite materials on the UAV airframe had incorporated stealthy features to the vehicle. Advances in air propulsions had resulted on increase fuel efficiency, thus extending the UAV level of operational endurance.

(2) Current Global Events. In the diverse and fluid environment that composes the world today, the UAV provides the armed forces with a flexible, highly deployable platform. UAV and RPA also can operate on environments deemed too difficult for humans to conduct operations. Such as a chemical, biological, even nuclear events. Long flight endurance provide continues support for updated ISR and targeting data collection

(3) The Unique Attributes. The special characteristics that the UAV and RPA offered field commanders more flexibility when planning a mission package. The endurance factor alone had reduced the need for a higher human sortie level. Fewer sorties also means that fewer risk are taking by manned aircraft and its pilots over hostile environments. The ability to operate in remote locations around the globe from ground stations located in the US, permit the UAV to be mission-ready without the need of a forward deployment, thus reducing forward deployment footprints, support, force protection and personnel level.

But despite all of its advances during the last two decades, the Air Force UAV and RPA programs are still in its infancy. The arming of the RQ-1 system with Hellfire missile is just but the first step on the evolution of these systems from a pure ISR profiles to an engagement operational platform. It is like the arming of biplanes with machines guns during the early days of aviation. The US Defense Department does not plan for a specific platform; it plans on capabilities and effects. The unmanned platform’s characteristics are neither, capability or an effect. By utilizing capability/bases mission planning for effect/bases operational profiles, the US can precisely determinate which specific mission packages are more appropriated for the UAV mission profile.

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