Warplanes: October 18, 2003


U.S. Army aviation is in for a shake up because of the success of UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) and the high cost (over $30 million each) of the new Comanche, and the older OH-58 Kiowa helicopters the Comanche is to replace. Because new UAVs can be developed and fielded so quickly (mainly because you dont have to worry about crew safety, since a UAV doesn't have a crew, unless you count the computer, which is not a recognized life form), the army is looking towards using more UAVs for scouting missions. The trend in UAV design is to have them work as wingmen for manned aircraft. Why not for transport and gunship helicopters as well? A UAV weighing several hundred pounds can move fast enough to keep up with helicopters. These UAVs can fly by themselves most of the time, and take general directions from a nearby helicopter pilot (and/or pilots on the ground). In any event, because of their cost, Comanche and Kiowa are at risk from much cheaper UAVs. Since Comanche isn't scheduled to replace the Kiowa's until 2009, there is plenty of time to develop and try out several generations of UAVs. 


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