Warplanes: June 10, 2005


Theres a strange, and unreported, war going on in the air over Iraq. U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force UAVs (Unmanned Air Vehicles) are battling for, well, for respect and control of the air. It's not exactly a fair fight, mainly because the air force supplies the air space manager, who decides who goes where, and when, over the combat zone. This has always been a difficult job. While the air force has transports and warplanes zooming around, the army also has its helicopters and, most importantly, artillery shells, in the air. Everyone has to step aside when the artillery opens up, as the big guns have the right of way. But now the air space manager has to deal with an increasing number of UAVs. No problem, as long as they are air force UAVs. But now the army has more and more UAVs, and often more than the air force has. The air space manager increasingly turns out to be an air force officer directing mostly army air traffic. This does not seem right to the air force. 

Army UAV operators are increasingly getting the impression that they are not wanted, unless theres a mission deemed too dangerous for air force UAVs. Army UAV operators also know that the air force is not happy with army sergeants operating UAVs, while the air force only allows officers to fly UAVs. Air force attempts to establish standards for army UAV operators was rebuffed by the army. Unhappy with the difficulty in getting UAV, or any other support, from the air force on a timely basis, the army has increasingly bought more of its own UAVs. Army Hunters and Shadows compete with air force Predators.

But the air space manager will often restrict the use of army UAVs, for safety reasons. The army UAV officers get steamed, because the only thing the see at risk is the current air force attempt to get control over development of all UAVs, and perhaps all the ones the army wants to use. Or at least the larger ones, like the Hunter and Shadow, that compete with the air force Predator. The army often takes UAV missions the air force refuses, as too dangerous. At the same time, the army UAV operators find themselves being kept out of air space over an army combat operation, so that an air force Predator can be sent in to make the air force look good. 

Its getting ugly up there.




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