Warplanes: Born to be a Target


November18, 2006: One of the more successful UAVs in use these days spends most of its time deliberately getting shot at. The Mirach 100/5 target drone is the latest generation of such aircraft. Radio controlled aerial targets became practical, and popular, about half a century ago. The Mirach is typical of those in use today. It is a jet aircraft, weighing 700 pounds, and with a wingspan of about seven feet. It is launched via two small rockets, and can stay aloft for about 100 minutes, before it returns to earth via a parachute. While you can use towed targets for gunnery practice, for air-to-air missiles, you need a jet aircraft. The missiles are modified to not actually hit the drone, so that one drone sortie can provide training opportunities for several aircraft. The Mirach can be programmed to fly a certain course (using GPS), or can be controlled by an operator on the ground, or a nearby aircraft. The Mirach can be up to 65 kilometers from the operator. Some of the technology developed for target drones, helped in the emergence of modern UAVs, which became extremely useful mainly because cheaper, more powerful video cameras appeared, along with relatively cheap satellite communications.


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