Air Weapons: USAF Proposes a C/B-17


November 19, 2005: The U.S. Air Force is now thinking about turning its C-17 transport into a bomber. In the last few years, the JDAM (satellite guided smart bomb) has made aerial bombing far more effective. Because of the satellite guidance (GPS), aircraft can drop the bomb from any altitude, and still get the same accuracy. Thus bombers can stay high, out of range of ground fire. That got people, inside and outside the air force, thinking about using transports, like the C-17, as bombers. Transports are equipped to drop heavy equipment, mounted on pallets, by parachute. It would be a simple matter to have smart bombs, on small pallets, shoved out the rear of C-17s (or C-130s, Etc.) This proposal upset the air force generals, most of whom are combat pilots. So the idea never went far, until now.

What has got the generals excited is using C-17s as a flying aircraft carrier. Well, sort of. The C-17s would carry pallets loaded with "Dominator" UAVs. The idea behind "Dominator" is persistence, a one way UAV that carries two or more missiles, and lots of sensors for finding targets. The Dominator could cruise around for 12, 24 or more hours. After that, it would self-destruct, or dive into a target. The air force has been working on the Dominator for two years now, and there's no guarantee that it would ever be built. It will be expensive for a disposable weapon, as it will have many of the characteristics of a UAV like the Predator, that costs over four million dollars each. The concept, apparently, is that the C-17 would get as close to the combat zone (taking enemy air defenses into account) as possible, and dump the Dominators out the back of the aircraft. Current plans call for a C-17 carrying twenty or more Dominators. Now that would be a formidable amount of ground attack air power. A dozen or more Dominators, that would cruise at about 250 kilometers an hour, could cover a huge area, which would become a no-go zone for enemy forces below.

And there's still the possibility of dropping JDAMs from C-17s as well…


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