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Thread: US CAS rethinking going on

  1. #1
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    US CAS rethinking going on

    I was pleased to read that the A10 is now to remain in service until at least 2021.

    http://www.defensenews.com/a10%20retirement%202021

    In a further development, the US Air Force’s top general on Wednesday indicated he would be supportive of purchasing low-end attack aircraft to ease the pressure on state-of-the-art fighters deployed to the Middle East.

    In a white paper published Monday, McCain, the Republican leader of the Senate Armed Services Committee, proposed procuring 300 inexpensive, off-the-shelf fighter aircraft, 200 of which could be acquired by fiscal 2022.

    “The Air Force should embrace a 'high/low mix' of fighter aircraft. Very expensive fifth-generation technology is not needed in every scenario,” McCain wrote in the paper. If the Air Force purchased additional planes to supplement its current inventory, “these aircraft could conduct counterterrorism operations, perform close air support and other missions in permissive environments, and help to season pilots to mitigate the Air Force’s fighter pilot shortfall.”

    http://www.defensenews.com/articles/...k-aircraft-buy

    Has this new approach got anything to do with the new president? It seems suspiciously sensible, too much so to have been thought up by the military. Does this also augur well for the Scorpion? Hope so.
    Sum ergo cogito

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    Quote Originally Posted by Spitfire9 View Post
    I was pleased to read that the A10 is now to remain in service until at least 2021.

    http://www.defensenews.com/a10%20retirement%202021

    In a further development, the US Air Force’s top general on Wednesday indicated he would be supportive of purchasing low-end attack aircraft to ease the pressure on state-of-the-art fighters deployed to the Middle East.




    http://www.defensenews.com/articles/...k-aircraft-buy

    Has this new approach got anything to do with the new president? It seems suspiciously sensible, too much so to have been thought up by the military. Does this also augur well for the Scorpion? Hope so.
    As the F35 was in Plan A meant to take over the roll of the A10 among others, if a low end attack aircraft is purchased, with the intent that it will take on the permissive environment CAS role, does this mean that the requirement, numerically, for F35s has reduced or is the USAF to increase in size? It might be difficult to justify the projected F35A volumes if 2-300 low end attack aircraft have just been put in the inventory..

    I am trying to assume that there is a fixed(ish) procurement budget.

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    Goodbye another 300-ish F-35s. Not that I did not foresee that, it's actually a good thing..

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    As the F35 was in Plan A meant to take over the roll of the A10 among others, if a low end attack aircraft is purchased, with the intent that it will take on the permissive environment CAS role, does this mean that the requirement, numerically, for F35s has reduced or is the USAF to increase in size? It might be difficult to justify the projected F35A volumes if 2-300 low end attack aircraft have just been put in the inventory.
    The USAF end strength is a function of the threat and demand and it is that, that the CSAF factors in when he makes his/her recommendations for appropriate force levels on acquisition programs. What the strategic environment will look like and what the ultimate squadron requirements are is TBD and something that is years away from being decided. You are not going to be fine tuning strike fighter inventory for the 2030s and 2040's now..you only provide options as in a viable production line and an up to date strategy for the "present". The rest will be up to future CSAF's and political appointees to decide. Politically, the new administration plans to add to the USAF's squadron strength by around a 100 aircraft. The last time the USAF was asked to look at the F-35 numbers, they held them steady (This was less than 2 years ago). The CSAF at the moment (yesterday) does not want to have a look at them again but it is something that will most definitely be looked at periodically over the next 2 decades of planned production.
    Old radar types never die; they just phased array

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    Quote Originally Posted by MSphere View Post
    Goodbye another 300-ish F-35s. Not that I did not foresee that, it's actually a good thing..
    Doubtful, the USAF may go through with the "dog and pony show" CAS comparative tests in 2018. That does not mean that the A-10 will be found competitive considering the range of missions and scenarios that could be considered "Close Air Support".

    If I were to do a "Crystal ball" analysis of what the findings will be: Neither the A-10, or the F-35 were suitable for all CAS missions. The F-35 was superior in any sort of contested environment, the A-10 had superior persistence. The future close air support mission will be distributed across a variety of manned/unmanned platforms and the continued development of miniaturized munitions.

    And itt is likely that the CAS mission will be split between the F-35, drones, the B-1, B-21 (in the near future). As one of the Generals stated "“CAS is a mission, not an airplane". More to the point, the evidence from the last 16 years of conflict suggests that the A-10 isn't even the most valuable close air support platform (though it is the cheapest on a CPFH basis). Again, the Chief of Staff had a good point, "longer we have this discussion [about] the A-10 and don't connect it to how the A-10 fits into a family of systems, the more we're [stuck] having a 20th century dialogue about close-air support,".

    What the article does not state is that the USAF is continuing to divest itself of A-10's right up until 2021. The active squadrons will continue to drop as planned (the only difference is that it will be drawn out beyond the planned 2018 date).

    The F-35A numbers are not expected to change:
    The Air Force’s top uniformed leader also indicated that the F-35 review ordered by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis was unlikely to result in a smaller number of Lockheed Martin’s F-35As being bought by the Air Force
    Last edited by FBW; 8th February 2017 at 15:14.

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    "The F-35 will be an amazing plane, $30 million a piece, VTOL and CTOL, stealth, it will match the performance of the F-15, the F-16, the F-18, computer simulation will allow us to skip testing altogether and go straight to production..."
    "Cool, and can it take over the CAS role from the A-10?"
    "Euh... Sure, why not. Sign here."

    Buying these low end aircraft in 2022 means they'll be 20 years late. I'd think they're doing it on purpose.

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    It was never, EVER, a $30mil plane.
    "The early bird gets the worm but the second mouse gets the cheese."

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    For the question regarding the new administration, the Mc Cain's report was released, reviewed and agreed under Obama. Quickly after it was available, the USAF informed Textron that it will be waiting for an offer. We have posted here the link toward that article at the time.

    The name of the game is simply to do CAS on a leaner manner. With expensive platform, time and ressources consuming like the old Warthog, it is well advised to divest some of its non-specific mission toward more economical and better sensor equipped airframe. Then for the kill component, you still use the A10 immense ressources in that domain.

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    In a sensible world the US Army would have control (in all senses) of their own CAS and COIN

    And I don't say that to be listerine: we go one stage further in the UK by not letting the British Army have control of Utility and Transport helos
    Rule zero: don't be on fire

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    Quote Originally Posted by TomcatViP View Post
    For the question regarding the new administration, the Mc Cain's report was released, reviewed and agreed under Obama. Quickly after it was available, the USAF informed Textron that it will be waiting for an offer. We have posted here the link toward that article at the time.
    The wheels were in motion even prior to that. Gen. Mark Welsh held a summit on CAS last summer that looked at all this. Everything that is now being proposed came out of there. McCain's proposal was unilateral and different from Obama/Carter in the things that they had proposed in their last FYDP.
    Old radar types never die; they just phased array

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    Quote Originally Posted by Al. View Post
    In a sensible world the US Army would have control (in all senses) of their own CAS and COIN

    And I don't say that to be listerine: we go one stage further in the UK by not letting the British Army have control of Utility and Transport helos
    Huh? Doesn't seems me that any other CAS plane is under army control in any country of the world.
    About AMX i'm sure.
    Same with the most of Su-25 equipped nations, maybe I have lost track of someone.
    So only one force that could claim to have them would be USMC, if we can consider the AV-8 a Cas plane...

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    See how easy it is to equate CAS with CAS-plane. That is best avoided given the proliferation of PGM's, unmanned aviation, LRPF's etc. To quote from a Master's thesis -

    The CAS operations conducted during Operation Anaconda again proved vital to the survival of US forces. During the fight almost every conceivable type of aircraft was used as a CAS platform; Apache and Cobra attack helicopters, AC-130s, F-16s - 18s, AlOs and even B-52s. Conventional forces from the I8th Airborne Corps through the nations most elite SOF units would use helicopters, high performance jets and heavy bombers as CAS to gain an advantage over a well entrenched enemy....
    So yes, CAS remains a Joint Forces mission and the USAF and USMC-Aviation play an important role in providing it along with other elements of the JF. The Army and the Marines can definitly improve how they provide organic CAS. LRPF's is one way..longer range guided mortars, more accurate guns etc. I'm sure those trying to develop resources to provide effective and adequate CAS in the future will not go down the rabbit hole of equating it with a plane or a weapon. "If it floats it fights" needs to be borrowed and applied to CAS.

    The "new" aircraft being considered is specifically aimed at providing CAS (when it may end up doing strike) in a permissive environment and here the Joint Forces need to (along with the USAF) step up since there is a need to both fight in the high end, against a very challenging enemy and provide copious amounts of ISR that is resource draining. You need a holistic approach that factors in a new platform for the low end fight but pulls in all available land and air platforms against a more sophisticated opponent. With finite resources and an ever increasing multi mission requirement, resources allocated to one task will take away from another so you have to do this as a joint and multi-dommain approach or else you'll end up trading one "must have" capability for another.

    www.youtube.com/watch?v=yPj9Ebm7efI

    One of the best suggestions I've come across for getting all the services to actively participate in CAS and increasing the capacity to do it was to take the $$ Funding for a future A-X (not the low end aircraft but a proper A-10 replacement) and leave it on the table for the AF, Marines and the Army to take it and see how quickly the Army and marines take it up . Take $20 Billion and offer it to the Air Force, or the Army for CAS and see how fast Lt. Gen. Williamson laps it up. At the end of the day its dollars for troop support and finite dollars can go towards fielding a new helicopter, buying or developing more precise and longer ranged artillery, or buying a new AF CAS truck.

    It's the same money that you can shift from one account to another. The topline isn't going to increase. The USAF can pull money away and re-direct it from an ISR account and recapitalize fewer reapers and invest more in a Textron Scorpion but then the Army would have to find a way to do ISR and the commands will still require it. Same with Air Superiority. You can buy fewer F-35's and scale back the F-15 modernization program but then the Combat commander would have to adjust his/her requirement for these resources. The force provider funds to the combat command's projected demand for each mission area.
    Last edited by bring_it_on; 8th February 2017 at 21:22.
    Old radar types never die; they just phased array

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    Quote Originally Posted by SpudmanWP View Post
    It was never, EVER, a $30mil plane.
    Well, that's what was at least quoted in public in late 90's - price tag of $27 to 30 million for Air Force variant, about same what contemporary F-16's costed.

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    Yes, having the possibility of perform CAS missionwithout using planes would be a solution, in the sense that USAF would not spend the most of its own time in trying to sabotage it.
    Because saying together with that general (let me guess, maybe he was from the air force, right) that "CAS is a mission, not an airplane" wouldn't resolve nothing: Usaf doesn't hate just the A-10 but the CAS mission in itself i.e. using their own assets in support of other services or better said the army as the other are doing for themselves.

    On the technical side, the concept of using different means can even work but this is not in the end just split up what is a niche mission in itself like CAS into further sub-niches?

    What endanger the CAS most IMHO is not the necessity of a specific asset for it but at the contrary the risk that the different ones that could share the burden in this visual would actually get used for something other instead and leave it unguarded, hence the continuous bickering between the services about it.

    Joint services cannot so solve the problem as they are the problem in this case(as in several many others) .
    Last edited by Marcellogo; 8th February 2017 at 21:32.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Yama View Post
    Well, that's what was at least quoted in public in late 90's - price tag of $27 to 30 million for Air Force variant, about same what contemporary F-16's costed.
    The numbers I have are in FY94 and were $30:38:35 respectively (A,B,C). What you have to look at is -

    - Has the Aerospace and Defense industry inflation outpaced that of the US economy, and if so what is the Cumulative rate of inflation between 1994 and 2016.
    - Are the baseline Assumptions still valid? i.e. Are the US forces buying the same aircraft in the same quantity? IIRC the original 1990's number used a 2900-3000 total US acquisition total as a baseline.

    While the cost has gone up per unit based on overly optimistic and unreasonable assumptions you'd need to answer both 1 and 2 to see by how much exactly.
    Old radar types never die; they just phased array

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    Quote Originally Posted by Marcellogo View Post
    Because saying together with that general (let me guess, maybe he was from the air force, right) that "CAS is a mission, not an airplane" wouldn't resolve nothing: Usaf doesn't hate just the A-10 but the CAS mission in itself i.e. using their own assets in support of other services or better said the army as the other are doing for themselves.
    You know this exactly how? The entire permissive environment ISR investment and capability the USAF has built up debunks this argument of yours. Then factor in that virtually all USAF strike platforms can now do Precision strike, and have been upgraded to do so with an eye out on CAS. Even the B-1 a global strike platform was given a targeting pod to do CAS. That money came out of USAF investment and wasn't loaned to it by the Army or the Navy. Then we can look into the munition investment and how air-air munitions and uniquely air-force/strike centric munition programs have either been cancelled or moved significantly to the right to pay for PGM's and particularly ones that can be used effectively for CAS (SDBI and II, plus WMD investment).

    What endanger the CAS most IMHO is not the necessity of a specific asset for it but at the contrary the risk that the different ones that could share the burden in this visual would actually get used for something other instead and leave it unguarded, hence the continuous bickering between the services about it.
    There is no bickering. All services are investing and prioritizing as per their own internal modernization plan to be better able to perform Close Air Support going forward. Whether that is the Army's guided mortar or long range precision artillery programs or the new very long range LRPF's effort. Whether those are EMRG's for the navy and Army, or PCAS, new munitions, targeting pods, and networks for cooperative targeting for the USAF. All these things collectively improve future ability to do CAS. There is no danger of the mission or capability being orphaned only the argument being clouded by clinging on to a 'set' and rigid way to do the mission as opposed to re-aligning your capability with future doctrine, funding and resources just as you are doing for virtually all other mission areas, even those unique to the USAF or USN.
    Last edited by bring_it_on; 8th February 2017 at 21:39.
    Old radar types never die; they just phased array

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    Quote Originally Posted by SpudmanWP View Post
    It was never, EVER, a $30mil plane.
    I remember that in 2001 the Pentagon was saying the F-35A would cost $37mn flyaway, & the JSF flyaway cost had previously been officially predicted to be rather less than that. There's been a lot of inflation since then, but the 2015 price would have been $48.6mn if the cost had gone up at the same rate as the average for the whole US economy. All talk of cost cuts should bear that in mind.
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    By 2001 the contract had been signed and the SAR published with estimated numbers.

    Looking at the Dec 2001 SAR the lifetime average URF for a F-35A was $43.93 mil in BY2002 dollars. This was the first time a hard number was put to a requirement.

    $44 in BY2002 dollars is $63.5 in TY2020 dollars.
    "The early bird gets the worm but the second mouse gets the cheese."

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    Even if you take the CPI Inflation data and track it to the $30 Million FY94 estimate (and project out to Full rate production) you'll get around $62 Million cost. This obviously assumes that inflation in this particular sector of the economy tracks favorably to the CPI. The same for wage growth. You also have to factor in that since the 1994 "guesstimates" were made the program has shaved what 500 aircraft from the total domestic demand? impacting both annual build rates and overall #s produced. There is no doubt that the unit price has increased but its going to be tough to nail down exactly by how much given the assumptions that were used to project the over-optimistic data no longer apply.
    Old radar types never die; they just phased array

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    Quote Originally Posted by bring_it_on View Post
    impacting both annual build rates and overall #s produced.
    Add length of total production time acknowledging that is a subset of above. Numbers have dropped but the years in production has increased.

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    The most important is that the F35 was promised at roughly the same price of a new built F16 but with new high end stuffs that were deemed inaccessible before like stealth, high end radar etc... Something that stands true even today. How much for a new built F16? I mean, nobody get a Viper for 30M$ neither.
    Last edited by TomcatViP; 8th February 2017 at 23:25.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bring_it_on View Post
    factor in that since the 1994 "guesstimates" were made the program has shaved what 500 aircraft from the total domestic demand
    They also reduced the annual F-35A build rate from 110 to 80.
    "The early bird gets the worm but the second mouse gets the cheese."

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    Quote Originally Posted by bring_it_on View Post
    You know this exactly how? The entire permissive environment ISR investment and capability the USAF has built up debunks this argument of yours. Then factor in that virtually all USAF strike platforms can now do Precision strike, and have been upgraded to do so with an eye out on CAS. Even the B-1 a global strike platform was given a targeting pod to do CAS. That money came out of USAF investment and wasn't loaned to it by the Army or the Navy. Then we can look into the munition investment and how air-air munitions and uniquely air-force/strike centric munition programs have either been cancelled or moved significantly to the right to pay for PGM's and particularly ones that can be used effectively for CAS (SDBI and II, plus WMD investment).
    Dear Bring on it, I think the problem there is about what we consider CAS. My country air force as an example, having used such an asset in real operation is also convinced as you said that CAS is a mission, just that such a mission has relatively little to do with precision targeting at all.
    Because if the problem was only in better killing enemy we would have solved with guided artillery or mortar shell decades ago, if it was just a problem of targeting we would have used improved gunner sights, if about recon, drone would have been sufficient,etc, etc...
    We found instead that even a not so perfect asset (using an understatement) like our AMX would not just cover all those facets of the CAS mission by itself but most important thing of all it have the added, and in our eyes absolutely needed, advantage of being able to smoothly shift from one to the other in the course of the same engagement.


    There is no bickering.
    AHAHAHAHAHAHAH

    All services are investing and prioritizing as per their own internal modernization plan to be better able to perform Close Air Support going forward. Whether that is the Army's guided mortar or long range precision artillery programs or the new very long range LRPF's effort. Whether those are EMRG's for the navy and Army, or PCAS, new munitions, targeting pods, and networks for cooperative targeting for the USAF. All these things collectively improve future ability to do CAS. There is no danger of the mission or capability being orphaned only the argument being clouded by clinging on to a 'set' and rigid way to do the mission as opposed to re-aligning your capability with future doctrine, funding and resources just as you are doing for virtually all other mission areas, even those unique to the USAF or USN.
    Again, precision targeting is not Close Aerial SUPPORT at all, and for this same reason it is something that ought to be sought by all the armed forces and their respective specialities in this world for their own main mission, not as a substitute for something other's one.
    And the existence of a separated aerial mission called CAS was just about flexibility i.e. being able to give to the troops on terrain the varioustype of support they would ask for according to their tactical situation, being it bombing an enemy position, gave a look behind the hill so to not fall into an ambush, perform a strafing run so to get the enemy to squat down instead of trying to assault your position etc.etc. and possibly using a single asset able to do all those thing in the same time.
    This doesn't mean that this asset have to be some super-specialized thing like the A-10 is, there is a whole array of option, helicopters, UCAV, turboprops or instead jet powered planes and so on that have been put forward to take up the role, all of them having their respective advantages and disadvantages.

    Said so, IMHO the discriminant is still that whatever the asset or the combination of them that would to be selected, it/they would have CAS for their primary mission or there would always be the risk of ending up having dozens of different items in all the different branch, services and armed forces all of them being used for anything other mission than that.
    Last edited by Marcellogo; 9th February 2017 at 07:00.

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    CPI from 1994 to 2016 was a total of 51.5%, or a compiled 67.5%
    starting with the original 1994 cost estimate of $28 million for the F-35A
    then it should have cost $46.9 million in 2016
    instead it cost $109.88 million, more than double

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    Quote Originally Posted by Marcellogo View Post
    Dear Bring on it, I think the problem there is about what we consider CAS.
    Why are we arguing about the definition of CAS. It is very clear.

    Close air support (CAS) is air action by fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft against hostile targets that are in close proximity to friendly forces and requires detailed integration of each air mission with the fire and movement of those forces.
    https://fas.org/irp/doddir/dod/jp3_09_3.pdf

    Another 340 odd pages after the above quote.

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    Dear Bring on it, I think the problem there is about what we consider CAS. My country air force as an example, having used such an asset in real operation is also convinced as you said that CAS is a mission, just that such a mission has relatively little to do with precision targeting at all.
    I'm fairly well aware of what CAS is and how it is defined. I'm also aware that its the goal and end that is important and not the means. For the rest, I'm not sure you understand the arguments here. It's not about whether a service wants to do X Y or Z, but how it wants to do it given the resources. All other mission areas have seen prioritization, trades on account of anticipated resource availability. CAS is just one of them and not an outlier.

    Again, precision targeting is not Close Aerial SUPPORT at all, and for this same reason it is something that ought to be sought by all the armed forces and their respective specialities in this world for their own main mission, not as a substitute for something other's one.
    Too bad you forgot to tell the forces that actually did CAS in the last few wars that PGM's do not constitute CAS. I guess those troops on the ground should have turned those aircraft away and flooded the radios with " Go Away..You are not CAS".
    Last edited by bring_it_on; 9th February 2017 at 09:24.
    Old radar types never die; they just phased array

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sanem View Post
    CPI from 1994 to 2016 was a total of 51.5%, or a compiled 67.5%
    starting with the original 1994 cost estimate of $28 million for the F-35A
    then it should have cost $46.9 million in 2016
    instead it cost $109.88 million, more than double

    Again it is those assumptions that count. 1994 prices were pre SAR i.e. pre program document signature but regardless you would still need to find out the two points that I had mentioned earlier. Does the Aerospace industry inflation, wage growth etc track anywhere near the CPI and if not what was the real inflation in that sector of the economy over this period of time? And secondly, what has changed in the program since 1994-1996. Does the Program of Record still plan on buying the same number of aircraft, over the same number of production lots and has the maximum rate production number changed?

    From what I see they damn nearly carved out a Super Hornet sized acquisition program from the original requirements that were closer to if not more than3000 aircraft for the three US services and the United Kingdom. Without these simply giving a number and adjusting it up for CPI is not going to get you there. As I said, the peak production CPI inflated number would come to around $62 Million (projected to 2019/2020 from 1994) or about a 1/3 off. I assumed $30:35:38 Million split because that is what I had pulled up for $FY94 cost data but you could shave a couple of million from each if you want to use 28 million. A lot of it can be chalked up to some very unrealistic assumptions and wishful thinking prior to contract award (and during it) but a lot of it is also attributable to the fact that original mid 90's estimates called for many more aircraft, procured at a much higher production rate.
    Last edited by bring_it_on; 9th February 2017 at 12:50.
    Old radar types never die; they just phased array

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    Is there any news on the CAS on demand concept where the JTAC controls drones?

    It seems to me the XQ-222 could be a good drone for that, with possibly additional external payload when stealth is not required.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hotshot View Post
    Is there any news on the CAS on demand concept where the JTAC controls drones?

    It seems to me the XQ-222 could be a good drone for that, with possibly additional external payload when stealth is not required.
    that would imply the JTAC to be more or less a pilot.

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    Quote Originally Posted by halloweene View Post
    that would imply the JTAC to be more or less a pilot.
    Depends on the level of automation. You want to exploit the latest advancement in AI to make it work.

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