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15 March 2010


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William R. Cumming

Question? Are the Marines using drone aircraft for whatever purposes?

Neil Richardson

"Question? Are the Marines using drone aircraft for whatever purposes?"

I'll defer to those who have current service experience, but to my knowledge yes they are. Essentially all US services have bet heavily on drone technology in ISR missions for the foreseeable future. SecDef Gates had to resolve a very sticky issue of allotting more UAVs in CENTCOM AO as the Air Force supposedly were lagging behind in fulfilling requests. I don't know whether that has to do with their policy of officers piloting drones or not.


WRC - The Marines had their own UAVs in Iraq, including Scan Eagle, Pioneer, Dragon Eye (now replaced by Raven). I believe that Scan Eagle is currently deployed in Afghanistan by the Marines and also by the Canadian Forces. I assume that at least some of the other models may also be deployed there.

NR - I understood the A-10 was primarily a tank buster, and a very good one. Not sure why the AF dislikes it. What CAS roles has it played since 2004??

Neil Richardson


"I understood the A-10 was primarily a tank buster, and a very good one. Not sure why the AF dislikes it. What CAS roles has it played since 2004??"

As you know the A-10s were the legacy of the Cold War when the biggest operational problem facing the Army was how to defend the FRG against Soviet OMGs (e.g., in the Fulda Meiningen Gap for us and the North German Plain for BAOR). If the unthinkable had taken place and the Warsaw Pact forces had initiated hostilities, the USAF top leadership didn't think the A-10s would be survivable in SAM saturated V and VII Corps sectors. While it was very hardened against WP AAA (and you can look up some unbelievable photos of heavily damaged A-10s in 1991 that brought back grateful pilots), given its relatively slow speed A-10s would've taken heavier losses against SAMs and enemy fighters (so I've been told by AF friends). It takes an awful lot of resources to train AF pilots and the service leadership felt the best single seaters ought to fly air superiority fighters and later F-117s. And the Air Force's primary mission is establish air dominance first and then try to deliver a knock out blow (this isn't just a USAF thing as they go back to the early days of military aviation). CAS comes relatively low in the list of priorities for the service. However this doesn't mean that the Army ought to get its own fixed wing assets for CAS (the Air Force did offer A-10s to the Army a while back).

For a while the Air Force had used mostly National Guard squadrons to fly A-10s. Interestingly after 2000, there were a lot of really top notch pilots in NG squadrons who were flying A-10s who had logged a lot of combat hours in F-15s, F-16s and even F-117s. When SAM and enemy fighter threats aren't present, A-10s are spectacular CAS aircrafts IMHO. They've been used continuously in Afghanistan AFAIK and I distinctly recall a Para Regiment officer who was very effusive with praise for A-10 drivers (while reserving some uncharitable comments for RAF Harrier pilots). From what I understand USAF plans to keep them in service for at least another twenty years with some very necessary upgrades. Back in 1991 A-10 drivers had used Maverick systems as field expedient FLIRs during night missions.


"Not sure why the AF dislikes it"

CAS is a support mission, no other way around it. Tactical air lacks the machismo that the fighter mafia is so fond of but perhaps more importantly the parochial appeal of Air Superiority, Strategic Bombing, and those other Air Power missions.

ex-PFC Chuck

The story of the procurement of the A-10 is well told in Robert Coram's biography of USAF Col. John Boyd (http://tinyurl.com/y88aa68). Basically, Air Force (as well as its USAAF predecessor) brass have disdained the ground support mission ever since the days of Billy Mitchell and Giulio Douhet. Boyd and his "Fighter Mafia" associates, especially Pierre Sprey, managed to force the GS mission-specific A-10 down the throats of the the service's procurement bureaucracy, which has a history of procuring aircraft designed to do everything but typically end up doing nothing well, at costs far over budget and schedules far beyond original commitments. Boyd & Co. jammed another highly successful aircraft down the kicking and screaming brass's throat during the same early 1970s time period, the F-16. That story is also in Coram's book. As for the USAF's procurement problems, nothing much has changed. See this article on the F-35 in a Counterpunch piece (http://tinyurl.com/yzrfzn3) published last month by Chuck Spinney, another Fighter Mafia veteran.

Old Gun Pilot

The USAF has never cared much for the CAS role. Until the A-10 came along the USAF never purchased an aircraft designed under an Air Force contract for the CAS role. The A-10 was also the last AF bird designed from the ground up for CAS. The A-1, A-7 and F-4 were Navy/MC designs bought off the shelf with slight modifications for AF use. The F-100 which saw extensive use in Viet Nam was a fighter modified for the CAS role. The F-16 again was designed as an air superiority fighter which has been modified by the addition of hard points for the CAS role. The failure of interest by the AF in the CAS mission is one reason Army has relied so on it's Attack Helos and the growth of that mission in the Army.

William R. Cumming

Thanks to all who commented on my question! WWI was largely fought with landline technology. WWII with radio in use heavily for first time.

So now will each of the services develop, maintain and operate their own UAV force and if so how will this be coordinated? How is it being coordinated with some evidence CIA and other orgs have their own UAV ops?
And finally other than Israel, how are other countries progressing on UAV weaponary and recon?

 insurance seattle

insurance seattle

This Is such an outstanding movie! I also HIGHLY recomend "GENERATION KILL"

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