Tag Archives: United States drones

Terns, Ships with their Own Drones

TERN Darpa. Drones for Small Ships. Image from DARPA

Small-deck ships such as destroyers and frigates could greatly increase their effectiveness if they had their own unmanned air systems (UASs) to provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and other capabilities at long range around the clock. Current state-of-the-art UASs, however, lack the ability to take off and land from confined spaces in rough seas and achieve efficient long-duration flight. TERN (Tactically Exploited Reconnaissance Node) , a joint program between DARPA and the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Research (ONR), seeks to provide these and other previously unattainable capabilities. As part of Tern’s ongoing progress toward that goal, DARPA has awarded Phase 3 of Tern to a team led by the Northrop Grumman Corporation….  The Tern Phase 3 design envisions a tail-sitting, flying-wing aircraft with twin counter-rotating, nose-mounted propellers. The propellers would lift the aircraft from a ship deck, orient it for horizontal flight and provide propulsion to complete a mission. They would then reorient the craft upon its return and lower it to the ship deck. The system would fit securely inside the ship when not in use.

Tern’s potentially groundbreaking capabilities have been on the Navy’s wish list in one form or another since World War II. The production of the first practical helicopters in 1942 helped the U.S. military realize the potential value of embedded vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft to protect fleets and reduce the reliance on aircraft carriers and land bases.  The Tern demonstrator will bear some resemblance to the Convair XFY-1 Pogo, an experimental ship-based VTOL fighter designed by the Navy in the 1950s to provide air support for fleets. Despite numerous successful demonstrations, the XFY-1 never advanced beyond the prototype stage, in part because the Navy at the time was focusing on faster jet aircraft and determined that pilots would have needed too much training to land on moving ships in rough seas….Moving to [drones removes the need for training aircraft pilots].

Excerpt from DARPA Tern Moves Closer to Full-Scale Demonstration of Unmanned VTOL Aircraft Designed for Small Ships

The CIA Drone War: the 2014 Deaths Update

Predator drone

US drone strikes kill 28 unknown people for every intended target, new Reprieve report reveals
US drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan have killed as many as 1,147 unknown people in failed attempts to kill 41 named individuals, a report by human rights charity Reprieve has found.The report looks at deaths resulting from US drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan between November 2002 and November 2014. It identifies 41 men who appeared to have been killed multiple times – drawing into question the Obama administration’s repeated claims that the covert drone programme is ‘precise.’

While the US drone programme is shrouded in secrecy, security sources regularly brief the media on the names of those suspected militants targeted or killed in the strikes. Frequently, those individuals are reported to have been targeted or killed on multiple occasions.

Reprieve’s assessment is the first to provide an estimate of the number of people – including in some cases children – who are killed each time the US apparently attempts to assassinate a ‘high value target.’ Due to the US Government’s refusal to publish any information relating to the programme, or the ‘Kill List’ said to determine its targets, the analysis is limited to existing, publicly-available data from media reports and The Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

Key findings of the report include:

In Pakistan, 24 men were reported as killed or targeted multiple times. Missed strikes on these men killed 874 people, including 142 children.
In Yemen, 17 men were reported killed or targeted multiple times. Missile strikes on these men killed 273 others and accounted for almost half of all confirmed civilian casualties and 100% of all recorded child deaths.
In targeting Ayman al Zawahiri, the CIA killed 76 children and 29 adults. They failed twice, and Ayman al Zawahiri is reportedly still alive.
It took the US six attempts to kill Qari Hussain, a Pakistani target. During these attempts, 128 people were killed, including 13 children.

Each assassination target on the US government’s so-called Kill List ‘died’ on average more than three times before their actual death.

The US government’s drone programme has come under increasing scrutiny after a number of strikes that hit large numbers of civilians by mistake. It was recently revealed – as a result of investigations by Reprieve – that the US government compensates civilian victims of drone strikes in Yemen.

Excerpt from US drone strikes kill 28 unknown people for every intended target, new Reprieve report reveals, Nov. 25, 2014 (You never Die Twice pdf)

Drones: the international markets

Global demand for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), better known as drones, is heating up as armed forces invest in new systems to boost their ability to carry out reconnaissance and strikes without putting soldiers’ lives in danger.Propelled by a rise in Asian defence budgets, annual global spending on UAVs is forecast to almost double from the current $5.9 billion to $11.3 billion over the next decade, according to US-based defence research firm Teal Group.  The Asia Pacific is the second largest buyer after the United States.”Almost every country in the region is trying to get their hands on drones or develop their own … Thailand, India, Singapore, Japan, Australia, Korea,” said Jon Grevatt of IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly….”UAVs are necessary in this age when you want to win wars and at the same time you want to have less casualties,” said Tommy Silberring, who heads the drone division at Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).  IAI, which pioneered the development of UAV technology for the Israeli military in the 1970s, was one of several defence manufacturers showing off drones at last week’s Singapore Airshow.  The use of drones rather than manned aircraft helps make countries participation in multilateral war efforts more palatable to the public, said Silberring, a former Israeli air force colonel.”You really don’t want to tell your people that you are giving the lives of your soldiers for another country,” he told AFP at the air show….

According to IAI, its Heron UAVs are used by 18 customers around the world, including Singapore’s air force, which displayed its Heron 1 at the show.   The Heron TP — the largest in the Israeli drone arsenal with the wingspan of a Boeing 737 passenger jet — is purported to have a range of more than 7,400 kilometres (4,600 miles).

In the United States, homegrown manufacturers such as General Atomics and Northrop Grumman look set to benefit from the Pentagon?s recent plans to expand its current fleet of 7,494 drones by 30 percent.  According to a congressional report released in January, the US military is expected to spend nearly $32 billion on new UAVs over the next eight years.

This burgeoning demand has spurred Asian manufacturers to enter the market, which has long been dominated by Israeli and US companies.  “We want to be in the unmanned arena but we are selective because there are already so many big players in the industry,” said Patrick Choy, vice president of international marketing at ST Engineering, a Singapore-based defence manufacturer.  ST Engineering launched theSkyblade 360, the latest addition in a series of mini UAVs, at the airshow….”We want to build a niche in the tactical area, where we are able to help small units with our UAV technology,” he told AFP.  “Unless you are a global power, you cannot convince customers to buy big UAVs which require supporting technology like satellites”.  India is similarly modest about its Rustom-1 drone, a model of which was on display at the trade fair.”Our main priority is to enhance the current capability of the Rustom… we have no intentions of exporting it,” said Parimal Kumar, a senior official from India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation.

Excerpts, Bhavan Jaipragas, Drone makers cashing in as war tactics evolve, Agence France Presse, Feb. 26, 2012