I guess you just can’t win

Aug 22, 2012 4 Comments by

Here I thought it was much cheaper to use drones but it looks like it is not. Only slightly cheaper, but hey, still cheaper :-)  I found this in the U.S. News & World Report

Report: Military Drones Only ‘Slightly’ Cheaper Than Piloted Jets

ilitary drones are only slightly cheaper than manned warplanes, and data indicates the remotely piloted aircraft also are more prone to mishaps, a new report says.

The Pentagon has since the onset of the post-9/11 Iraq and Afghanistan wars substantially ramped up its use of drone aircraft. Recently, Obama administration officials have acknowledged a U.S. drone mission in Yemen, the newest major front in the struggle against al Qaeda.

The unmanned combat planes offer in-conflict advantages like the ability to loiter over or monitor a target for longer periods of time than a manned plane can. They also are cheaper to buy and operate, a fact often lauded by defense officials and industry executives.

But a new report released this week by the American Security Project, or ASP, concludes that most military drones are only “generally slightly cheaper to both acquire and operate than conventional fighter jets.”

Despite claims to the contrary, unmanned planes require a large crew: There is one remote pilot, another remote crew member to operate the valuable cameras mounted on many, and “because a drone is not operated individually, but as part ofa system consisting ofseveral aircraft, sensors, ground control, and satellite linkages, the number of personnel needed to operate a Predator Combat Air Patrol (CAP) is estimated to exceed 80 people,” states the report. It refers to the Predator unmanned plane that has been used in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and allegedly in Yemen. The number of crew members needed to operate other drone fleets composed of four aircraft can approach 130, ASP concludes.

In a blow to drone proponents, the report concludes they have a “greater tendency toward mishaps” than piloted warplanes.

Citing Congressional Budget Office data, the think tank concludes the Predator drones’ mishap rate is 7.6 incidents per 100,000 flight hours. That compares to 2.36 mishaps per 100,000 flight hours for the Air Force’s venerable F-15 fighter.

John T. Bennett covers national security and foreign policy for U.S. News & World Report.

John Reid

About the author

West Coast senior editor About me: I’ve been involved with RC aircraft since high school and have flown just about everything. I started my RC career with scratch-building, but now like many pilots I rely on ARFs to get me in the air. My main focus is on pylon racing, aerobats, combat and scale warbirds.

4 Responses to “I guess you just can’t win”

  1. D Shannon says:

    Yes, but you do not have the cost of a human life in the aircraft.

    • Nick says:

      And that’s the ONLY reason the higher mishap rate is acceptable. If it ends up getting too out of hand, however, humans might be better because we can react to dynamic situations better than robots or cameras over a distance can.

  2. Tony H says:

    What about the cost to put a manned plane in the air? How many does that take? Doesn’t that get lots of sub-system attention?
    Cost to aquire is another that doesn’t sound right. A drone might be a few million. A single manned jet is likely 10x the cost.
    This doesn’t appear to tell the whole story.

  3. John Reid says:

    I tend to agree with that Tony. But the cost of human life is a BIG factor that is worth the extra cost, at least for me. Plus the drones can stay in flight much longer and survey things at a greater distance.

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