back to article Manned 'Surrogate Predators' fill in for robot assassins

Robot aircraft are in such demand for combat in Iraq and Afghanistan that the US military - in a mildly disorienting move - is using manned aeroplanes to stand in for them during military training exercises. It seems that high demand for the services of Predator and Reaper surveillance/assassination droids overseas has meant …


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  1. Dave 52

    Predator Surrogate

    And here I was imagining a predator like robot, similar to the predator movies, controlled like a surrogate, similar to the new surrogate movie.

  2. Dave Bell

    Weird Sense

    The basic idea seems pretty sensible: a cheap aircraft carrying the sensor platform and providing data for training. And with the CAP having a role in searching for crashed planes, maybe it helps that a lot. Though I wonder if the CAP involvement is a bit nominal

    It's like the contractors flying target-towing aircraft for the military.

    I suspect the big advantage is not cost, but in avoiding the safety hassles of flying a robot plane.

  3. Dr Patrick J R Harkin

    Manned unmanned planes. Unmanned manned planes.

    Is airforce HR playing the shell game with pilots? "Come along now! Three planes, one pilot, we put the pilot in here, we move 'em around and now all you gotta do is guess with your SAM which ones he's in! This one? Oh unlucky, you've shot down a drone - now come on, I'll tell you what I'll do - double or quits!"

  4. exit...quit...bye...quitbye.ctrl-C..ctrlX.ctrl-alt-X...aarrrr*slam*

    Get some weeks off... around all day, hang around with the aerojocks, maybe even hitch a ride on a jetfighter - sounds fair to me.

  5. Asgard

    That is just evil..

    The air force pilots already hate robot aircraft as they are taking their jobs away, but its adding insult to injury to get the human pilots to do the training missions while the robots go off to do the real missions. Which I guess explains why they had to say this ... "We’ve seen nothing but enthusiasm" ... yeah right, whenever they try to put on such a brave face of unity, you can bet behind the scenes some people are very fed up and annoyed.

    But what is even worse, is not only are they relegated to doing training missions, they are also getting the human pilots to pretend to be robots, which is just so evil. Surely someone high up is trying to take the piss somewhere.

    I can't believe its safety hassles. The robots are very good at staying in the air as long as no one turns them off or tries manual landing, which is another reason air force pilots hate robot aircraft, as they were shown up for breaking more of them than the army because they thought they could fly them better than the on board AI which the army used but the air force didn't use. Its probably just because they need more robot aircraft. Its a real sign of the times that the robots are in such demand.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    re: Weird Sense

    "And with the CAP having a role in searching for crashed planes, maybe it helps that a lot. Though I wonder if the CAP involvement is a bit nominal"

    Probably a lot of fun for the CAPies....

  7. Matt Bryant Silver badge

    Why the b*tching?

    After all, if a Cesna 182 and fleshie provide a good enough training platform I'm sure it works out a lot cheaper than buying more Preds just for training, especially as it seems the mods to the already exiting CAP Cesnas is pretty cheap in comparison. And if it gives the CAP guys added airtime then winners all round! Surely we should be applauding this smart move to reduce expenditure and maximise use of current assets?

    Oh, did someone at the back point out that a fleshy in an armed Cesna could probably do 90% of the Pred missions for less cost?

  8. David Lucke

    @ Matt Bryant

    "Oh, did someone at the back point out that a fleshy in an armed Cesna could probably do 90% of the Pred missions for less cost?"

    No they coudn't. One of the main points of UAVs is their hugely long loiter time, which they achieve by not having a pilot who gets tired, and has various life support requirements that are heavy (and thus use up more fuel to carry, reducing loiter time). If we ignore the loiter time, it might be cheaper, until the cessna gets shot down. It doesn't matter if a predator gets shot down, but if the cessna goes down, you're down a pilot as well. Predator losses don't come with a human cost. Although given how much it costs to train a pilot, the dollar cost isn't going to be much cheaper from losing a fleshy pilot either.

  9. james 68


    the 'life support systems' in a cessna are wings and an engine. yup i can see why that would be unecessary extra weight.

    idea - kick general atomics and their $3.3million pricetag in the balls and just fit cessnas with the avionics and sensor gear. they can even be outfitted with missile pylons. shitload cheaper (cessna caravan can even be bought with the sensor package pre-installed) in purchase, shitload cheaper to run (parts cost next to nothing and are mass produced), and with spare cockpit space used for extra fuel tanks theyd beat the loiter time for predators/reapers.

    but they dont look as "cool" so itll never happen

  10. Mr Mark V Thomas

    Re: Why The B*tching ?

    With regards to "the fleshy in the Cessna", the U.S Airforce is considering a light counter insurgency (COIN) aircraft, under the proposed OV-X Programme...

    The requirements are for said aircraft to carry 2x 500 Pound Bombs, 2x Hellfire missiles, a targeting pod for both the above, & possibly a 25mm Gunpod...

    To meet the above, Boeing is proposing a updated new build OV-10 Bronco (which originally served this role in the Vietnam War), while Emberer is proposing the armed version of the Super Tucano trainer,(currently in service with the Brazilian Airforce), to be built in the U.S under licence, & Raytheon's Beech Aircraft subsiduary, is proposing a armed version of the Pilatus PC-9 (again to be built in the U.S under licence)...

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