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US Army Future Tactical UAS (FTUAS)

TomcatViP

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Yehudi lights will certainly see a comeback, probably with passive systems routing light from top to under body surfaces.
We will see what the B-21 will bring in term of visual stealth and for sure a derivative of that technology will appear for UAV not too long after.
 
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jsport

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These are combat systems operated at the forward edge of the battlefield. Losses are to be expected over time. Super-duper stealthy things at lower altitude will not last much longer, so cost is a major factor. I can have one super-duper that last five minutes longer or ten no frills simple systems. Bottom line is that the actual soldiers, not us air conditioned wanna-be generals, like them and are excited at what they can do with them. Not some maybe next year techno-drivel.
The acquisition system is beyond dysfunctional. COTS is a joke. R D t E needs to return. throwing garbage over the transsume will lose the US a war. This garbage will not last 5 secs. It is not armed, has no dynamic maneuver or stealth.
 

yasotay

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These are combat systems operated at the forward edge of the battlefield. Losses are to be expected over time. Super-duper stealthy things at lower altitude will not last much longer, so cost is a major factor. I can have one super-duper that last five minutes longer or ten no frills simple systems. Bottom line is that the actual soldiers, not us air conditioned wanna-be generals, like them and are excited at what they can do with them. Not some maybe next year techno-drivel.
The acquisition system is beyond dysfunctional. COTS is a joke. R D t E needs to return. throwing garbage over the transsume will lose the US a war. This garbage will not last 5 secs. It is not armed, has no dynamic maneuver or stealth.
Given the US DoD budget at best is going to remain stagnant at best, developing expensive UAS that far exceed the requirements is not valid. Since Azerbaijani forces destroyed S-400 and SA-22 with non-dynamic maneuvering, "slightly" stealthy Turkish UAV and with small inexpensive drone swarms that home in on radar soon to be fielded, giving ground maneuver forces expensive platforms used by combat soldiers is not realistic.
 

jsport

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These are combat systems operated at the forward edge of the battlefield. Losses are to be expected over time. Super-duper stealthy things at lower altitude will not last much longer, so cost is a major factor. I can have one super-duper that last five minutes longer or ten no frills simple systems. Bottom line is that the actual soldiers, not us air conditioned wanna-be generals, like them and are excited at what they can do with them. Not some maybe next year techno-drivel.
The acquisition system is beyond dysfunctional. COTS is a joke. R D t E needs to return. throwing garbage over the transsume will lose the US a war. This garbage will not last 5 secs. It is not armed, has no dynamic maneuver or stealth.
Given the US DoD budget at best is going to remain stagnant at best, developing expensive UAS that far exceed the requirements is not valid. Since Azerbaijani forces destroyed S-400 and SA-22 with non-dynamic maneuvering, "slightly" stealthy Turkish UAV and with small inexpensive drone swarms that home in on radar soon to be fielded, giving ground maneuver forces expensive platforms used by combat soldiers is not realistic.
Even if half the PLAs uavs fail US tactical Uas will be overmatched rapidly.

Having seen much video, the Armenians had something else disrupting their operational effectiveness than meets the eye. The small geographic area also assisted. The Armenians appeared to have not counter Uas uavs either.

Ground maneuver forces main purpose will soon be operating armed uav/uggs to either designate or destroy targets before humans are endangered. There is a lot of old and dangerous thought out there. One cannot assume an adversary is going to fight the last war like many insist we do.
 

jsport

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Suicide swarms are silly as they will later populated areas w unspent munitions when most of them crash.
They can not provide BDA despite what the contractor claims, and they cannot revisit targets based on genuine BDA. They will be easily defeated by APS in modern combat. A great example of government capture by contractor.
 

TomcatViP

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Especially when missed approach and go-around procedures can be initiated at so close the target given the physical nature of those (they are small and can manoeuvre in a pocket of air) and with so much time to initiate the evasive action (they are relatively slow) that enough targeting precision is left to ensure an accurate munitions delivery.

You then bring-in a reusable factor that would lessen the logistical burden of having to transport and errect enough drones for every targets around.
 

yasotay

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I do not disagree that there will be considerably more unmanned platforms in combat in the future, but quotes like "Ground maneuver forces main purpose will soon be operating armed uav/uggs to either designate or destroy targets before humans are endangered." remind me of the disciples of airpower with winning wars exclusively with airpower. If technology is so grand and all encompassing, how is it that people keep defeating technology. More armchair generaling I think.
 

shin_getter

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The acquisition system is beyond dysfunctional. COTS is a joke. R D t E needs to return. throwing garbage over the transsume will lose the US a war. This garbage will not last 5 secs. It is not armed, has no dynamic maneuver or stealth.
These systems have lower total lifespan cost than the operating cost of a single sortie of 4.5/5gen aircraft. (easily $30,000 per hour) We are talking about ~40kg vehicle here, while a fighter starts at 11000kg and gets up to 38,000kg, a 1000x difference in weight and cost ($100mil to >$100k). The vehicle only need to survive half a sortie or soak up one high cost missile to pay for itself relative to using higher end aircraft.

In a mature air combat regime, combined arms is story here and the question isn't whether low end systems should exist, but the force balance. Low end forces are useful for economy of force, as high performance systems needs to be focused at the point of decision.

Even with low end forces, combined arms enable low end forces to operate against high end opponents. In air warfare one can see multiple layers of aircraft:
1. On the lowest end, multicopters for maximum agility for scouting out areas with top cover: forests and cities.
2. Above that, drones and cruise missiles flying nape of earth, below the radar horizon. This are some loiter munitions, ALE and likes. The low attitude means vulnerability to guns and DEW, however those direct fire weapons have limited coverage.
3. Above that, drones that fly under cloud cover for EOIR sensors against small (infantry scale, not vehicle scale) opponents. Such aircraft are so close to the ground as to be essentially impossible to hide and defend against radar SAM and has to be disposable.
4. Above that, drones that fly about cloud cover with electronic means of detection: ESM and Radar with actual missiles which will counter opponent radar SAM and air power. The MQ-Next will be the stealthy observer while loyal wingman will do the dynamic fighting.
5. Behind that, 5/6th gen fighter aircraft will conduct command and control, DEW and air superiority
6. Behind that, there'd be AEW battle management aircraft

Even a high end opponent will not have AD systems everywhere due to need to concentrate and attrition, and it may not be worth the risk of exposing AD to shoot at low value (spend $1mil active radar missile on a piston engined fiberglass thingy with RC model electronics?) target.

If there is a weapon system that'd fit in UAS of this scale, it is a blinding laser that'd defeat missiles and EOIR AA. Add a ESM overwatch aircraft with anti-radiation missiles and you can a fairly complete combat complex. Attempts at actually doing this will get cries of warcrimes more than anything though, so it is best to have the system build out in secret and only use it in a sufficiently big war.
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Finally, the low end mission really need low end aircraft. There is still shooting war going on against opponents without complete and attrition resistant air defense, wasting high end aircraft airframe life to them is pointless. Just think, the MQ-9 saved the USAF from defeating itself from airframe exhaustion before high end shooting even starts.
 
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yasotay

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The only thing I would add is that radar energy like other wavelengths do not bend per say. Thus anything solid that gets between the "line of sight" of the radar and the target, masks the target. Curvature of the earth also applies, so a long range AD system has a rather large blind spot at say 100Km. Of course, as was pointed out above, using a strategic SAM against a tactical target is somewhat self defeating. This is why there are Integrated Air Defense Networks so that there are overlapping systems with specific missions. Competently manned they are very difficult to overcome. But as war is the most Darwinian of human activities, there have been a plethora of things developed to "hunt" emitters. I do not think that tactical radars will be able to remain active for long without drawing unwanted attention. All of this to say that I do believe that properly operated tactical UAS will be able to operate in the tactical battlespace. There will be losses of course, but at least in the Army they do not expect invincibility, they could not afford it even if it exist.
I do think that EOIR technology is a far more dangerous means as it does not emit. Directing a decent sized cannon, it would be difficult to detect until rounds started coming toward the target. Thus less reaction time.
 

shin_getter

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Well, a high performance anti-air cannon is fairly expensive and large, thus is not economical to trade with cheap drones and can sometimes be detected early and defeated before inflicting damage.

The really difficult problem is stealthy EOIR sensors cuing in some kind of ZTOL interceptor drone, similar to the one posted here:

The advantage of a short range airframe , having initiative due to concealment with external sensor support just gives it a huge advantage against a persisting airframe. The vulnerability of such interceptors is to larger more powerful aircraft or the deployment/recovery system.

One can arm race the opponent and "build to counter opponent systems" in a spiral of cost increases, until boundaries is hit with speed/mass/size/etc. If one thinks harder one can even run procurement in "game theoretic ways" to waste opponent's money. COTS low cost procurement is actually quite neat, one can get opponent to develop counters costing more engineering resources, then you bring out gen 2 to invalidate the counter. Ever changing developments is actually an advantage if one has lower development costs, time and agility. It is only when development capability is worst than opponent that one has to field convergent designs.

In any case it is the wrong mentality to "develop the final solution" before fielding systems. Science is ever advancing, and one would simply never field anything is one is always chasing the changing optimal at any moment in time.

What would be the end point equilibrium (or there wouldn't be one) at the end of all the development is a interesting question, but one that does not need to be answered if a project isn't suppose to serve 20 years.
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The problem with lower cost drones is like that of crusiers. A battlecruiser can defeat any cruiser, however a navy consisting of only battlecruisers is not sufficient to cover the oceans. At some point you just have to commit and build some cruisers.
 

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