Drones: Reloaded


(Full Disclosure) I saw Executive Decision once. In the 10 years since, I've slept safely with the knowledge that somewhere, somehow Navy Seals are jumping from F117's to Boeing 747's. So when I read that the Air Force Research Lab have finally developed a "concept of a rearming aircraft capable of reloading the wing stores of a combat aircraft while in flight," I couldn't help but think, "Wow, what a totally safe idea clearly based on years of success."ABRA.jpgThe need is definitely there. The vast distances between allied airbases and missions deep within Afghanistan and Iraq affects the 75 or so daily requests CENTAF gets for things like Close Air Support and UAVs (CENTAF says it gets about 75 such requests a day). During the invasion phase of OIF, approximately 40,000 missions were split between 1800 coalition aircraft.But couldn't the Air Force make their rearm scheme look less dangerous, at least? The design system would consist of "a boom attachable to and extendible from the rearming aircraft; a weapons mount that is attachable to the host aircraft, and a weapons platform attached to the boom which is capable of positioning and orienting the munition for transfer from the boom to the weapons mount." Gulp.A similar set-up (pictured above) using a C-130 appeared in Defense Update last autumn.Despite (my) concerns about its safety in flight (which I'll leave for the pilots and boomers to debate) the benefits are certainly appealing. Air-to-Air reloading would enable longer flights with less maintenance, much needed heavy weapons backup for ground troops and if applied to UAV's - 'sentinels' could persist for days without interference. It's like an Air Force version of Sea Strike, providing the capability to conduct offensive operations "on demand".AFRL have yet to comment on the negative consequences of transferring thousands of pounds of munitions at high altitude, but I can think of one - and it rhymes with schmucking frightmare.In the mortal words of ED's Sgt 'Cappy' Matheny: "I think we're looking up the ass end of a dead dog...but it's worth a try"Chocks away Cappy - chocks away.-- Steven Snell(Big ups: Special Operations Technology)

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