Saturday, April 25, 2015

Drones - Refueling in Air Coming Soon!

One of the distinct advantages of a drone is the amount of time it can spend over a specific geographic area. Some variants can spend 12 to 18 hours overhead before having to return to base to refuel. Now, another milestone has been reached - refueling in the air. Drones are not that far away from being refueled in the air. This is good news for the infantryman on the ground. There have been many occasions where a unit on the ground involved in a "Troops-in-Contact" (TIC) cringed when they heard over the radio that their UAV coverage was going off-station. Read more in "A Drone Has Never Linked Up With a Tanker Until Now", by Joseph Trevithick, War is Boring, April 16, 2015.

This leads me to a random but related thought. When is the Coalition (specifically TAAC-Air) going to recognize that the Afghan National Army (or the Afghan Air Force) could benefit from a small drone package that could be employed at corps level? Maybe something similar to the GOCO package that fielded Shadows to U.S. Army brigades in Afghanistan; augmenting the BCTs organic Shadow unit.

Watch a four-minute video depicting Shadow operations by a U.S. unit at FOB Fenty (Jalalabad) in May 2013. I visited this unit at the time and the Shadow provided great coverage throughout the area - providing surveillance at routes (spotting or discouraging IED emplacement) and responding to TICs. They are not a great pre-mission reconnaissance platform in many cases because of the noise but the Shadow has its uses.

The GOCO contract for the Afghans could provide U.S. contractors operating and maintaining the Shadow package from the TAAC bases but also in conjunction with a training package developing ANA capability to fly and maintain Shadows over a two year period. So I am thinking the contractors are based on the Coalition bases at J'bad, MeS, Herat, and KAF working side-by-side with Afghan ANA Soldiers who are trained to run Shadow operations. Perhaps the intel folks found within the MI kandaks at corps level. If the Islamic State can field drones - using them to conduct reconnaissance and battlefield coordination - then I am thinking a 14 year old Army can figure it out. So we wean the Afghans off our drone capability and help them develop their own drone capability.

Oh oh. But we are only on these TAAC bases at best for one more year. Looks like we are two years too late with this idea. I guess we should have started two years ago when the war was only 12 years old.

Sorry, just thinking out loud.

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