Thursday, 23 June 2011

Fire Scout Versus Kiowa

The renaissance of the unmanned aircraft has been perceived as a revolution in military technology which will transform warfare.

Unmanned aircraft are often perceived as new types of weapon systems having little in common with existing military aircraft.

But is that the case? 

Fire Scout is a small helicopter which carries an optical sensor turret and lightweight missiles,it has a gross weight of 3,150 pounds,a maximum speed of 115 knots,a ceiling of 20,000 feet,an endurance of over 8 hours and each one costs an average of (U.S.) $17 Million / (U.K.) £10.6 Million (Financial Year 2011 figures).

Kiowa Warrior is a small helicopter which carries an optical sensor turret and lightweight missiles,it has a gross weight of 5,500 pounds,a maximum speed of 125 knots,a ceiling of 19,000 feet,an endurance of 2 hours and each one costs an average of $8.1 Million / £5 Million  (Financial year 1999 figures).

1 comment:

TheRagingTory said...

I'm commenting about both this article and the prvious one.

Costs are about the same once inflation and production volume is taken into account.
Firescout may possibly be even cheaper in the long run due to the lower requirements for pilot training, pilots in aircraft need to be able to recover from extreme movements to avoid incoming fire, equipment failures and the like.
With UAVs, you can simply work out if its cheaper to train the pilot to save the platform, or buy new platforms. And buy new platforms.

Kiowa is indeed likely more survivable due to increased situational awareness and defence aids, but that also makes it more expensive and less flaxible. Firescout is of little consequence when lost, no funeral, no war widows, no bad headlines in the papers. Beyond the attendent cost of replacement course.

True, the other side will have many more missiles than we have UAVs, but they will haqve very few missile sites. If we shot down a UAV with RAPIER, would it be able to retask to defend itself from a Tornado that was waiting to ambush, or a supporting 105 battery waiting patiently for them to open fire before tracking the missile and destroying their position?

Although MANPADS are likely to be more of a problem, due to their proliferation, but its far better lose ten firescout than enter another BlackHawk Down situation.

Against the Taliban, any lost are a waste.

But lets say its a different war, and we're fighting a forced entry at range campaign, like on the Falklands.
We have some intel from radar mapping overflights and SatInt, but thats it.
Imagine the first action being 50 firescouts launching from an Ocean type vessel
Even if we lose every single one, it would cost £500mn to repalce them. Thats less than the rebuild cost of a T45

50 Firescout type craft, launched at once, would be able to map out a large proportion of the the enemy force, or at least a large proportion of the warzone before they were all destroyed.

It might sound like a big loss, and it is, but if 20 UAVS are destroyed in a hail of MANPADS in area the overflights marked clear, its pretty obvious someone dropped the ball. Better you lose 20 throw away UAVs than a couple of chinooks overloaded with Marines.

Obviously, I'd prefer a cheaper platform for such a task, but losses in a future hot war scenario could mount up very quickly. Its better those losses are unammaned.

If it helps look at if from the other side.
Your at war with the UK, and the RAF has deployed 4 full squadrons of Typhoons to throw up an air dominance umbrella. Average life expectancy for your air assets is 6 hours of flight. Do you send up MAVs or UAVs?