Inside Unmanned Systems

AUG-SEP 2017

Inside Unmanned Systems provides actionable business intelligence to decision-makers and influencers operating within the global UAS community. Features include analysis of key technologies, policy/regulatory developments and new product design.

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12 unmanned systems inside August/September 2017 by JAMES POSS, MAJ GEN (RET) USAF, CEO ISR IDEAS I 've decided to embark of a series of "Lessons from the Drone Wars" to dis- cuss what the U.S. Air Force has learned about drones in the 25+ years of experi- ence I have with drones. This article will cover something I've beaten like a dead horse—the need to f ly drones beyond line of sight (BLOS) of their remote aircrew. Why? Because, as the Air Force found out, you can't do much with a drone you must see to f ly. My first experience with drones was in 1991 while attached to US VII Corps dur- ing DESERT STORM at Hafra Al Batin in Saudi Arabia, about 40 miles from Iraq. We were the only U.S. Army unit with the Israeli-made Pioneer drone. I knew the Pioneer from Israel's Bekka Valley Campaign in Lebanon in 1982. Israel used Pioneers to spot Syrian missiles, destroy- ing 29 of 30 missile sites in a two-hour battle. We were looking forward to great things from the Pioneer, but we forgot one detail…line of sight. We forgot that Israel installed their drone links on high towers on 8,000 ft mountains, giving them an impressive 180-mile range into Lebanon. If there was a mountain near Hafra Al Batin, no one told me. As a result, we had to deploy the Pioneer a mile south of the Iraqi border and Iraqis overran the position on day one (fortunately, they wanted to surrender). My next drone war was the Kosovo Air War in 1999 where I commanded an RC-135 squadron. The Air Force had General Overview by James Poss, Maj Gen (RET) USAF LESSONS FROM THE DRONE WARS: BLOS IS BOSS 1: NO BLOS: NO RANGE 2: BLOS MEANS BLOS: YOU CAN BASE ANY WHERE 3: THE INTERNET WORKS. USE IT. 4: BLOS MAKES YOU SUPER FLEXIBLE, AND THAT'S SUPER USEFUL LESSONS LEARNED LESSON LEARNED: No BLOS, no range. Above: As the Air Force learned fl ying Predators (above) beyond-line-of- sight fl ights are more about the network. Photo courtesy of General Atomics.

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