It’s dorky, it’s ugly and…


…and it serves no useful purpose…

A solution in search of a problem

OK, so, yeah whatever, it’s technically very cool and it’s not REALLY an aircraft so you can let a couple of NCOs operate it – and of course save a bundle on what you would actually have to pay a proper crew…

I’m clearly a big fan of unmanned systems – in entirely the wrong job if I wasn’t – but it’s like they used to teach in the good old days at the Tactics School ‘..task with a purpose…’ that is, you don’t just do stuff simply because you can…

So what are my issues with the unmanned cargo aerial vehicle:

Even the acronym is dodgy as UCAV also represents unmanned combat aerial vehicle and I’m not sure we want to be getting to two confused. Maybe a good rule of thumb could be that if you have two acronyms that can be applied interchangeably but mean totally different things, then one of them has to change. Litmus test: would anyone be upset if the US announced it was deploying ‘UCAVs’ to Libya? (Let’s not go near the whole Syrian debacle…

It’s optionally manned i.e. the cockpit is still there and functional so that if required a pilot (one only as it is a single seater) can operate it. Sounds like someone is hedging their bets but who’d want to be flying a single seat unarmoured helicopter at low level in the badlands…possibly keeping it sellable so keep an eye out for some slightly used optionally manned K-Maxs on eBay.

It’s meant to save lives. How is not exactly clear. The greater numbers of casualties in a helicopter crash come from the passengers – this thing isn’t carrying passengers and it’s only doing ash and trash tasks which are not noted as being amongst the more dangerous helicopter missions unless all of a sudden boredom is actually a hazard.

Oh, I see, it’s meant to save lives by reducing the amount of ground traffic that needs to be exposed to the IED threat. But haven’t we been doing the airborne resupply thing for years now? What has K/Max really brought to the party except another aircraft type to maintain and operate?

This whole thing of we’ll only travel by air because of the IEDs gives the lie to ‘war amongst the people’: having come in and screwed up your country, we happy for us to have the luxury of free air travel…whoa, you locals step away from the aircraft – you still get to travel by land and risk the threat aimed at us. Yeah right, much as we don’t want our people to go in harm’s way, this is simply ceding the ground to the bad guys which bad. What’s worse is that validates IEDs as valid and effective tools to employ against ground forces. Expect to see (LOTS) more of them until they go the way of the Zeppelin and and made untenable as weapon systems. That means putting more resource into countering IEDs to the left, well to the left of the BANG. the K-Max UCAV isn’t going to help you there.

The K-Max might actually add to the problems created by ceding the land environment (great for air forces though!!) because every boring mundane MANNED ash and trash mission puts eyes on the ground, and the more that they cover the same area on a routine basis, the greater the familiarity they build up and the more likely they are to be able to detect and identify some form of anomaly or indicator that might need to be followed up.

Every manned helicopter currently doing the ash and trash mission can be reroled on the fly for emergency dust-off of casualties or to provide airborne ISR for troops in contact…can’t really do that with the K-Max UCAV. You also can’t use it to provide quick fires with its door guns because it doesn’t have doors let alone guns…can’t toss an airborne sniper up in it either…

There are hidden costs. This thing is not fitted with any form of self-protection system so its only really any good where there no air threat to helicopters. One also wonders how good the flight control system is once the aircraft has been damaged in flight – will it be able to autonomously divert to an alternate LZ or even opt to make an emergency landing in the field?

So sorry, close but no cigar…UAVs are useful but they are not a universal panacea for all ills and they certainly do make the IED issue ‘go away’…but everything has to actually contribute meaningfully to the war effort and, as writ to date, the K-Max UCAV simply doesn’t…

2 thoughts on “It’s dorky, it’s ugly and…

  1. wow….cooool….We’ll take 5,000. Please provide us with costs for a troop transport model, a version that can enter sub-orbital space, one armed with a 105mm cannon and one that can fulfill an air superiority mission.

    Thanks!

    U.S. Dept. of Defense

    • Yep, sure…hard cash or gold up front…(the greenback is no longer hard cash i.e. just printing more of it does not make it more valuable)…I guess that eliminates the US and Europe as potential customers but it’s OK you’ll have an F-35 to play with…

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