Wednesday, September 30, 2009

USAF's Near Ridiculous Push for Unmanned Cargo Aircraft

USAF just put out an RFI for an unmanned cargo aircraft. The specifications are: 500-3,000 lbs, 500 nautical miles, 250 knots, V/STOL up to 300 feet runway, etc, etc.

As I see it, that's a pretty ridiculous set of specifications for an unmanned aircraft. If you're going to have a payload of up to 3,000 lbs, you have room for a pilot. The USAF could use a commercial off-the-shelf prop-driven aircraft that would meet all of the specs (other than the unmanned part). They could spend the money saved on a strapped-down auto-pilot unit, later, that could fly the plane. Voila, immediate capability in the field! This is the USAF re-inventing the wheel the USAF-way.

Speaking of re-inventing the wheel, here is a blast from the past: The Soviet Antonov-2 biplane cargo aircraft. 3,000 lb, check [4,700lb "useful load"]. 500 nautical miles, check [456 nm, almost there]. V/STOL, check [30 miles per hour stall speed.] 250 knots, no [139 kn max].

Wiki quotes a serviceable An-2 at $30,000. That is probably cheaper than the salary we paid the USAF people during their RFI preparation.

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