Specialty Press' Drone Strike


UCAVs and unmanned aerial warfare in the 21st century


Bill Yenne


Specialty Press


$39.95 from Specialty Press


Scott Van Aken

Notes: ISBN 978-1-58007-238-0, 192 pages, hundreds of images, hardbound , 10.25 x 10.25 inches

Unless you have been asleep for the last 20 years or so, you know that there has been a bit of a revolution in the skies. In a word, UAVs or unmanned aerial vehicles (drones). These range in all sizes to ones you can fly in your house to huge military types that can stay aloft for tens of hours. Initially, drones were used as targets for gunners and later developed into carrying bombs to hit high value targets such as bridges. Early drones were either specially built aircraft or, as was developed during WWII, converted and unmanned military aircraft. These early drones required line of sight for the operator to be able to make adjustments in flight, but as was shown with the V-1 cruise missile, it could be set for a specific destination. During Vietnam, drones were programmed to fly reconnaissance missions over hostile territory by programming their flight path. They then 'landed' at a predetermined location via parachute.

Today, UAVs are still used for targets, but they are also used to test new weapons systems where their failure could cause harm to a pilot. Unmanned aircraft like this do have their plusses. Thanks to a global satellite network, military planners have been able to take advantage of having pilotless aircraft operate in hot zones without the need of putting pilot in danger. In this case, the pilot sits in an air conditioned trailer somewhere often thousands of miles away and is able to control the UAV.

At first these vehicles were only used for reconnaissance, but it was realized they could also carry weapons, and soon the UCAV (c for combat) was born. These have been extremely useful in killing terrorists thanks to their generally quiet operation and ability to stay in the air long enough to ensure success. Most of us are familiar with these and they come in different sizes and shapes.

The other type is one that will eventually replace fighter and attack aircraft. No one really likes to think that the military pilot will soon be unable to fly inside his supersonic aircraft into combat, but this is where things seem to be headed. Both the USAF and Navy are working on projects that will allow strike forces to be totally unmanned. Progress is being rapidly made in this venue and many think that the F-35 will be the last manned combat aircraft in US service.

The author covers the past history of these vehicles, the later developments, at look at operations, what is currently being flown and what is also being developed. This includes all the experimental types, many of which will end up as production aircraft. The US is not the only nation using and developing these aircraft. We also get a look at what they are flying and how it fits into their needs. It is a book that I can easily recommend to you and I know that once you start to read it, you will agree.

February 2017

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