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US Army insists on human-piloted rotorcraft for armed reconnaissance mission instead of UAV

A US Air Force MQ-9 Reaper UAV pictured on 5 August at March Air Reserve Base in California. The US Army insists on having a piloted rotorcraft perform the armed reconnaissance mission, though an expert said the service could do it, and do it cheaper, with an MQ-9. (US Air National Guard)

The US Army insists it needs a human-piloted Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) helicopter to perform the armed reconnaissance mission despite experts telling Janes the service could perform the mission with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

Brigadier General Robert Barrie, programme executive officer for aviation, told Janes on 12 October that the existing technology requires the US Army to have a human-in-the-loop operating in the FARA for the decisions that would be required, and anticipated, for forward reconnaissance. A portion of this mission, he said, will be executed by UAVs, specifically with a combination of Air Launched Effects (ALE) and manned-unmanned teaming.

The US Army has considered using UAVs to perform armed reconnaissance. The service, Brig Gen Barrie said, is always looking for ways to use optionally manned platforms to perform the mission and that it evaluates the development of flight control systems and networks that would be needed to communicate with the UAV for this opportunity.

“We see, in the future, certainly potential where that mission is performed by a larger percentage of unmanned assets than today,” Brig Gen Barrie said.

The armed reconnaissance mission is scouting, better informing or preparing soldiers for a possible engagement with an adversary, but with an opportunity for operators to immediately strike a target. Mark Cancian, senior adviser for the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC, told Janes

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