The case against UAV fighters

Joe Katzman:

Operating and recapitalization costs for front-line fighters are up in the stratosphere, even as a wide variety of conflicts around the world fit counterinsurgency profiles requiring affordable, persistent surveillance and rapid fire support. UAVs are filling an important niche, and their success is triggering major bureaucratic showdowns in response - but they remain expensive, are much more crash-prone than manned aircraft, and offer a limited field of view.

Under the circumstances, it isn't surprising that some nations are turning back to simpler aircraft whose speed, view, and weapons carriage are purpose-built to offer dependable counter-insurgency surveillance and fire support at lower cost. America's A-10 "Warthog" widely outclasses much more expensive aircraft, for instance, and has become the key manned fighter of the global war on terror. Even as nations like Columbia purchase dual role trainer/COIN Super Tucano planes, and Iraq holds an aircraft competition for modified trainer/COIN aircraft of its own.

...

The Strategy Page indicates that the cost of fuel is limiting the time many countries will devote to pilot training which would cut against Katzman's argument somewhat. I think in both cases there will be much more time spent with computer games to simulate the training, but I don't know how they can simulate G-forces at the same time. They may be able to simulate the visual, but not the feel of flight.

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