More on the USAF Super-Recon Programs
Last Friday I told you about the Air Force’s Eye of Sauron blimp program (my name for it), and the problems it is having. Well, they’ve already tried putting a subset of that sensor platform (called the Gorgon Stare project) on the MQ-9 Reaper, and they’re having problems with that too – lots of problems.
- The system is “not operationally effective” or “suitable”, according to the AF evaluators.
- The video feed resembles something like a modern day YouTube HD video piped across a 56k modem – jerky, missing data, and nowhere near effectively real-time. The cause of this is that the data downlink pipe is not big enough to handle a real-time feed, so the feed is cut down to something the pipe can handle, resulting in a less than effective system.
- The plane’s targeting laser can inadvertently target the system’s cameras, rendering them at least temporarily useless, if the operator is not careful.
- The two platforms (Reaper and Gorgon Stare) are not a natural fit; the airframe must be modified and strengthened in order to support the recon package.
Please note, for planning purposes, that weapons contractors are nothing if not persistent. They will redesign the systems so that they work together, or move to a different test platform.
This has the potential to be a very effective recon platform for government forces, but it has significant development hurdles to overcome. It is not likely that they will be overcome in the immediate future (that is, by the end of the year), but such a timeline could be influenced by factors unknown at this time.