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[] Kritik am Predator UAV,
Vgl. meine Mail "Combat UAVs und der Joint Strike Fighter" vom Montag.
Plötzlich gibt es massive Kritik an der Kampfdrohne. Ob wohl Lockheed
Martin dahinter steckt? ;-)

(von Georg Schöfbänker)
October 30, 2001

Predator UAV Given Poor Review By Pentagon Testers

The Predator unmanned aerial vehicle, which is being used by U.S.
forces in Afghanistan against the Taliban, was recently deemed
ineffective and unsuitable for military operations by the Pentagon's
director of operational testing, according to documents and sources.

The report is based on testing of the UAV that predates its
deployment in Afghanistan. It puts the Pentagon's operational test
directorate at odds with Air Force testers who see the program as
troubled but still effective and suitable enough for military
operations. According to a summary of an operational testing report
on Predator reviewed by and prepared for Defense
Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Congress, the UAV system is "not
operationally effective or suitable." The report summary is signed
by DOT&E Director Thomas Christie.

Predator, which began as a technology demonstration program in the
early 1990s, has been praised by the Pentagon as a success story.
The system, built by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., has
been used in places such as Bosnia to gather military intelligence.
Most recently, according to published reports, Predator became the
United States' first armed drone when it was sent into Afghanistan
equipped with Hellfire missiles that could be launched remotely at
Taliban targets.

The test report, however, underscores Predator's shortcomings. In
transitioning Predator to the field, the Defense Department has
failed to take full advantage of operational assessments performed
between 1995 and 2000 that identified key system shortfalls, the
report states. The report does not recommend discontinuing
deployments of Predator, a system that the U.S. military uses
heavily. Rather, the report says problems associated with the system
must be fixed if it is ever to meet its operational requirements.

"The disparity between the apparently successful fielded system and
a system that did not perform well in the initial operational test
and evaluation (IOT&E) is largely attributable to the fact that the
fielded system is tasked and operated well within known limitations
such as effective time-on-station (ETOS), weather restrictions,
expected threats, and expected accuracy and dissemination
abilities," states the report. "Additionally, the operators in the
field have developed workarounds, somewhat effective but often
cumbersome, for many system deficiencies."

The Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center found Predator
"to be effective, but not without limitations and difficulties,"
according to the DOT&E report. The Air Force found the UAV
"suitable," though "reliability and maintainability problems
persist." While the Air Force and DOT&E "agree on the limitations
and difficulties encountered by the Predator system," they differ on
how the UAV's missions might be affected. Christie, according to the
report, believes the UAV's limitations "will have a substantial
negative impact on the Predator's ability to conduct its missions as
described in the operational requirements document."

Although fielded operations prove Predator has utility in certain
mission environments, initial operational testing highlighted
"numerous shortcomings that limit its effectiveness," the report
states. If uncontested by weather, threats or other factors that
introduce tactical uncertainty, a deployed Predator unit is capable
of surveillance, reconnaissance and battle damage assessment
missions. "However, poor target location accuracy, ineffective
communications, and limits imposed by relatively benign weather,
including rain, negatively impact missions such as strike support,
combat search and rescue, area search, and continuous coverage,"
states the report.

Publicly, Air Force leaders continue to voice enthusiasm for
Predator and other UAVs.

"UAVs have played a big part in the last five or six years in every
phase of combat we've been in," said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen.
John Jumper, speaking Oct. 16 on Capitol Hill. "The Predator is a
workhorse of an airplane. The Global Hawk is coming along. And these
are being well integrated into our workforce."

A Pentagon source said the Air Force was irked by the report. An Air
Force source confirmed the service was not pleased but said it was
not surprised by the assessment and had discussed related issues
with OSD months ago.

The testing report argues that Predator is not living up to
important requirements established at the outset of the program. The
operational concept in the UAV's ORD is to "operate and sustain the
system for 30 days," providing "around-the-clock (24-hour
continuous) reconnaissance support to the commanders," it states.
The UAV is supposed to be able to operate under adverse weather
conditions, in areas where enemy air defenses still function, over
the open ocean and in contaminated environments. The test report,
however, calls into question the UAV's ability to meet such

"The system demonstrated target location errors approximately twice
what the accuracy requirement allows under operational conditions,"
the report states.

Air Force operational testers found the Predator system did not meet
reliability or maintainability requirements and had a high
preventative maintenance burden, the report states. Those Air Force
testers also identified inadequate fault detection procedures,
inadequate technical orders, cumbersome access to internal system
components, particularly the engine, and inaccurate fuel quantity
measurements, according to the report.

Despite these problems, Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation
Center concluded the system is operationally suitable, citing the
ability to rapidly disassemble and reassemble the system in less
than 12 hours, adequate air and ground transportability, and the
ability to maintain about 78 percent effective time-on-station
(ETOS) for the conditions of initial operational test and
evaluation. Air Force testers also found integrated logistics
support and human systems integration sufficient, the report states.

"DOT&E, on the other hand, found that the system is currently unable
to provide the required level of continuous coverage (75 percent
ETOS) at the required operating range (up to 400 miles)," states the
report. Data extrapolated from the test suggest that 60 percent ETOS
can be obtained at 400 miles if relief-on-station procedures are
used, the report states.

"However, the procedures were exacting and confusing, immature, and
developed solely for the IOT&E," according to the report. "The 57th
Operations Group Commander restricted Predator from flying using
relief-on-station shortly after the test concluded. The lack of
relief-on-station procedures, combined with poor reliability,
renders the system unable to meet the ETOS requirement of 75 percent
(excluding weather downtime) at the ORD-required range of 400
nautical miles."

Pentagon operational testers also found the frequency of required
preventative maintenance for Predator to be "incongruous with the
aircraft's expected sortie length."

A lack of in-depth system design makes the system unfriendly to
users and difficult to learn, problems that impact training and
mission effectiveness, the report states. At the end of IOT&E, 16
mission-critical deficiency reports were cited, many of which were
related to human factors, the report states. "DOT&E finds the system
to be not operationally suitable when considered against the
required 30-day continuous operations tempo because of the serious
deficiencies in reliability, maintainability and human factors
design," according to the report.

Due to untested requirements, the Joint Interoperability Test
Command has not yet certified the Predator system for
interoperability in accordance with DOD directives and instructions,
the report states. JITC has certified only three of seven critical
interfaces; the remaining interfaces have not been made available to
JITC for evaluation, the document continues.

-- Christopher J. Castelli

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