Murphy's Law: Libya And Pilot Unemployment


November 16, 2011: NATO leaders are examining the costs of the seven month operation in Libya and have concluded that more UAVs are needed. That's because it's cheaper (by about 80 percent) to use UAVs for most missions, rather than the larger and much more expensive manned aircraft. The Americans did send in some UAVs (mainly Predators and Reapers) and these performed more effectively, and cheaply, than manned aircraft.

While there are some kinds of wars where current UAVs have limited use, like where the enemy has lots of high-altitude anti-aircraft weapons, for the near future, NATO won't be facing anything like that. The future is more peacekeeping and operations like the recent Libyan one. In these new ops, cheaper, slower and unmanned aircraft can stay in the air longer, keep a better eye on the ground, and carry enough missiles or smart bombs to take care what needs to be hit. Best of all, the UAV can do it at less than a fifth the cost (in dollars per flight hour) compared to manned aircraft. Aircraft are much more expensive with people on board, and cannot stay in the air nearly as long. Most UAVs are propeller driven, which is cheaper and slower. Both are good for trolling the land beneath for targets, or just to keep track of who is doing what.

For the NATO nations that participated in the Libyan operations, these savings are not theoretical, they are real. UAV makers are rejoicing, while manufacturers of manned aircraft are reconsidering their product line.





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