An unmanned A-10 overhead and a joint terminal attack controller on the ground with the firing controls in his hands.
It’s not possible now, but it will be in the next few years, theoretically cutting response time dramatically and reducing errors in close-air support strikes.
The Pentagon’s advanced research arm wants an aircraft 30 miles from a firefight to be able to attack within six minutes of a request by a JTAC. The airman would access the plane’s targeting sensors, enter coordinates to multiple targets and send ammo flying.
Officials with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency expect to award a contract for the venture later this year; a live-fire demonstration is proposed for the last quarter of fiscal 2014. The contractor will modify an A-10 already in the fleet.
But why does converting A-10s to drones make sense?
With a limited number of planes available to convert, and most of them at the end of their shelf life, isn’t this a bit of a dead-end program? The planes at the limit of their service hours for manned flight could be rated to fly unmanned, of course, and the A-10 obviously brings things to the table that current and near-future drones do not, but I’m wondering if this would be the right way to go.
On the other hand, anything that keeps A-10s supporting the guys on the ground can’t be all bad. It’s not like we’re likely to start developing a drone with a 30mm cannon.