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RCAF Authorities / Future Unmanned Aircraft for RCAF

Weinie

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This concept of Doctrine has always intrigued me. As much as the concept of Dogma does.

Doctrine may save lives in peacetime. Not convince that doctrinal Generals save lives in wartime.
I'm not much hung up on doctrine. My posting was in support of an earlier posting.

Doctrine establishes some broad guidelines, and gives you a sense of what folks "can or may" do. Campaign planning, including surprise, is what a Comd "intends" to do. He/she can follow doctrine, but are not bound by it. Selection and maintenance of the aim, and the achievement of the desired outcome is what really matters.
 

Kirkhill

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I'm not much hung up on doctrine. My posting was in support of an earlier posting.

Doctrine establishes some broad guidelines, and gives you a sense of what folks "can or may" do. Campaign planning, including surprise, is what a Comd "intends" to do. He/she can follow doctrine, but are not bound by it. Selection and maintenance of the aim, and the achievement of the desired outcome is what really matters.
I have occasion to remind folks that it is not the plan that matters. It is the intent.
 

FJAG

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I have occasion to remind folks that it is not the plan that matters. It is the intent.
Custer's intent was to capture all the Sioux and move them back to the reservation. His plan sucked. I think sometimes the plan matters a lot. :giggle:

🍻
 

SupersonicMax

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That is not at all what G2G just said. You are twisting his words. He acknowledged that you have a certain expertise, but noted that your expertise may lack breadth. He never said that the only role for fighters was to support the land fight. That is a ridiculous non sequitor.

I am not sure why you are taking this so personally.
Well, he did accuse the fighter force of never supporting land forces in operations, which is false, and blaming this lack for the way we think. Of all the platform in the RCAF inventory, we are arguably the most joint and multi-role. Saying we lack breadth is a little dense, imo.

I don’t take it personally, but I take professional offense when unsubstantiated shots are taken at the fighter force.
 

SeaKingTacco

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Well, he did accuse the fighter force of never supporting land forces in operations, which is false, and blaming this lack for the way we think. Of all the platform in the RCAF inventory, we are arguably the most joint and multi-role. Saying we lack breadth is a little dense, imo.

I don’t take it personally, but I take professional offense when unsubstantiated shots are taken at the fighter force.
Most joint platform in the RCAF? Right. Because every single operational deployment a CF-18 does is onboard a RCN ship, right Max? Gee, I wonder what RCAF platform actually does joint on a daily basis? Take your time.

You are talking out of your ass and you probably know it.

I have FAC’d hundreds of CAS missions with CF-18s. I have ridden in the backseat of a CF-18. I have have deep respect for the mission set and capabilities of fighter aircraft, but you are digging a hole and making yourself look foolish. Just stop.
 

SupersonicMax

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Most joint platform in the RCAF? Right. Because every single operational deployment a CF-18 does is onboard a RCN ship, right Max? Gee, I wonder what RCAF platform actually does joint on a daily basis? Take your time.

You are talking out of your ass and you probably know it.

I have FAC’d hundreds of CAS missions with CF-18s. I have ridden in the backseat of a CF-18. I have have deep respect for the mission set and capabilities of fighter aircraft, but you are digging a hole and making yourself look foolish. Just stop.
Joint is not exclusive to operating from a given platform. Joint « connotes activities, operations, organizations, etc., in which elements of two or more Military Departments participate. » (US Joint Doctrine) We work with the Navy regularly (RIMPAC, TGEX), Army (MAPLE RESOLVE, FAC training, operationally on OP IMPACT) and SOF (SOJTAC training, OP IMPACT). Our tactical doctrine delineates how to integrate with all those people. Not sure what more we could do to convince you that our mission set is joint and how it compares to others.

Having controlled Hornets on CAS missions and ridden in the backseat once or a couple of times doesn’t make you an expert on everything Hornet. I am pretty sure my 1,800 hours in the aircraft, 3 operational deployments, domestic/continental operations and countless exercises (with all other elements) makes not talking out of my ass.
 

Kirkhill

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Custer's intent was to capture all the Sioux and move them back to the reservation. His plan sucked. I think sometimes the plan matters a lot. :giggle:

🍻
Custer might have had occasion to rethink his plan to achieve his intent. 😁
 

Good2Golf

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Well, he did accuse the fighter force of never supporting land forces in operations, which is false, and blaming this lack for the way we think. Of all the platform in the RCAF inventory, we are arguably the most joint and multi-role. Saying we lack breadth is a little dense, imo.

I don’t take it personally, but I take professional offense when unsubstantiated shots are taken at the fighter force.

Never? Quote please...heck, I'll do it for you. I was addressing that CF-18s have demonstrably been absent in providing direct support to Canadian land forces.

Which explains your view of fast air contributions. Don’t mistake Canadian fighter force narrow operational employment in DCA and strike for an all-encompassing, broad operational experience. Not having done BAI or CAS limits the fighter force’s ability to understand the relationship between the land forces and those that support them, be they aviation (who often share tables at the DFAC), JTACs (who do understand intimately the land forces’ plight), fast air CAS assets (who may not ever see the faces of those on the ground, but have shared a bond over the radio) and then...well...the DCA/OCA/strike folks who will never see the faces of those blue forces on the ground that are often in the thick of it.

You no doubt have some great back-slapping stories to share with your fast air peers. Shame you may have not have had as much experience working with others different than you, where an interdependent relationship in a combat environment is an experience to be respected and appreciated.
"not done as much" is not "never"

And to be clear, I’m not talking training, I’m talking Ops, deployed Ops. So...

Op Friction (Gulf War): For the vast majority of the war, CF-18s conducted Defensive Counter Air. They conducted a couple of air-to-ground missions at the very end. From speaking with people that went, it was killboxes. No interactions with JTACs.
Op Echo (Kosovo): There was no allied land forces involved.
Op Mobile (Libya): There was no allied land forces involved. While we supported rebels, there was no real coordination (that I would call ALI), definitely not at the tactical level and a very basic one at the operational level.
So you confirm what I said for 3 of the 4 deployments CF-18s have been involved in.

Then on to the 4th - OP IMPACT:

I did participate, twice, in Op IMPACT, which was mostly (95%) CAS with some limited SCAR. I am not saying we do not work i support of the Army, SOF and Navy. I have worked closely with Land forces on Op IMPACT thank you. I consider this type of work to be the most rewarding and the most important. I am saying, however, that it is only one of many roles we have (and one that, aside from Tac Hel, we don’t actually do often operationally). Having a capstone and keystone doctrine purely based on Air Land Integration would be flawed. The RCAF, aside from Tac Hel, does not exist to only support land forces.

Ironically, it seems you are the one that can’t see we don’t only support land forces.

95% CAS with some SCAR (essential area ISR for others)?

I'm genuinely asking your help Max to help me understand what CAS you would have done in OP IMPACT.

Everything I see records for, and from knowing operators in the AOR, indicates CF-18s conducted strike.

Operation IMPACT – Airstrike History
Under Operation IMPACT, the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) carried out airstrikes* on targets in Iraq and Syria from October 30, 2014 to February 15, 2016. Operation IMPACT is the CAF’s role as part of the Global Coalition against Daesh.

CAF fighter aircraft (CF-188 Hornets) flew a total of 1378 sorties**. They made 251 airstrikes—246 in Iraq and 5 in Syria—and spent 606 munitions. The sorties affected:

  • 267 Daesh fighting positions;
  • 102 Daesh equipment and vehicles; and
  • 30 Daesh Improvised Explosive Device (IED) factories and Daesh storage facilities.
The CAF ceased airstrikes in Iraq and Syria on February 15, 2016. This direction came from the Canadian government.

The following is a list of Operation IMPACT airstrikes.

*An airstrike is an attack from the air. It is intended to damage or destroy a target.

**A sortie is an operational flight by one aircraft. It starts when an aircraft takes off and ends when it lands.
So which of the 1378 sorties conducted were CAS or XCAS missions in direct support of Canadian or coalition land forces? And are you saying you were on the ATO as a CAS or XCAS line?


And from your first quote above...most-joint? Seriously? You know there’s a difference between Combined and Joint, right?

For 'Joint' in the RCAF, I would offer this as a ranking:

1. 427 SOAS - the entire squadron is literally detached OPCOM to CANSOF 24/7/365.
2. MH - embarked on HMCS globally, supporting the RCN
3. TH - situated with CA brigades and integrated enough with CMBGs that the RCAF delegates tasking authority to 1 Wing and CMBGs G3Avns.
4. SAR - I'm going to call working frequently with the JRCCs and the CCG 'joint'...some may not agree.
5. MP/LRP - involvement with RCN for integrated effects with RCN on as tasked operations and taskings
6. TT/ST - task-specific support to CA and CANSOF.
7. Civilian ex-snowbirds contracted by DND providing regular JTAC training to CA and CANSOF
8. FF - provision of task-specific training to CA, RCN and CANSOF.

I stand to be corrected, but I think this is a pretty fair shot at the 'jointness' ranking. I have listed these RCAF elements fairly, and not meant to denigrate fighters, but 'jointness' is not something that comes to mind when CF-18s are mentioned. I certainly know that's the case in face to face interactions I had with CA and CANSOF members.

G2G: You really should know that supporting land forces is one of many roles the RCAF conducts. Your sole purpose as a Tac Hel pilot may have been to support the Army but there is a lot more done on a regular basis that doesn't involve the Army. Three of the four CF-18 combat deployments did not involve supporting land forces (Gulf War, Kosovo, Libya) and none of the other operational deployments (Op Reassurance, Op Ignition, Op Mirador) or any of the domestic operations (NORAD, Op Podium, all the G7/8/20) remotely supported an Army scheme of maneuver.

Perhaps this is why our doctrine is written that way?
"Sole purpose?" You must have stopped reading the RCAF doctrine when it got to the parts with TH. "Sole-purpose" is like saying 'never' for others that you accused me of saying about you earlier. Supporting CA, RCMP, LEAs, RCN, CCG, DND/OGDs, etc. all things I've done with green helicopters...and I have more time in non-green helicopters, so I am very familiar with true joint.

Joint is not exclusive to operating from a given platform. Joint « connotes activities, operations, organizations, etc., in which elements of two or more Military Departments participate. » (US Joint Doctrine) We work with the Navy regularly (RIMPAC, TGEX), Army (MAPLE RESOLVE, FAC training, operationally on OP IMPACT) and SOF (SOJTAC training, OP IMPACT). Our tactical doctrine delineates how to integrate with all those people. Not sure what more we could do to convince you that our mission set is joint and how it compares to others.

Having controlled Hornets on CAS missions and ridden in the backseat once or a couple of times doesn’t make you an expert on everything Hornet. I am pretty sure my 1,800 hours in the aircraft, 3 operational deployments, domestic/continental operations and countless exercises (with all other elements) makes not talking out of my ass.
Nice, jump right into accusing SKT of claiming he was "an expert on everything Hornet."

I (and SKT) have with facts as appropriate to the points we're attempting to make, been as accurate and factual as possible. Your hyperbole and oft-contradicting reactions frequently don't align with the very material you say makes your case. While you said earlier that our points you don't take personally, but do so professionally rings a bit hollow.

Regards
G2G
 

SeaKingTacco

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Joint is not exclusive to operating from a given platform. Joint « connotes activities, operations, organizations, etc., in which elements of two or more Military Departments participate. » (US Joint Doctrine) We work with the Navy regularly (RIMPAC, TGEX), Army (MAPLE RESOLVE, FAC training, operationally on OP IMPACT) and SOF (SOJTAC training, OP IMPACT). Our tactical doctrine delineates how to integrate with all those people. Not sure what more we could do to convince you that our mission set is joint and how it compares to others.

Having controlled Hornets on CAS missions and ridden in the backseat once or a couple of times doesn’t make you an expert on everything Hornet. I am pretty sure my 1,800 hours in the aircraft, 3 operational deployments, domestic/continental operations and countless exercises (with all other elements) makes not talking out of my ass.
I never claimed expertise in all things Hornet. I demonstrated my level of experience with Hornets to bolster my claim that have seen enough fighter pilots in action to have deep respect for their work. Work that you are doing an excellent job in undoing, right now, given your crap ass attitude and your continued display that you do not fully comprehend doctrine nor do understand the difference between a Joint and a Combined Op.

TL;DR- fighters are an important mission set in the RCAF. They are, however, not the entirety of the RCAF.
 

SupersonicMax

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Then on to the 4th - OP IMPACT:

95% CAS with some SCAR (essential area ISR for others)?

I'm genuinely asking your help Max to help me understand what CAS you would have done in OP IMPACT.

Everything I see records for, and from knowing operators in the AOR, indicates CF-18s conducted strike.

Operation IMPACT – Airstrike History

So which of the 1378 sorties conducted were CAS or XCAS missions in direct support of Canadian or coalition land forces? And are you saying you were on the ATO as a CAS or XCAS line?

95% of those. Out of my 30-some missions during Op IMPACT, I conducted one pre-planned strike, one SCAR (it was actually a CAS line that was changed to SCAR halfway through) and the rest were all CAS lines, supporting Canadians or coalition partners.

And from your first quote above...most-joint? Seriously? You know there’s a difference between Combined and Joint, right?

I stand to be corrected, but I think this is a pretty fair shot at the 'jointness' ranking. I have listed these RCAF elements fairly, and not meant to denigrate fighters, but 'jointness' is not something that comes to mind when CF-18s are mentioned. I certainly know that's the case in face to face interactions I had with CA and CANSOF members.

I did say arguably. We support/supported every element in training and in operations (albeit most often is a coalition setting - while this is combined, this is still joint in my books - they are not mutually exclusive). My argument lies with the amount of joint activities we conduct with a diverse number of elements. We support all three other elements on a regular basis, rather than one.
I that you do not fully comprehend doctrine nor do understand the difference between a Joint and a Combined Op.

Not sure where you picked that up but sure, whatever you want to believe.

TL;DR- fighters are an important mission set in the RCAF. They are, however, not the entirety of the RCAF.

This is precisely my point, that no single platform is the entire RCAF. The whole argument that our doctrine needs to revolve around ALI is flawed because it is centered on a single point of view.
 

SupersonicMax

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in undoing, right now, given your crap ass attitude

Crap ass attitude? If some cheap shots are taken against my community, I'll retaliate. Because I don't agree with you doesn't mean I have a "crap ass" attitude.
 

Weinie

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Crap ass attitude? If some cheap shots are taken against my community, I'll retaliate. Because I don't agree with you doesn't mean I have a "crap ass" attitude.
Max,

This is not an attack against your community, it is (was) a discussion on how warfare needs to evolve, given developments and real world events.

You have made some statements that I and others have challenged you on, you have challenged some of my, and other's statements. Fair dinkum.

I am ill-prepared to talk anything CF-18, other than I, and my kids, think they are cool. You will note that I have skirted your postings on your experience with the airframe and its' FE completely. I am more prepared to talk about the evolving nature of warfare, and how the CAF is perhaps not as aggressive/forward looking as we need to be (for a whole host of reasons) and have offered some opinion. I am well prepared to talk doctrine, and how it relates to how the CAF does business, and I will challenge you on your assumptions.
 

SupersonicMax

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Max,

This is not an attack against your community, it is (was) a discussion on how warfare needs to evolve, given developments and real world events.

You have made some statements that I and others have challenged you on, you have challenged some of my, and other's statements. Fair dinkum.

I am ill-prepared to talk anything CF-18, other than I, and my kids, think they are cool. You will note that I have skirted your postings on your experience with the airframe and its' FE completely. I am more prepared to talk about the evolving nature of warfare, and how the CAF is perhaps not as aggressive/forward looking as we need to be (for a whole host of reasons) and have offered some opinion. I am well prepared to talk doctrine, and how it relates to how the CAF does business, and I will challenge you on your assumptions.

Weinie,

I am more than happy to engage in respectful discourse (without the attacks) on how warfare could evolve. I am more than happy to have assumptions challenged but it is a bit cheap (not from you) to be attacked when I challenge others assumptions.
 

blacktriangle

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I hope one day advanced propulsion and cognitive modelling allow unmanned craft to think and act like SSM one minute, and G2G the next. Or better yet, make the craft optionally-manned and you guys can fly it together. :sneaky:
 

Loachman

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I thought the thread's discussion related to RCAF level UAVs, RPAs etc etc and not the tactical level ones so my comments were in respect to those and I never contemplated not having a "pilot". I'm just saying you don't need one qualified and trained to the level of your typical jet jockey or even a transport pilot. There are dozens of things that those guys need to deal with "on the fly" so to speak that requires both training, talent and endurance. While flying UAVs and RPVs also require some piloting skills its not on the same level.

It may interest you to know that the bombardiers and master bombardiers who flew the Sperwers on ROTO 0 also went through a certified three month flight school program before being trained for another three months on the UAV itself. The RCAF imposed a pilot or navigator to sit in the control module with the crew to oversee "air worthiness" but in effect the gunners, under the supervision of their sergeant mission commander launched, flew and recovered the aircraft which weighs in at some 700 pounds, had a twelve foot wingspan and cruised up to 16,000 feet. It was the size, ceiling and nearby airport that made the RCAF nervous (or maybe it was the fact that the Army got a bunch of cash to buy Sperwers on a UAV in a matter of three months)

There's no doubt in my mind that the guy who flies a Raven B doesn't need anywhere near as much training as those Sperwer operators did and that anyone who flies a Reaper should have more. But none of them need the same degree of training as someone who flies an F-18 or F-35 or C-17. Neither do they need the same rank nor compensation package. That was my point: the RCAF is locked into the mentality that unless you are a pilot trained captain receiving flight pay you have no business operating an airframe. The fact of the matter is that there are pilots and then there are pilots. We need to keep the training and rank and compensation commensurate to the task at hand. Guys who fly suicide drones, do not need to be RCAF fully qualified pilots (they don't need to be RCAF at all) neither do most tactical UAVs and quite probably some of the more esoteric aerial guided weapon systems (hell we launch precision munitions by cannon, why not guided/piloted winged ones from a HIMARS?) The technology is getting spectacular and its time to set some paradigms aside and think differently about who does what and whether they get to collect flight pay and sleep in hotels.

🍻
I was the last one to run a Sperwer mission in the Canadian Forces.

Sperwer was a Tactical UAV.

The AVOs (Air Vehicle Operators) and POs (Payload Operators) were still Bombardiers, with one or two promoted to Master Bombardier in theatre, and one of our AVOs was some variety of Aircraft Tech.

All four Mission Commanders were Tac Hel Pilots.

None of us were receiving aircrew allowance as we were not flying. None of the deployed aircrew were, either, as they all received the same as anybody else deployed.

Our wingspan was actually just a tad under fourteen feet.

Scan Eagle was completely run by 4 AD Regiment. It was designated as a Small UAV.

There was no "RCAF" at the time. It was still "Air Command".

Operating Sperwer was nothing like flying a manned aircraft. The controls consisted of a panel embedded in a desk/counter and had nothing more than twiddly knobs and large, square, illuminated buttons. It reminded me of the original Star Trek control panels. We had no peripheral vision, nor could we hear our engine noise (which was a major factor in at least two AV losses) or feel what our aircraft was doing - even when we flew into thunderstorms and got swatted down eight hundred feet or so.

Scan Eagle is a smaller machine than Sperwer, but more modern and designed and built by a real US company with a real history of real aircraft design whereas Sperwer was designed and built by SAGEM, a French communications electronics company (my Bell Fibe modem-thingy is a SAGEM product, but, fortunately, it works reliably) with extremely limited experience designing and building anything that flew - and it showed. Lots of components were sub-contracted and did not work well together and much of it was just plain really, really weird.

We never lost a mission due to lack of a serviceable machine, but that's purely because we had magicians instead of Techs. Our "Body Shop" guy even rebuilt a whole wing after he'd noticed that the airfoil on one wing of an AV, newly-returned from a major rebuild by SAGEM, was inverted (excellent quality control there, SAGEM). That would have made for a highly entertaining launch...

We lost six machines, one in Wainwright during Ex Maple Guardian due to a launcher failure, one in theatre due to a parachute failure (my personal first loss), one due to a partial engine failure (my personal second loss), one due to a faulty engine RPM failure that mimicked an engine failure (my personal, and - thank fuck - final personal loss), one that failed to climb post-launch due to a temperature inversion and ended up in a mountain of old mines in KAF (I had an iron-clad alibi that time), and the last another launch system failure.

I almost lost one due to another inversion, but my quick-witted AVO followed low ground based purely on moving-map-display contour lines with no direct input needed from me and we eventually began to slowly climb. The inversion problem had likely happened on previous rotos, but was still not fully understood at the time and it caught us by surprise. The other problems were neither anticipated (and were not, therefore, included in the checklist) nor had they ever occurred before, at least not in CF service. I obtained all of the previous flight safety reports after my third loss and went through every one of them. There were several of which we were unaware, but, fortunately, none of those recurred during our roto.

I almost lost another very early on when the AV symbol on the moving map display froze, which made it extremely difficult to blunder our way back to KAF and make a successful recovery - which was due to the intelligence, skill, and incredible co-ordination of and between my AVO and PO.

We had amazingly brilliant people for the most part, but were not set up for success by either the "system" overall or previous rotos. We were still inventing and learning things from scratch, but we actually documented everything.

We operated at much lower altitudes than the little Scan Eagles did. They were around 11000 feet above ground level, whereas I tended to hang around 3000 feet. Any higher, and detail suffered - our thermal imager was not the best. Scan Eagle, then, did not even have a thermal imager. They were strictly a daytime operation, and their image tended to be rather jerky. Both of those shortcomings had been corrected when I went back a couple of years later.

Yes, those pairs of young Scan Eagle Bombardiers seemed effective in their roles, but they certainly sounded nervous when talking to ATC or Taipan (the tactical controller). That was a new environment for them.

Our Tac Hel experience, especially for the two of us with a Kiowa recce background, certainly helped, as did my Police helicopter time.

There is less and less need for actual flying time for largish systems as they develop and improve, but additional training is required to make up for the lack thereof for those who do not have any - not so much for the flying skills, but general air sense and tactical awareness. I still think, however, that the only way to be able to comprehend and think in a 3D environment is to experience it directly and to understand what one's aircraft is actually doing, especially when it deviates from normality.

The smaller toys don't need that air sense, or any more tactical sense than what their operators already have, as they are operating at much lower altitudes and ranges than we were.
 

Loachman

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having clamored for a hand in the tactical UAV area and running it until the end of Afghan operations the RCAF has gone back to floundering around in the JUSTAS program leaving the Army alone to develop its own doctrine and suite of true tactical UAVs.

🍻
It's much better for the Army if it stays that way.
 

Underway

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Navy is going to use the SKELDAR UAS. It's not flown by pilots. It's flown by contractors who are definitively not pilots (as they double as technicians). It seems to me that there are some obvious dividing lines here.

Tactical UAS are going to be flown at a lower level in the pay scale. The reasons for this are obvious. Lower cost platform increased speed of employment and decision making. Some tactical UAS may be designated as throw-away sensors/munitions.

Anything that carries weapons (in the traditional sense) will have an officer in the loop directing it. That's a clear "management of the application of violence" job that falls to officers. And of course, anything that is large enough to fly in civilian lanes will have an officer in the loop as well. That would likely fall into a Strategic category.

Now note that I didn't say, pilot. For various reasons, it might be better or more applicable for an Air Combat Systems Officer to run UAS missions as a mission commander with NCM's acting as the UAS controller. Lots of ways to look at this.
 

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It's much better for the Army if it stays that way.
When did you first work with Sperwer? I definitely would like to interview you when it comes time for the the further look at these as we moved from Sperwer to Heron to ScanEagle and Skylark and Maveric and Raven and Blackjack.

There is one item that is interesting me right now (just as an aside). When 2 RCHA deployed a troop (essentially one launcher, some ground stations and several aircraft in 2003 it was a captain's command with some 25 pers. When 408 deployed it in 2006 the establishment had slid up to over 50 with a major in charge but basically the same launch and mission control capability. Were you involved at that time? and if so, maybe send me a PM if you know the rationale for the changes.

🍻
 

Loachman

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When did you first work with Sperwer? I definitely would like to interview you when it comes time for the the further look at these as we moved from Sperwer to Heron to ScanEagle and Skylark and Maveric and Raven and Blackjack.

There is one item that is interesting me right now (just as an aside). When 2 RCHA deployed a troop (essentially one launcher, some ground stations and several aircraft in 2003 it was a captain's command with some 25 pers. When 408 deployed it in 2006 the establishment had slid up to over 50 with a major in charge but basically the same launch and mission control capability. Were you involved at that time? and if so, maybe send me a PM if you know the rationale for the changes.

🍻
I was on Roto 6, arriving at the beginning of October 2008 and leaving on 1 May 2009 (a day late as somebody broke the C17).

Flt Comd was a Tac Hel Major, 2IC/Ops O was a 4 AD Captain, all four Mission Commanders were Tac Hel Captains. FSM was a 4 AD MWO, Senior Tech was a Tac Hel MWO. The absence of an AERE probably contributed to our ability to maintain at least one serviceable AV despite the problems with them.

Full strength was a little north of 50.

I can give more specific numbers later.

It was a stable op by that point, but we were grossly misemployed. We were always short of spares as no more were being bought.

It was both a very frustrating time, dealing with all of the quirks of that fershugginer beast, but we made it work through sheer determination and talent and ingenuity of a lot of our people. And those people were what made it a career highlight. Nailing an IED emplacement team caught in the act was right up there, too, as was an ICOM Chatter report just before launch one dark and stormy night when nothing but us could fly: "the weather is bad tonight, but that plane will be up". It felt good to be unloved.

Our Roto blew all of the previous ones out of the water for hours and missions flown. We were only mandated to fly one mission per twenty-four-hour period, but pushed that to three in early 2009 and maintained two even once we'd dropped back to two vice four GCS crews after thinning out in March. That was our original end date, but most of us stayed longer to cover Heron's stumbling start. We kept the best of a bunch of excellent Techs as well.

I have a buttload of photographs on my Flickr page (but haven't added any since around 2012). Access to my military photographs is restricted to friends and family. I can add you to that list.

The one on display in the aviation museum at Rockcliffe was the last one that we wrote off. I can't remember what the initial problem was, but that's how we discovered that there could be something like a twenty-second delay between ordering a launch cancellation (as the launch crew did) and the new Robonics launcher losing interest. The engine shutdown was the first thing that happened once the button had been smacked, and it was almost instantaneous (and frequently blew up the muffler, something that we were very short of in the last couple of weeks).

If only the sequence of the cancellation was reversed...

But we had no control over that.

I gained a lot of respect for the power of the Robonics launcher, though, as everything appeared normal - I was standing right beside one of the two huge generators that powered the whole system and couldn't hear anything, like the now-silent engine, above the racket, besides barely-audible voices in the little radio that I had.

It climbed/was flung up to a couple of hundred feet, and then levelled off, and then gently began to descend, still in a climbing attitude as its little robot brain tried vainly to keep it going up. It reminded me of space shuttle landings, until it disappeared behind the blast barriers along the southern edge of our compound.

Our techs spruced it up a little once it was finally brought back in, then added a six-bladed propeller stack in place of the four-bladed stack, built out of six broken blades. Photographs were sent to SAGEM extolling the benefits of our new mod.
 

FJAG

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I have a buttload of photographs on my Flickr page (but haven't added any since around 2012). Access to my military photographs is restricted to friends and family. I can add you to that list.

The one on display in the aviation museum at Rockcliffe was the last one that we wrote off. ...
That's terrific and we'll definitely talk again when I get to that phase later this year.

For those of you wondering what Loachman and I are jabbering about, the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum has a very good research article with lots of photos about the Sperwer to compliment the exhibit which they have on the floor. It covers the project from the earliest deployments in 2003 until it exited service.

🍻
 
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