Risk
12/14/2012
02:04 PM
John Foley
John Foley
Slideshows
Connect Directly
Google+
LinkedIn
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%
Repost This

Military Drones Present And Future: Visual Tour

The Pentagon's growing fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles ranges from hand-launched machines to the Air Force's experimental X-37B space plane.
Previous
1 of 22
Next


A Jan. 2 drone strike against a Taliban leader in Pakistan near the Afghan border illustrates the expanded role that unmanned aerial vehicles are playing in U.S. military operations.

Militant leader Mullah Nazir and several Taliban fighters were killed by the attack, which involved at least two missiles, according to reports.

The Department of Defense and U.S. intelligence agencies are increasingly using UAVs for everything from battlefield surveillance to remote-controlled strikes against terrorists. Such strikes have also been blamed for civilian casualties in their pursuit of enemy targets.

And drones aren't limited to overseas operations. Military flights are increasingly taking place over U.S. skies, raising privacy and public safety issues, according to a new report from the Electronic Frontier Foundation. When one of the Air Force's MQ-9 Reapers, described as "hunter, killer" drones, crashed in Nevada last month, a spokesman expressed relief that no one was hurt.

The Army and the Air Force are developing "sense-and-avoid" systems that will let military UAVs share U.S. airspace with commercial and private planes by automating how they maneuver. One such system will use cooperative sensors that work with the Traffic Collision Avoidance System used in civil aviation and with the FAA's Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) system. Another is an optical system that looks for other aircraft and provides tracking information to a computer on the UAV.

The Navy plans to begin deploying UAVs on aircraft carriers. The U.S. Navy last month lifted a Northrop Grumman drone, the X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System, onto the USS Harry S. Truman. The X-47B is capable of flying preprogrammed missions, then returning to the carrier for landing. Its initial application will be refueling other aircraft while in flight, but the X-47B can also carry and fire weapons.

Other countries are developing or buying their own UAVs. Britain's Royal Navy recently tested a drone that could potentially be used from its ships, according to The Guardian. There's always the risk that a U.S. drone will fall into the wrong hands. A few weeks ago, Iran claimed to have captured a U.S. Navy drone that had entered its airspace. Navy officials denied that it was theirs.

Military drones range from lightweight flying machines that can be launched by hand, to the Air Force's 11,000 pound X-37B, which is about one-quarter the size of NASA's space shuttle. The X-37B, pictured above, took off on an Earth-orbiting mission on Dec. 11, a secretive project that will test the feasibility of long-duration military space flights.

The "reusable space plane" was launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla., on an Atlas V rocket by the Air Force's Rapid Capabilities Office, which develops combat support and weapons systems. The X-37B is dwarfed by the rocket and fairing used to lift it into space. From top to bottom, the whole system is 196 feet long. The X-37B itself is 29 feet long and 10 feet high.

The Pentagon has used UAVs for more than 50 years. Some, like General Atomics' Predator, have established their utility through years of service, but new designs, such as UAVs equipped with laser weapons, keep pushing the boundaries on what drones can do. Following is our guide to U.S. military drones in their many shapes and sizes.

Image credit: Air Force

Previous
1 of 22
Next
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
jc
50%
50%
jc,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/3/2013 | 6:42:33 PM
re: Military Drones Present And Future: Visual Tour
Phantom Ray looks exactly like a 1950s cartoon of a UFO. Perhaps they've been test flying these things prior to last year!
D. Henschen
50%
50%
D. Henschen,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/3/2013 | 3:55:35 PM
re: Military Drones Present And Future: Visual Tour
It might alarm you to learn that the use of surveillance drones has been authorized by executive order over U.S. skies. It's all part of the post-9/11, police-state mentality that gave rise to the Patriot Act and other tramplings upon personal freedoms and privacy that could easily be abused...
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon
Latest Comment: LOL.
Current Issue
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2013-6213
Published: 2014-04-19
Unspecified vulnerability in Virtual User Generator in HP LoadRunner before 11.52 Patch 1 allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code via unknown vectors, aka ZDI-CAN-1833.

CVE-2013-6214
Published: 2014-04-19
Unspecified vulnerability in the Integration Service in HP Universal Configuration Management Database 9.05, 10.01, and 10.10 allows remote authenticated users to obtain sensitive information via unknown vectors, aka ZDI-CAN-2042.

CVE-2012-0871
Published: 2014-04-18
The session_link_x11_socket function in login/logind-session.c in systemd-logind in systemd, possibly 37 and earlier, allows local users to create or overwrite arbitrary files via a symlink attack on the X11 user directory in /run/user/.

CVE-2012-6646
Published: 2014-04-18
F-Secure Anti-Virus, Safe Anywhere, and PSB Workstation Security before 11500 for Mac OS X allows local users to disable the Mac OS X firewall via unspecified vectors.

CVE-2013-4279
Published: 2014-04-18
imapsync 1.564 and earlier performs a release check by default, which sends sensitive information (imapsync, operating system, and Perl version) to the developer's site.

Best of the Web