US SOCOM buys more “Hummingbird” UAVs
I found this interesting piece on WIRED’s “Danger Room” blog:
Secret Missions for Special Forces’ Stealth Robo-Copter
By David Axe
Last year, U.S. Special Operations Command quietly began taking delivery of 10 Boeing-built Hummingbird robotic helicopters, and outfitting them for two-gigapixel spy cameras, foliage-penetrating radars, small guided missiles and even 800-pound-capacity cargo pods.
Now the command has announced it will buy another 10 Hummingbirds, re-designated MQ-18, by 2017 — and deploy three of them to an “undisclosed location” next year, according to British aviation magazine Air Forces Monthly. But it’s a safe bet that the undisclosed location is west of Pakistan, east of Iran, south of the former Soviet Union and crawling with Taliban. A small fleet of quiet, lethal robots, each with a 30-hour endurance and a bunch of equipment options, could come in quite handy there.
Hush-hush robots are all the rage in the escalating Afghanistan-Pakistan war. Predator drone ops are an open secret in Pakistan, where their attacks have sparked a major controversy over alleged civilian casualties. At least one experimental “black” drone apparently operates out of Kandahar in southern Afghanistan. In the same region, the Marines want new drones for rapid re-supply missions during widely-scattered infantry operations. SOCOM’s Hummingbirds might combine the Predator’s lethality with the Marine’ drone’s cargo load — and the Kandahar bot’s secrecy.