Since the moment on November 4, 2002, when a Hellfire-armed MQ-1 Predator whacked a car full of terrorists in Yemen, the idea was planted. It wouldn’t be long before armed, remotely piloted aircraft would be doing more than striking high value targets. They would be hovering somewhere over a gunfight, backing up the good guys with a laser-guided missile — in lieu of the A-10′s 30mm cannon. It’s actually already happening today, with the handful of MQ-9 Reapers sometimes being in the right place at the right time.
But the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is now seeking proposals for the unmanned component of a next generation close air support system. (Read my full article here.) It could be the US Air Force’s envisioned MQ-X aircraft, which will eventually replace the Reaper. Or, according to DARPA’s open-minded program managers, it could even be an unmanned version of the A-10 itself (MQA-10 anyone?).
Let no one fear, however, for the A-10′s longevity. The USAF doesn’t plan to replace the A-10 until at least 2027, and perhaps not even then. If you download this presentation (9054ThursdayTrack4Sorensen.pdf), and reference slide 32, you’ll see that there are still plans to insert new technologies into the manned A-10, whether it gets an unmanned partner or not.
DARPA calls for an unmanned A-10 — literally, perhaps
By Stephen Trimble on 10 February, 2010 in Uncategorised
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