Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The Dark and Costly Underside of Unmanned Systems

Don't buy all the hype about drones that you hear. Yes, they are good and useful, but they are not the secret sauce many are selling.

They have downsides. One is that they are actually very expensive to maintain and operate - especially for extended periods.

I know, you hear they save money in manning ... but for the set of missions they do, you have to look at the overall costs. They Germans have, and are throwing in the towel;
Germany is looking to sell a secondhand surveillance drone that has cost the country more than 700 million euros ($823 million) to Canada — without many core components it needs to fly.

A defense ministry reply to lawmakers from the opposition Left Party states that Germany has decided to "begin concrete negotiations with Canada for the sale of the Euro Hawk aircraft, two ground stations and possibly certain spare parts."
Germany ordered the Northrop Grumman Global Hawk variant in 2000 to use for long-distance reconnaissance, but later canceled the order because of skyrocketing costs and revelations that the prototype wouldn't be certified to fly in Europe. Then-Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere acknowledged in 2013 that the drone was a write-off, telling lawmakers it was better to have a "horrible end than a horror without end."
Hey ... we could have used that attitude early on in the LCS program, we might have a useful frigate in production by now ... but I digress;
"The question is what a buyer would do with such a gutted aircraft," said Thomas Wiegold, a German journalist who runs the defense website Augen Geradeaus . "Without GPS navigation and in particular without flight control systems, the drone would hardly be able to fly."

Andrej Hunko, one of the Left Party lawmakers who submitted questions to the government, said the drone now only has "scrap value."

"The sale will therefore recoup at best a small portion of the tax money spent," he said. "I expect the loss will amount to several hundred million euros (dollars)."
At least the Germans understand the concept of sunk cost - they now know that not all trendy fashions are actually useful for what you really need to invest your funds in.

Of note, the Euro Hawk is just a variant of the Global Hawk which is what the Navy's BAMS is based off of.

So ...

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