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UAVs : Sharing the War in Afghanistan Lessons Learned

UAVs : Sharing the War in Afghanistan Lessons Learned

Interview with Captain Dave "Roy" Rogers, USN, Director JUAV Program, conducted by Joël-François Dumont, Editor-in-Chief, European Security, during the International Conference on Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) "Euro UVS 2002", Paris, June 14, 2002, Equinox Center.

Joël-François Dumont: What lessons from the UAV experience in Afghanistan has your team been able to incorporate into future planning scenarios.

Capt. Roy Rogers: Well, the primary lesson is that UAVs have been a very important part of military activity in Afghanistan. They have been used successfully to put bombs on target and gather intelligence. One of the things we need to do is work with combined forces and different types of UAVs, to ensure we collectively share all lessons. That's one of the reasons why I am attending this conference.

Captain Dave "Roy" Rogers, USN, interviewed by French TV

Joël-François Dumont: The most reliable strategic UAVs appear to be the Global Hawk and Predator, and at the tactical level, the French-made Sperwer. What future developments can we expect regarding these systems?

The Predator was the first UAV to carry Hellfire missiles (U.S. Air Force photo)

Capt. Roy Rogers: Well, first of all, the strategic UAV - the only real strategic UAV - is the Global Hawk. We have very few of them in our current inventory. We tend to regard the Predator, and also the Shadow, as tactical vehicles. But quantities are limited. We’ve had only ten or twelve in Afghanistan, out of a total inventory of forty or fifty. What's going to change is in the next six months to a year, we are going to essentially triple our inventory -- we are going to have many more UAVs out there. Some will carry weapons. It’s very important that we figure out how to work together, all of individual services, as well as the Joint Forces, to use one another’s UAVs together.

The Swedish Ugglan (Sperwer): C-check before starting (*)

Joël-François Dumont: The case can be made that the USAF and French Army have been on the forefront of UAV testing and deployment. The Air Force’s BQMs allegedly saved over 1,500 pilot lives during the Vietnam War, and their current use of the Global Hawk and Predator is a model for other forces. Similarly, the French Army has used tactical UAVs for some time. The French Air Force, however, has limited its activity to testing, notably with the Hunter and Eagle (rejected earlier by the IDF). The US Army has had poor results with the Aquila, Hunter, and apparently the Shadow 200 as well. My question is, how should one account for the disparity in the way different services within the same country have adopted UAVs?

Capt. Roy Rogers: Well, I would say that sometimes to procure things with our United States Department of Defense policies is difficult. It takes too long to test adequately and all parameters are met; that said, it’s important to make absolutely sure a system will work properly. There have been programs we thought were going to work well but did not deliver. Our Congress also gets involved and sometimes their ideas are a little different than within the uniform services. These may be some of the reason why the Army has been a little slow.

Bottom line: we are all getting a lot more UAVs funded, produced, out there, and equipped. We need to learn from each other. The French have done some magnificent work which, quite frankly (until I came over here…) I did not even know about (and I am supposed to be in charge of the Joint UAVs!) So we need to work further together to make things happen.

Joël-François Dumont: The US plans to use UAVs for border patrol. France in particular and Europe in general have been slow to warm to the idea of using UAVs to monitor smuggling and drug trafficking along borders. The current state of technology appears to be perfectly suited to this mission. Should there be a common approach?

Capt. Roy Rogers: The nice thing about UAVs is that they are perfectly suited for many of the missions you are talking about. And the number one reason that UAVs are suited to this is the very long time they can remain aloft. To put a vehicle above a border crossing, for example -- and stay put for thirty or thirty-six hours -- is so much more effective than any other means of surveillance. And the fact that we have this capability, it follows that the border enforcement or homeland defense agencies responsible for safeguarding our frontiers should be embracing UAVs. We in the US are very interested in this, in view of the current emphasis on improving the control of our borders, as a result of September 11th.

Joël-François Dumont: Capt. Rogers, thank you very much for your time.

(*) Courtesy of the Life Regiment Hussars of the 3rd Swedish Cavalry Regiment (the famous K3)


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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).