The Air Force Times reports:-
The Taliban are surging toward you — so fast there’s no time to call in an airstrike.
You reach for your backpack and pull out your attack plane; within seconds, no more insurgents.
It may be only fantasy now, but just wait: A pint-sized unmanned bomber is on the way.
The mini remotely piloted aircraft makes its debut next month during evaluation flights at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., conducted by the Air Force Air Armament Center and U.S. Special Operations Command.
If all goes according to plan, troops on the ground — soldiers and Marines as well as airmen — will be able to reach for a teensy aircraft when a grenade launcher simply won’t do.
SOCOM and the Air Force won’t talk in depth about the project, but written specifications call for the RPA to weigh 3 to 5.5 pounds and fly up to 30 minutes at speeds as fast as 100 mph. Besides a warhead, the payload will include a video camera and a transmitter to relay images to ground forces.
The speed and weight requirements are about the same as those of the RQ-11 Raven, a hand-launched and battery-powered RPA used by Air Force security forces to scout areas they can’t patrol.
Troops will fly the bomber using a console about the size of a laptop.
Exactly how much of a punch the RPA will pack is still under wraps. The specifications don’t detail either the size or type of munitions but do state the warhead should be able stop an unarmored vehicle or foot patrol if it hits within 3 feet of the target — roughly the impact of a 40mm cannon shell or a round fired from an Advance Lightweight Grenade Launcher.
Warheads will not be dropped during the evaluation flights, but Air Force and Special Operations Command officials will see how quickly the prototypes can be unpacked and launched — ideally, it should take 30 seconds to 2 minutes — as well as how long it takes pilots to find a human-sized target while the planes are about 300 feet above the Eglin range.
In December, the Air Force and SOCOM will select up to three firms to compete for the contract, which could be awarded in 2012. There’s not date yet, though, on when you’ll have a plane in your backpack.
Cost, too, is up in the air — or at least not being talked about. The only dollar figure being offered up so far is for development: $750,000.