Cost Comparison And Bridging the Gap Separating Units

RQ 16A Tarantula Hawk

We welcome SSG David Hickman based at Fort Benning to sUAS News,  SSG Hickman has served two tours overseas and that gives him a considered perspective on sUAS and their use under fire.

In his own words,

” I’m not a spokes person for the Army or any entity in the Army. I’m just one Infantry Soldier who wants to provide feedback and possible solutions. It does not matter from where or who those solutions come from. I have no say so in what the military does with regard to UAS or what they may do for the future.”

His first post deals with the cost of acquisition and training.

Full size aircraft:

R22 Beta II

R22 Beta II with Standard Equipment (2 place helicopter) 885 pound aircraft: $ 258,000

Respective specifications can be reviewed at the web address below. 

Specifications for the R22:

UAS Platform:

Honeywell T Hawk MAV: UAS aircraft ; 17.5 pounds dry weight: $ 300,000 (1 platform)

Cost for Training (as per Honeywell web site):

T Hawk

CONUS MAV Training Course (1 to 6 students) 1-9 classes $89,500 each 10-249 classes $86,500 each 250+ classes $83,000 each
CONUS MAV Instructor Training Course (1 to 2 students) 1+ classes $99,500 each.
Course Instruction:
System and equipment overview
System capabilities and limitations
Pre-flight check-out
Safety requirements
Maintenance requirements
Hands on activities

Information Regarding T Hawk Training:

Cost for T Hawk UAS (as per Honeywell):

Perhaps it’s just me, but I cannot understand or justify the cost to acquire the T Hawk when I compare it to a full sized aircraft. The T Hawk can run a little over $300,000 dollars to obtain one system. For a little less than that price I can purchase a full size two place helicopter. The cost for materials, labor for fabrication, cost for software, cost for programming software, and calibration should not cost $300,000 dollars. That amount of money is a college education for someone.

With regard to training, it is almost $100,000 dollars for 1 to 2 students. It’s not like their obtaining a pilot’s license.

It’s a UAS aircraft. What happened to “train the trainer”? We conduct training this way for most of the required training across the Army. The Army really needs to institute a course in UAS operator certification that is not MOS specific.

A course that is not decentralized. This duty assignment can be a detail duty position for UAS operators or even helicopter pilots to rotate in and become instructors. It will also provide additional diversity for pilots with regard to their becoming more “well rounded” in all aspects of different duty positions. Send these pilots to an instructor’s course for UAS.

It is important for pilots because they operate in the same airspace as UAS aircraft. If they learn both sides, manned and unmanned, the level of safety may increase because the pilot knows what to expect from UAS systems with regard to how they operate and more importantly how the UAS systems occupy airspace. In turn, these pilots can return to teach the Soldiers who will be squad and platoon level student operators.

Infantryman, both Officers and NCOs, rotate to assignments such as S3 operations and other logistical positions that do not require that Infantryman to conduct a raid or kick in doors.

Soldiers and Leaders become more skilled and diverse in duty performance when they are assigned to different duty positions from time to time.

It can be a 2 year duty assignment, much like the Infantry Basic Officer Leadership Course here at Fort Benning where I instruct, but the location of the UAS Course is not important. The MOS that the Soldier is trained in is also not important. There has been too much of a separation between Aviation and Combat Arms and other MOS units. As I’ve said before, it is one effort.

Aviation personnel interacting with ground combat personnel will allow pilots to become more involved with Soldiers in those Combat Arms units. The smart pilots always attend an Infantry operations order prior to their involvement of any mission. Face to face is important. Infantrymen feel that the pilots take the mission more seriously. The pilots become more aware of the ground elements.

Across the board the mission is more understood. Usually my interaction with Aviation is nothing more than me hopping on a bird and getting dropped off in no man’s land to carry out a raid or to shuttle me home. The other interaction with pilots would be birds bumping down to my net to inform me of their capabilities, air weapons on hand, and the duration of their stay with our patrol. The latter I always appreciated most of all.

Understanding the duties and responsibilities of those we receive support from and those who provide the support for us will generate clarity on both sides with regard to their role in combat operations as well as their limitations. As both sides become more aware of the other, the Army as a whole will function more smoothly during mission execution.

David Hickman