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Unmanned Helo Downed in Libya

by John Reed on June 21, 2011

So, NATO, and likely more specifically the U.S. Navy, lost what appears to be an MQ-8 Firescout unmanned helo over Libya this morning. This marks, as far as we know the major combat debut for the unmanned ISR chopper that’s done some work operating off U.S. Navy ships in the Gulf of Mexico.

NATO says the bird was conducting ISR ops to hunt for an monitor Gadhafi’s forces who are threatening civilians. Libyan state TV tried to pass the wreckage – which pretty heavily resembles a Firescout – off as an Apache attack chopper. Nice try guys.

Who knows where the wreckage will end up. Good thing it wasn’t a stealth Black Hawk.

Here’s more on the crash.

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

blight June 21, 2011 at 3:55 pm

Meh. Iraq shot down Apaches a few times and it meant zilch in the grand scheme of things, even when the pilots were captured.

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jik June 22, 2011 at 12:06 am

the Brits and French don't have much to spare

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blight June 22, 2011 at 2:29 pm

CNN blithely reported "Apaches are going to Libya" and used stock footage of Eurocopters and some other chopper I couldn't identify. I imagine in this budget environment, losses in attack helicopters might not be replaced particularly promptly, which is not good.

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andrew June 21, 2011 at 4:35 pm

quite a few drones have crashed in enemy territory with some being recovered by the enemy. a serious issue?

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Steven R. June 21, 2011 at 6:28 pm

This is great news to hear, not saying that us losing a bird is good because its not, but we invented UAVs for a reason and that is to preform their missons without worrying about the pilot. This is a good step forward in our air power to have birds like these. One of these rc choppers going down is no big deal when compared to an f-15 or an apache. Great job for implementing these.

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CSZ June 22, 2011 at 9:09 am

All true, however, one keeps wondering how would rc controlled killing machines change the landscape of war. In the past, rulers will have to be cautious with decision to go to war because people's lives are at stake. But if combat is reduced to video game playing, that's one less factor to hold them back.

In the mean time, gone was the good olden days when warriors from both sides respect each other's skills and courage. Think – when someone in a trench look through the dead, cold electronic eyes of a battle drone and thinking of survival, his opponent is sitting in a chair and thinking of pizza after work. There's no honor anymore.

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joe June 23, 2011 at 3:41 am

All true. That said, given a choice between being honourable and not getting the people I'm responsible for killed….send in the drones.

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blight2 June 23, 2011 at 10:54 am

Honor is good and all, but in many cases it's led to more bloodshed than was needed. Look at the entangling alliances that led to the Great War (World War 1). Honoring alliances led to Russians, Germans, Frenchmen and British people dying because a Serb assassinated an Austrain archduke.

Politicians will start wars for a variety of motives. To protect their alliances. For natural resources. For "honor". For the less-than-scrupulous wars, the "people's lives are at stake" rarely means anything because they often weren't at risk of getting killed.

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Anonymous June 21, 2011 at 7:58 pm

I'm rather surprised that the US/NATO would use a platform that is a prime target for all of the AA guns and potential MANPADS on the ground. Especially if it was a day time operation.

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blight June 23, 2011 at 10:51 pm

They're cheap and expendable, and you can saturate a battlespace with them. Hidden under the rug when you look at the Kosovo campaign is that NATO lost a fair number of UAVs: Predators and others. However, they were swept under the rug after all the hubbub about the Nighthawk going down.

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Jack June 21, 2011 at 9:36 pm

It's probably already on a slow ship bound for China.

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CSZ June 22, 2011 at 9:01 am

Yes yes, I was betting 'China' will be mentioned within 10 replies. I was right.

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Rajarata June 21, 2011 at 9:51 pm

No suprise folks…its an unmanned Chooper ! So what !

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Em1 June 22, 2011 at 1:51 am

Any word on HOW they got it, it would be interesting. if their existing MANPADS are proven effective///

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Robbie June 22, 2011 at 11:56 am

UAV theory is kind of dangerous to implement against a formidable opponent due to jamming. Who's going to fly the aircraft if there's no signal?

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joe June 23, 2011 at 3:43 am

The aircraft itself, in a lot of cases. Quite a few current ones are supposed to be capable of figuring out "hang on…I can't hear you any more" and either retracing their steps or carrying on with a pre-designated course.

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blight2 June 23, 2011 at 10:50 am

In the case of a ISR drone, then the drone becomes kind of useless if it cannot transmit real time data. The caveat is if you program the drone to fly home, it leads the OPFOR to your launch site (very bad). If you program it to crash, then you lose some plausible deniability (bad). Programming it to fly to the ocean and crash might be best…

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CSZ June 22, 2011 at 12:43 pm

Some believes that was the real reason the Chinese embassy in Kosovo got 'accidentally' bombed by US forces due to 'CIA using obsolete maps'.

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Peter_Pan June 22, 2011 at 1:30 pm

The incident you speak of is very unfortunate, but what is the relevance. The embassy was hit 2 months after the F-117 was brought down.

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