Monday, May 20, 2013



The screenplay I am working on includes a major aviation sequence so aircraft have been much on my mind recently. Apart from anything else, I want to get the details right. I don’t want to feature something the aircraft can’t do. But, independent of that, I’m fascinated with aviation in general. Where are we going with all this good stuff? All kinds of major technological breakthroughs are just over the horizon—or closer still. They include:

  • Major (and long overdue) progress in the rotary aircraft area. Rotary aircraft cover conventional helicopters and tilt rotor machines like the V-22.
  • Remotely piloted aircraft of all types becoming increasingly autonomous.
  • Hybrid-electric and all electric flight.
  • Hypersonic flight.

I first became involved with small plane flying through my girlfriend, Bunny, who was capable of charming a veritable flock of flyers to transport us hither and thither (at no cost to us). The leading light was the Marquis of Headfort (Lord Headfort) who lusted after Bunny and couldn’t understand why she was involved with a  20 year old. Frankly, neither could I, but love is a strange and wonderful thing. 

Michael Headfort tended towards the eccentric—to put it mildly—and hatched one scheme which involved flying a Lake Amphibian (a slow single-engine aircraft) across the Atlantic in which I was involved. Other adventures followed and I still keep up with aviation with a heavy bias towards rotary aircraft. After General Keane organized for me to fly in an Apache AH-64 with the 101st Airborne, I became a committed fan.

Generals come into the picture because of COIN aircraft. COIN stands for counterinsurgency and a particular type of relatively inexpensive prop driven aircraft which many believe would do a better job coping with the kind of enemy we are typically facing today than high flying jet fighters costing $100 million each—and with a cost per flying hour (CPFH) to match  .

When calculating the CPFH of a modern jet fighter, it is wise to think in terms of tens of tens of thousands of dollars per hour. In contrast, a typical COIN aircraft—depending on the type—can be flown for  a small fraction of that amount. In addition, a COIN aircraft can remain on station for much longer—which is exactly what is required. In contrast, fighter jets have short legs and have to be refueled (at phenomenal cost) to do just about anything. All that speed and power comes with a price tag.

U.S. Air Force generals, who don’t like the CAS (Close Air Support) mission anyway have resisted COIN aircraft in every way possible for decades, and dragged their heels when selecting aircraft for Iraq and Afghanistan.

Be that as it may, I need a COIN aircraft for my screenplay so have selected the OV-10 Bronco (illustrated above).

Boeing currently own the rights to the Bronco and recently suggested making an updated and somewhat modified version. Needless to say, the Air Force displayed scant enthusiasm.

But here is a point to consider. We have now reached the stage where the effectiveness of an airframe can be leveraged disproportionately through the addition of modern surveillance equipment and armaments—thus vastly increasing the effectiveness of a COIN aircraft at an economical price. For instance, a Bronco can be equipped with as many as 16 Hellfire missiles which gives it a stand-off capability it lacked previously.

The Air Force’s get-out from the COIN issue would seem to be drones.

Whether drones can match the effectiveness of COIN aircraft in a similar situation has yet to be determined but probably won’t be because the politics of the situation are already set in stone.

Either way, I need a COIN aircraft—and intend to have my way. You can do that with sort of thing with words—which is one of the many reasons I love writing so much.




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