Clay Dillow – Popular Science
Like renewing your driver’s license at the DMV or getting someone from the cable company out to your place, calling in close air support can be a real process for troops on the ground. A request for an air strike from a commander on the ground goes through various higher-ups, analysts, lawyers, and other commanders, slowing the response time to a crawl. That’s why DARPA is launching the Persistent Close Air Support Program (PCAS)
, under which the scheme is simplified: ground troops ask for a strike, and a robotic warplane brings the ruckus
, no middlemen necessary.
The weapon of choice would be an optionally manned/unmanned A-10 Warthog, those destructive and somewhat ugly slow-flying aircraft that can deploy a battery of weapons against enemies below. Fast-acting A-10s would give Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTAC) — the soldiers within units that call in air strikes — the ability to “to visualize, select and employ weapons at the time of their choosing.” DARPA thinks this will “revolutionize how a JTAC is able to request and control near-instantaneous airborne fire support.”