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February 17, 2008



About time. It was a neat idea, but you're right that FLIR would have been much, much, much more useful. Though it would have been a bit of a challenge, I think we have a much better chance of training up FLIR operators than ARCHER operators.

While a poor choice for our normal missions, I think that we probably could do a lot more than we have with it in support of various state and federal environmental agencies. But, that isn't all that glamarous and I don't really think they put in the effort required to advertise our capabilities (such as they were/are).

However, even before we got to FLIR, CAP could greatly increase its actual capabilities by buying a decent digital camera for every airplane in the fleet. There are still units using 35 mm for disaster relief aerial photos out there. What would this cost? $250-300K at most for what is supposed to be one of our core competencies?

Tribal Elder

Look at where the Archer bucks came from.

A lot of agencies wanted a 'piece' of this project. The objective for the other agencies was to see if this worked. That it didn't work for anything USAF wants us to do for them doesn't mean CAP's involvement was wasted or misdirected. It just means if it works, it isn't useful for anything USAF wants us to do for them. That doesn't mean the alphabet agencies won't use themselves for their missions.

They all wanted an idiot proof system. Guess what we supplied for the tests ?


Interesting...I wonder how the disposition of sensor assets will play out. I wouldn't be surprised if the same authorities who say ARCHER is worthless come to claim the sensor hardware and mount it in their own platforms.


Does anyone know if the ARCHER system has actually produced any results on any actual mission? I know that we have rolled it out on a few high profile missions but has it done anything for the money?

I agree that SDIS and a good digital SLR would have been money well spent. For the money that we spent on ARCHER, we could have put SDIS and a camera in every CAP plane in the fleet. Not that we need that many SDIS systems but you get my point.

Not sure if the $10 Mil includes the cost of the G8's as well but what are we going to do with them now?

Jay Burns

I agree that Archer probably isn't worth the investment we've put in. But, is FLIR? Don't get me wrong, I think it's as cool as the next guy. And if I win two consecutive lotteries, I'll use the money from the first one to buy and airplane and the money from the second one to mount a FLIR system. But I would be comfortable saying that 70% or more of CAP's pilots are private pilots or non-current instrument pilots. Our various missions only make us useful when you can see outside the airplane; i.e., not in the clouds or at night. It would be a great safety tool if you needed it, but I would be concerned about a lot of pilots looking at it when they should be looking outside the airplane.


I agree that it is time to retire the Archer. I don't know if the technology was useful or not...but the way CAP deployed it was totally useless.

They horded them as "regional" assets but never deployed the around the region so anyone can get trained. Then when they needed them they did not have the crews to fly them.....ala Fosset Search.

Also...I have to disagree with your dig on the MQ-1. One Pred runs about $ we could crash two and a half for the cost of the Archer system.

Midway Six

The MQ-1 Predator is a system, not just an aircraft. The fully operational system consists of four air vehicles (with sensors), a ground control station (GCS), a Predator primary satellite link communication suite and 55 people. - Wikipedia

So yah, the airframe that goes smashing into the school yard may cost $4MM as a line item on the General Atomics invoice, but the system puts ya back $14MM from what I've read.

Tribal Elder

'They horded them as "regional" assets but never deployed the around the region so anyone can get trained. Then when they needed them they did not have the crews to fly them...-- LordMonar'

One of the problems with ALL corporate gear is that it is always viewed by somebody - either the issuer or reciever, or at its worst, both, as a perk instead of a CAP asset.

lordmonar my day job I'm the MQ-1B Communications Superintendent for the 3rd Special Operations Squadron....your numbers for personnel and dollar costs are LOW...when you consider the "system" costs....but the cost of "plowing as [sic] single RQ-1 into the dessert" is only the one airframe.


ARCHER is simply not effective for the SAR and CD missions that comprise most of CAP's operations. The sweep width for a single track is only 500 meters when flown at 2500AGL, and with the number of sweeps required just to cover one 7.5x7.5 minute grid (a standard CAP flight grid) is a little more than three times what is flown using a normal parallel track visual search. Moreover, the number of "hits" that the ARCHER system flags is very high (about as high as the percentage of ELT false alarms). Add all that up and you have a really cool system that does some really cool stuff, but adds ***nothing*** to your effectiveness on your bread and butter operations - and can even detract from it by tying up well qualified aircrews flying over the same ground three or more times when it could in the long run be search visually with just as much effectiveness.

And this says nothing about the ego of ARCHER operators. If you don't know how cool they are, just ask one. They'll tell you. :-)

For the record, yes, I love the airplane.... in spite of the lack of an auto-pilot, the terribly uncomfortable seats, the horrendously slow cruise speed, the worst intercom panel in the history of aviation, and the most user unfriendly GPS I have ever seen in my life (the GNS80). I really like the airplane.

Next time CAP has any great ideas about new technology, there should be a much clearer concept for the employment of that technology.

Let's get more GA8's, but let's put FLIR in there instead.


I find it interesting that NHQ again doesn't see what the field sees.

It was a brief, interesting, and telling read. I applaud them for choosing to "fix" the issue of having too few operators. In typical fashion, however, they didn't make a more realistic training and/or operations environment but, rather, but by creating an additional position with it's own training standards.

As a CFII, I am usually an advocate of additional training, but creating a new position will do nothing but stress the already broken flight standards environment. I am in a large wing with many aircraft, but there are few options for finding a check pilot to the point that I gave up trying to get my Form 5.

Something is broken with Archer.... start by fixing the path to get to the cockpit.

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