Over $12 Million Taxpayer Funds Wasted on ARCHER System

Gippsland GA8 AirvanGippsland GA8 Airvan

By Rod Rakic | CAP Blog News

[Editor’s Note:  Correction – The ARCHER system cost the taxpayers $3.2 million and about $9.6 million for sixteen Gippsland GA8 Airvan planes.  The total cost of this project was over $12.8 million dollars.  In Oct 2012, the ARCHER chief developer, Lt Col John C. Kershenstei was convicted of child molestation.]

Word on the street is that 1st Air Force has finally come out and said that they have determined that CAP’s ARCHER is NOT an effective tool in supporting any Air Force missions.

Ultimately, the $10 Million bucks blown on ARCHER is a rounding error in Air Force procurement. Live and learn. It was still cheaper than plowing as single RQ-1 into the dessert. I would rather have strapped FLIR units to our existing fleet of mighty C-182 Skylanes.

It was 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 hoarded them as “Regional” assets, but never deployed them around the Region so anyone can get trained. Then when they needed them, they did not have the crews to fly them…..example was the famous Steve Fossett Search.

Archer System in a Gippsland GA8 Airvan Plane

ARCHER System in a Gippsland GA8

Does ARCHER Really Work?

Yes.

Is it of any value?

Little to none.

Why?

1) It is not in wide enough deployment to impact most of the country.

A single plane per Region might as well be none, unless you are smart/dumb enough to get lost within a couple miles of the hanger the Airvan is in and the 2 pilots in the region qualified to fly it happen to be in town.

Regional ES cooperation? Please we have enough trouble getting local units to talk, let alone expecting states to work together. Fiefdoms are alive and well and their new name is ARCHER.

2) Any technology which relies on volunteers to attend a week-long training class with no alternative for local training will always have a limited member pool, and those trained members will not necessarily be our best and brightest, only those who are able to miss enough work to attend.

3) Currently, both the ARCHER system, and the Airvans they are in, are being guarded by those who currently possess the keys as if they are some kind of double-secret crystal goblet – adding all kinds of extra-regulatory hoops to limit access – for example, one Wing’s Airvan-qualified pilots were telling members at Oshkosh that you can’t qualify to fly and Airvan unless you are already Archer trained first.

As aircrew, why would I take the time to train myself to use the system, test online, cross my fingers I get picked and then lose a week’s vacation at Maxwell for the class, when there is no Archer system in my state, nor pilots who can fly one anyway?

3) The missions it is being touted for most, are missions many states are not involved in – missing persons, coming to mind immediately.

4) The technology is getting in the way of the basic skill set – and this goes for SDIS as well. While there is NO structured or approved curriculum on taking aerial photographs, nor is this skill even recognized by NHQ, there are 6-12 pages on how to upload a photo via SDIS, which is basically an email.

Train someone to take good photos from the air, and you can put anything in their hands from a disposable camera to a digital SLR and they will get something usable – skip that step and you’ll get what we get today – mostly curvature of the earth photos or blurry junk.

Technology, no matter how tricky or advanced, is only of any value if people can get access to it with enough repetition to achieve proficiency beyond the getting started phase.

ARCHER has a long way to go for that.

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