Wired is carrying a new Reuter's
story discussing the prospect of Uninhabited Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)
displacing piloted planes in more cases. It mentions the oft-repeated
prediction that the F-35 will likely be the last piloted fighter jet
built. The overview covers both fully autonmous robot planes like the
Global Hawk and X-45 as well as remotely piloted vehicles like the
Dragon Eye and Predator.
The Airforce Generals, the Airforce Academy and all of the
companies that manufacture stuff for manned warplanes will keep
this from happening for a long time because of the military careers
that would be affected and because companies like Boeing that
manufacture manned aircraft and support the best congress that
money can buy won't let it happen until they cut a deal for the
defense department to pay as much for a cheap drone as they do
for a stealth fighter or bomber.
There still will always be a need for human pilots or else how will
mankind's defender fly to Colorado's fallout bunker before a T2 and
Skynet from the future nukes the earth? Rumor has it that the next
version of Microsoft Flight Simulator 2005 will have such a flight to
Colorado's bunker sim mission for would be defenders of the Earth.
The military really really want these things really really bad. They'll
pay jillions of bucks for them too. If you haven't noticed already.
An autonomous (AI?) aircraft has advantages (disadvanteges too). The
big one is you don't lose a lot of valuable pilots in a air war, plus
their cheap, highly manuverable, small (no pilot to protect), etc. The
idea is to cause the other guy to lose all their valuable pilots
instead. Having to go to combat against these things isn't going to do
anything for your morale unless these things are on your side.
Just think, you can send ahead a few hundred or thousands of smart
drones to soften up the enemy without losing any valuable pilots doing
it. The enemy might have a heavily defended installation, but after
they use up their anti-aircraft missles and much of their anti-
aircraft gun ammunition, their sitting ducks then, and you didn't lose
any pilots doing it. The pilots all typically are against it at first,
but as soon as you point out the heavily defended target they have to
attack with a poor probability of survival, they come around real
quick as advocates of the smart autonomous aircraft. :) Then there are
the hunter-seekers that can fly around for hours and hours looking for
targets. This is real boring for pilots, but robots don't have a
problem with it. Makes for great close air support when you need it on
I see long time patrol autonomous aircraft, with autnomous refueling
in-air capabilities in the future. Always on call when needed. Man
that is real handy for all sorts of things.