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Posted: 11/24/2001 10:34:17 PM EDT
[url]http://www.kfwb.com/news/nat/n112311.html[/url] ilitary Drones Could Put U.S. Fighter Pilots Out Of Work The Predator spy drone taxis on the runway at Fort Huachuca's Libby Airfield in Sierra Vista, Ariz., Thursday, Nov. 9, 1995. AP Photo/Arizona Daily Star, Ben Sanders Lt. Ed Koharik sits in the pilot seat inside of the Predator spy drone control center, inside a small trailer, out on Fort Huachuca's Libby Airfield in Sierra Vista, Ariz., Thursday, Nov. 9, 1995. AP Photo/Arizona Daily Star, Ben Sanders NEW YORK (AP) 11.23.01 -- The dashing fighter pilot, with his white silk scarf and burnished leather jacket, is among the most celebrated icons of American military lore. Slowly, however, technology is pushing the fighter pilot out of the cockpit. "I think his days are numbered," said Glenn Buchan, a RAND defense air power analyst. In the not too distant future, trained fighter pilots may find themselves sitting at a computer on the ground, controlling an unmanned aircraft -- or as many as a half-dozen of them -- that may be flying over another continent. The transformation is already under way. In Afghanistan, the United States has used Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, long a tool of reconnaissance, in an attack role for the first time. In a few instances, a Predator UAV controlled remotely by CIA personnel on the ground, fired Hellfire missiles as part of air strikes on al-Qaida and Taliban targets. The strikes killed dozens, including al-Qaida military chief Mohammed Atef, U.S. intelligence officials said on condition of anonymity. "There's no doubt we're going to do more and more of this as time unfolds," said Michael O'Hanlon, a senior analyst with the Brookings Institution. Military experts say advances in sensors, communications, imaging and artificial intelligence will soon allow pilot-less aircraft to do everything a manned aircraft can, at a fraction of the cost and without risking pilots' lives. The unmanned planes may take over ground attack, and perhaps even dogfighting roles currently performed by planes such as the F-15 and F-18. "We see no future fighters with humans in them," said Buchan, author of a recent RAND study on UAVs that was just classified by the Air Force. Although the Pentagon plans to purchase up to 3,000 of its next-generation fighter, Lockheed's Joint Strike Fighter, Buchan said RAND found "no compelling reason to have humans on board" certain military aircraft -- and often good reason to replace a human with a machine. "It's not clear that the human's adding anything, and his biological shortcomings limit the capabilities of the aircraft," he said. The use of drones dates to the early 1960s, when the United States flew them to spy on China and drop leaflets over Vietnam. In the early 1970s, the U.S.
Link Posted: 11/24/2001 10:35:29 PM EDT
military experimented with an armed drone called the Firebee, using it to drop bombs and fire missiles in tests. Israel may have been the first to use armed drones in a combat ground-attack role, according to research published by the U.S. Air Force. It used drones in the 1973 Yom Kippur War and also sent UAVs to scout Syrian air defenses in its invasion of Lebanon in 1982. Until it was modified by the CIA, the U.S. Air Force's Predator, a $2.5 million UAV built for spying, wasn't intended to fire missiles. In January, the Air Force will test-fly the first U.S. drone designed for combat. The Boeing-built UCAV, or Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle, is designed to handle one of the most dangerous missions, attacking enemy air defense sites like radar and surface-to-air missile batteries. The X-45 model UCAV is designed to fly a 650-mile round-trip mission, loitering perhaps a half-hour over a target, and drop 3,000 pounds of guided bombs, said Boeing spokesman Todd Blecher. If the UCAV's tests go well, some predict the drone will eventually put planes and pilots out of work by stealing some ground attack duties from the forthcoming Joint Strike Fighter. At $10-$15 million apiece, the X-45 UCAV, without all the expensive human requirements for life-support systems and visual instruments, would cost about a third as much as the $45 million JSF. The bat-shaped X-45 will be much tougher to shoot down than the General Atomics Predator, a simple propeller-driven plane designed to fly at around 100 mph and no higher than 25,000 feet. A third of the Air Force's 60 Predators have already been lost, mostly downed over Iraq, the Balkans or Afghanistan. The X-45, by contrast, is jet-engine driven, flies six times as fast as the Predator, at altitudes of 30,000-40,000 feet. It is also stealth-capable, meaning it won't be easily tracked by radar. It carries an artificial intelligence-fueled computer that allows it to track, identify and bomb targets on its own -- if humans permit, Blecher said. "At least initially, it would rely on a human in the loop," Blecher said. "But theoretically, you could do it either way. You could pre-program it to drop its weapon when it finds the target, using artificial intelligence." For Capt. Brad Smith, a proud F-15 fighter pilot who trains at Virginia's Langley Air Force Base, the idea of killing people with a flying robot is beyond the range of acceptable warfare. "I don't like the idea at all. You always want to have a human being involved in the decision to take another human being's life," said Smith, 29, of Tulsa, Okla. Smith doubts the UCAV is a viable replacement for a pilot, especially a fighter pilot who engages in air-to-air combat. "My own two eyeballs looking out of the cockpit is much different than the small field of vision you get from a camera on a computer screen someplace," he said
Link Posted: 11/24/2001 10:42:17 PM EDT
I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for the USAF to start sending out flights of pilot-less aircraft to defend anything.
Link Posted: 11/24/2001 10:50:24 PM EDT
Until it was modified by the CIA, the U.S. Air Force's Predator, a $2.5 million UAV built for spying, wasn't intended to fire missiles.
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Gotta love the CIA![^]
Link Posted: 11/24/2001 10:54:54 PM EDT
Weren't these the same people, well their daddies maybe, that told the Air Force and Navy that they wouldn't need a gun on the F4 Phantom because the missles were so damn good? I can see turning over the highest risk air-to-mud missions and SEAD missions to the drones, but you will always have the need for a living, breathing fighter jock behind the stick for the close air support and air to air. By the way, why was it necessary to waste space on the server by posting both the link and the article itself?
Link Posted: 11/24/2001 10:54:59 PM EDT
Link Posted: 11/24/2001 11:16:36 PM EDT
I personally hope there comes a day that pilots can sit with a joystick and drive drones in total safety. It might turn fighterjocks from studs to dorks, but they'll be alive, and their commanders will be able to do a mission based on importance rather than political considerations of whether someone is going to be killed or not and whether the country is going to tolerate that. If we could mass produce drones cheaply, without all that goes into making a jet "human friendly", think of the possibilities.... Air superiority? Forget about grey outs and pressure suits. The damn thing could turn and accelerate as fast as technology can make it, without worrying about what happens to it's biologically fragile controller. Air to mud? Article said it all....send them into the ugliest anti-air zones going. If it gets splashed, that's too bad, but at least it won't trigger a rescue response that puts other lives at risk. Strap a couple pounds of explosives on it so that it can be vaporized on command rather than be ing captured. Self-destructs are not very popular on manned aircraft for obvious reasons. Carrier landings? Bye bye, throw it into a net. Intense training for long-distance, long hour missions? Nah, let the one controller go on a smoke break and bring in another pilot. Radio/Communications issues? What issues, when the whole squadron is sitting in the same room together, calling out commands to each other over a local network... Think about, in the long run, how cheap they will be. No ejection seats, no SEATS, no controls created to be controlled by human anatomy, no life support system.... No display systems that are shock tested/hardship failsafed, because they're sitting in a cubicle somewhere, where the biggest risk to it is getting coffee spilled on the keyboard. All that's on the drone itself is the bare bones that allow it to do it's job....nothing else. The only thing added is a tranceiver capable of sending commands to the thing and sending reports back to the operator. I think it's terrific, and even if I didn't, it's the way things are going to go. Vass
Link Posted: 11/24/2001 11:51:37 PM EDT
What ever is the best, do it it. Tough on some egos, but do what is best for US. If pilots are out of a job in future then they can always get down and dirty. So far there is no robot capable of performing the responsibilities of an infantryman.
Link Posted: 11/25/2001 1:15:35 AM EDT
yeah, it's all fine and good 'till some fighter geek goes and fat fingers his keyboard. "UhOh..umm.. damn UN convoy shouldn't have been there anyway"
Link Posted: 11/25/2001 2:01:21 AM EDT
Isn't jamming or signal disruption a worry?
Link Posted: 11/25/2001 2:35:14 AM EDT
Link Posted: 11/25/2001 3:34:13 AM EDT
As a 28 year old P3 Aircraft Commander and Instructor, there are few planes that I fly that are younger than me. The community was supposed to find out this summer what kind of replacement airframe we would get to do our missions. Yes, missions, we do more than just hunt subs. We were told that we didn't consider UAV's enough in replacing our airframe. ARRGGGGHHH! I was hoping to get a new plane, maybe now I will get a new computer. [:(]
Link Posted: 11/25/2001 6:56:55 AM EDT
UCAV's sound good for flying through/into very high threat areas. Anything that saves an American pilot works for me. I expect it will be a while longer before on-scene pilots become obsolete. Let the mission dictate the hardware. Dave_G - good to see someone else remembers the-gun-is-obsolete crowd. ketchumj - Now you know you guys never found a sub unless it was "Broached !!" [:D]
Link Posted: 11/25/2001 7:02:41 AM EDT
I dont beleive the pilots weill be out of a job, they will just commute to base sit down at their office and fly from there never leaving the ground. So our future is the 12 yr old kids that play flightsimulator games!! [beer]
Link Posted: 11/25/2001 8:36:25 AM EDT
The tech-weanies are always claiming that technology will replace the man in the cockpit, but it won't as long as the capability remains to disrupt the comm link between the UCAV/UAV. A UCAV can be programmed to attack a target behind the lines ( the FEBA for those who know what that is) and return in the event of comm failure, but in a fluid situation, where the situation on the front lines is fluid, you don't want to be standing on formerly enemy ground when the comm-jammed UCAV shows up to attack the enemy that's not there anymore. At this time, a UCAV should be considered to be a reuseable cruise missle that hits its target and comes home to be refueled, rearmed and sent out again on deep penetration missions, even one way missions, where the potential loss of aircrew is not an acceptable risk.
Link Posted: 11/25/2001 9:14:11 AM EDT
The Drone could replace ATTACK aircraft, but not fighters for air to air combat. Other fighters move too fast, and as long as they are dependant on a RF frequency data link the drone will not have the reaction time to react to a manned fighter. Try it yourself. If you have a satellite dish that gets local channels, put it on a local channel and then get a old tv with a antenna and set it to the same channel and see the delay. You can get around this for attacking slow or non moving ground targets. But for ACM its a big handicap. However, the F22, for example, has so much computer space on board its fire control system could run 2-4 drones itself. Have any of you seen the Boeing X45A drone? Its a drone designed to match the performance of the F22 and the JSF. Drones such as it are very useful for protecting manned fighters and carrying extra ordinance for them. Another thing going against drones, is that missiles are getting so manuverable, that one of the big supposed advantages of a drone- that they arent limited by the g-forces the pilot can sustain- is nullifed. No drone can pull 25g like the AA-12 Arrow's on the Sukhois can. And with helmet mounted sights and off boresight targeting, a fighter no longer has to pull behind another to fire a missile at it. No one can argue after this war though that drones are not a good way to conduct "air policing" of large areas of terrain and picking off small ground targets. If there is a weekness its that there isnt a helicoptor version of Predator that can really go down and get a close look at things.
Link Posted: 11/25/2001 10:57:44 AM EDT
Originally Posted By Vass: Air superiority? Forget about grey outs and pressure suits. The damn thing could turn and accelerate as fast as technology can make it, without worrying about what happens to it's biologically fragile controller. Air to mud? Article said it all....send them into the ugliest anti-air zones going. If it gets splashed, that's too bad, but at least it won't trigger a rescue response that puts other lives at risk. Strap a couple pounds of explosives on it so that it can be vaporized on command rather than be ing captured. Self-destructs are not very popular on manned aircraft for obvious reasons.
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My borther-in-law works for a BIG aerospace firm, and he designs cockpits. He says the main thing holding back more manueverable aircraft is because of the human body can't take the stress of extreme G-forces. His group had designed & patended a special suit to minimize these G-forces. Yep, this would sure get rid of a lot those Tom Cruise/Top Gun jet jock egos, when the pilot turns out to be computer geek. Careful don't spill any Coca Cola or get cookie crumbs in the key board!
Link Posted: 12/3/2001 5:27:06 PM EDT
Originally Posted By 5subslr5: UCAV's sound good for flying through/into very ketchumj - Now you know you guys never found a sub unless it was "Broached !!" [:D]
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That is not right! I wish I would have checked the board a little sooner and defended the "Mighty Orion."
Link Posted: 12/3/2001 7:52:54 PM EDT
GREAT IDEA......but one good EMP from a nuc (either strategic or tactical) and the enemy and his 25 year old air frames rule the sky until you can reconfigure the comms. Like it was said...Augment, not replace. SRM
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