1957 Defence White Paper revisited?


Book Reviewer

'In a bizarre repeat of history, a British defence minister has given it as his opinion that we are currently witnessing development of the final generation of manned combat aircraft. The comments made last week by Quentin Davies MP echo those made in a 1957 government white paper by the then Defence minister, Duncan Sandys.'

thoughts anyone? perhaps the hardware wasnt there in 1957, but most of it is there now, wouldnt you agree? do we need the complexities, expense and limitations a crew puts into an airframe? or can we do just as well with a spotty herbert sat on the ground clutching a joypad?
Ignoring Page's mild ahistoricism (Sandys thought that manned aircraft would be replaced by missiles, so there was no person in the loop anywhere at all - apart from the launch sequence and after that the missile was on its own...); he also went for a much shorter timeframe in his future-gazing that Davies is suggesting - so it's not quite such a repetition), I'd suggest that the hardware is getting there, but there are other issues which need resolving before any clear, sensible picture can emerge.

For instance, some AI experts suggest that the likelihood of having a UAV/UAS sufficiently intelligent enough to carry out operations autonomously by the 2030s is optimistic (strangely not the ones seeking military funding...), and there's the further factor of LOAC. For pre-planned ops, less of a problem, but if using a UAS for providing CAS to TIC, what happens if the autonomous UAV decides to mallet the nearby orphange playing no part in proceedings because its software tells it that the orphange clock tower might be a suitable vantage point for a FOO coordinating the IDF onto friendly forces?

Who is accountable for the war crime that has occurred? No-one? The crew who prepared the UAS? The software geek who failed to understand that he needed some extra lines of code in the AI programme to enable the system to appreciate the full range of LOAC? The JTAC who called in the UAV? The Chief of the Air Staff/General Staff/CDS because it was 'their' system which ran amok and they'd not considered the possibility that it would when bringing the system into service?

And then, of course, you have the well-known issues facing extant and near-term UAVs in terms of pilot siutational awareness, particularly in the air-to-air role. Although the USAF boldly declared 'next time will be different' after the Predator vs MiG-25 incident over Iraq (home win), there are reasons to suspect that this might have been a tad optimistic, certainly when considering the full range of possible air-air scenarios which could be faced where the person on the spot can make a quicker, more effective judgement call than someone relying upon an entirely synthetic and possibly limited (thanks to sensor field of regard, etc, etc) situational awareness to deal with the situation they face.

Granted, by 2030 some genius may well have come up with the answers, but it does seem as though some of the 'ah, there'll be no manned combat aircraft after 2030/2040/2050' is pretty much Tomorrow's World in outlook (plausible, but possibly not quite as clear cut as Maggie Philbin wants you to think). Anyway, we'll probably all still be waiting for more info on the Gem7 to decide whether its the better platform than whatever we've ordered... :roll:
Must admit I do think we are now seeing the start of the age of the Drone.
Fighters and Ground attack will I feel become unmanned.
The Heli, Nuc Bommers and the Trash hauling will remain Man 'Powered' for much longer.
Yes I know drone heli's exsist.
So do gobby aircrew.
Unfortunately with the likes of 39 Sqn RAF and 174th Fighter Wing, USAF NYANG have converted to Predator/Reaper UASs from years of manned flight.

I recall 5 years ago, a combo of Boeing/Lockheed Martin, Bell etc etc proposed 2 x Unmanned Combat Rotorcraft.....for the US Army and then the project was cancelled

Can't really replace let alone replicate the Mark One noggin :) or gut instinct

I know every man and his dog is jumping on the UAV/UAS bandwagon at this with ridiculously and ugly looking designs and flying them...(without being traitorous at least Predator/Reaper and Global Hawk and A-160 Hummingbird look semi decent)

And hopefully they'll keep their place COMPLEMENTING MANNED ASSETS and not overtaking them completely.

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