Robot Combat Aircraft?

From Popular Science.

There is under development a new generation of pilotless aircraft. These are not mere remotely piloted drones. Rather, they have no human pilot.

A prototype robot tactical bomber, the Boeing X-45A, has flown simulated missions.

It is envisioned that such craft, traveling in packs, will loiter over the battlefield, spoofing enemy radar and protecting each other with defensive fire.

They would not be subject to human limitations such as fatigue. They are potentially capable of carrying out longer missions than a human pilot.

The article implies that these devices may completely replace the human pilot on some types of missions.

"Is This The Future Of Air Combat?" by Bill Sweetman.,20967,1068356-1,00.html

But can they furnish a bad rendition of "You've Lost That Loving Feeling?"
I had quite an interesting conversation at last year's RIAT concerning UCAVs (Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles) and the impact on crewing levels. Whilst manned aircraft will be around for the forseeable future, the employment of unmanned types for particularly long range or hazardous mission profiles will become the norm. I can also see the 'robotisation' of types currently in service. I see no reason why a B52 could not be retrofitted with a remotely controlled flight & weapons system. Basically, Global Hawk with JDAMs.

The future will probably see some spotty-faced geek who's never had to do aircrew selection, flying training, C&S, E&E and the myriad other quals to keep current - or who has to maintain a suitable level of physical fitness - 'flying' combat ops. The CSAR element will also be largely redundant - especially if rotary elements become 'robotised'.
Does anyone know where I can invest in a company that's developing EMP weapons?
A number of ' pilotless' planes were premiered at this year's Paris Air show...
I'll try to find a link...
Just a few points for you all to ponder ....

One of the big hurdles for uninhabited vehicles is convincing other airspace users that you're safe to share the skies with. This and not the technology will drive operations in conjunction with manned aircraft.

UAV controllers will be legally responsible as pilot in command in just the same way as a pilot. They may not need exactly the same training or medical status but they will most certainly have to be aviators.

All this can be bypassed if you can cordon off an area of sky (eg Phoenix) or if you don't care (ie cruise missile over enemy territory). However, to fully achieve the promised benefits you need to address the problem.

The fully autonomous vehicle that can share airspace with others is I think an awful long way off - who in their right mind would certify and sign off the software ?
Bladensburg wrote

"Does anyone know where I can invest in a company that's developing EMP weapons?"

EMP weapons would also take out alot of manned aircraft! The days of fly by wire, as in real wires and rods and all the old stuff, are gone and replaced by computers and microchips.

Can't see many Royal Air Force aircraft staying in the air after an EMP, except maybe the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight!!!

BuckFelize wrote

"The future will probably see some spotty-faced geek who's never had to do aircrew selection, flying training, C&S, E&E and the myriad other quals to keep current - or who has to maintain a suitable level of physical fitness - 'flying' combat ops. The CSAR element will also be largely redundant - especially if rotary elements become 'robotised'. "

Which will be cheaper and more efficient surely. Not only that the aircraft can be far smaller and more capable of much more extreme manourvres and speed, that a human payload couldn't achieve!!! Also how much of the weight in an aircraft is dedicated to showing the pilot whats going on and keeping him alive, or ejecting him from the aircraft? All totally redundant in a drone.

Aircraft that can stay on station for days? ie robot B52's, with "pilots" doing shifts to fly them. and if one gets shot down it wont take years to train a replacement pilot. Just pull the next robo-plane out of the hanger, kick the tyres, light the fires (the "pilot" could even p1ss on the wheels for old times sake) and out on the next mission goes the "killed" "pilots" plane. With only enough time for slow motion re-run of what went wrong last time!!!

But I don't think the fly boys will have to worry about P-45's dropping in to their mail slots just yet!!!! It will be years till the robo-pilots can sing!!!
Hangman...send investments funds to:

Weatherman1956 'Little EMP Shop of Horrors'
Coyoteville, OutWest U.S.M.

(Experimental Developments Labratory)

(Test Site)

(Test Results on Aircraft Electronics)
I'd just like to point out, as well, that robot controlled aircraft regularly fly in the air at the moment. Airliners on autopilot are controlled by a computer. Albeit under supervision of a flesh and blood pilot. Likewise I'm am led to believe that the B2 Spirit (amongst others) are fully controlled by computers, with the pilot simply telling the computers what he wants them to do.

The development of these computers is what allows the "flying wing" type aircraft to fly. The original "flying wing" designs, first by the Nazis at the end of the World War 2 and then by the geezer played by Leo Caprio in "the aviator" (is it Hughes?) were unflyable as the human pilots were unable to control the aircraft. It took a computer to control the aerodynamics side of the flight, with reletavely simple instructions input by the pilot ie up, down and loop the loop being converted by the computer in to what the various control surfaces should actually do to carry out the manouvre.

All that is required is a "responsive brain" using AI in the cockpit, which can do things like take appropriate action in event of missile lock. Everything else, such as monitoring fuel, engine heat, navigation can be done from the back of a trailer. Especially if SATCOM is used to keep the time lag between aircraft and operator as small as possible!!! Also, as mentioned, the aircraft minus human pilot will be able to fly as fast and carry out the same manouvres as its missile adversary.
The major issues with such assets are integration into other airspace (although there is a CAA/DTI/MoD programme to have them integrated into UK airspace by 2010), and bandwidth.

ChocFrog is correct that all modern combat aircraft (Gripen, Typhoon, Rafale, FA-22, F-35, B-2 and F-117 to name but a few) are unstable platforms that would be unflyable without computers. The fact that the fighter types in the above list are so manoeuverable is because the software effectively uses their inherant instability to 'depart' the aircraft for a brief instant to achieve previously unheard of instantaneous and sustained turn rates. The same applies to many modern weapons.

However, the real expense is bandwidth which is collossal even for relatively simple systems such as Predator and Global Hawk and the US has recently spent hundreds of billions buying bandwidth for its military needs over the next 2 decades.

Additionally, we are a good 30 years off IMHO before we see a truely autonomous weapons system capable of coping with the millions of sensory inputs and decisions that humans are AND applying them in a logical and humanitarian way.

However, the US will have swarmed UCAVs developed from the X-45/47 operating alongside manned platforms by 2015. These will mostly perform the 'dull, dangerous and dirty' missions such as recce, SEAD/DEAD, Electronic Attack and some strike missions.

Regrettably not, but I was briefed (at unclass level) to this end by a DEC chappie recently and there has also been much reference in open press lately (Flt International primarily) that the UAV site in Wales (forget the name, ParkWales or something like that?) are obviously pushing for this hard.

I have to say mind that I'm also sceptical at this timescale. The CAA effectively stop us using JTIDS to anything like its true capacity on a day to day basis, let alone having new fangled UAVs mixing with the self loading freight. However, the one shred of hope I'd offer is that there are clear commercial benefits to integrating UAV ops - both in encouraging military export sales of indiginous UAVs and in civilian applications for the beasties. Don't forget that both the boxheads and US have also already flown Global Hawk in European airspace (albeit in segregated airspace).

Being an AWACS type, it's been interesting to see the capabilities of UAVs develop in the last 10 years of ops over BH, Kosovo, Serbia, Afghanistan and Iraq. Frankly, (GH excluded) they're now little different to any other ac type apart from they fly very slowly and have an annoying habit of getting in the way of CAS players!!

As far as WK goes (and without wanting to get into inter-service bickering) I fear that the airworthiness and airspace integration issues have been greatly overlooked due to the cap badges involved. There seems an inordinate amount of inter cap badge argument in the Army about who will operate WK (so far this year I've heard at least 3 different corps tell me that it's definitely been decided that they will have WK (AAC, Int Corps & RA)). I also feel that the decision to go for an all WK450 purchase rather than the smaller WK180 places a question mark over the viability over the whole project when you look at other UK procurement. To reiterate, I'm not a Crab suggesting that you guys shouldn't have anything that's flyable, but I genuinely struggle to see WK surviving. I hope I'm wrong, but I'd be interested to hear you guys' thoughts on the subject.

I have some experience of UAV ops in the UK context and you are absolutely right in your assessment of the WK mess.

The gunners are desperately trying to hold onto it as that allows them to keep 32 Regt in existence. The presence of a former OC 32 in the team buying WK has not hindered them in this aim. However, as the capability of WK becomes clearer it is more and more obvious that they are fundamentally unsuited to run the show. They will however die in a ditch over this and hang the detrimental effects to UK plc ISTAR capability.

My glorious Corps has had their collective head jammed up its rear on the whole subject for quite a while and is only just starting to wake up to the problem. To be fair, we have been rather busy. One day they might even tap into the UAV experience that exists within the capbadge instead of throwing people at the problem cold. Regardless, to make best use of WK sensors I firmly believe that you need trained IAs as sensor operators. As most of the tasking will be green than most operators should be.

The AAC are the only ones in green who understand aviation and that is clearly fundamental to operating with other air users - which is in turn fundamental to being any use to anyone. However their experience to date may not fully fit them to integrate at the altitudes necessary to best use the sensors.

So we need a purple organisation. Enough RAF to make sure we can play with other users, enough AAC to cope with aviation outside 5 star hotels, mostly Int Corps IAs (with a few RN/RAF) for the sensors and maybe the odd gunner to teach the ops to call in fire if needed.
Totally agre old chap. Purple is definitely the way forward for ISTAR if we are to ensure a better JOINT product and not waste dosh pursuing parallel projects and capabilities.

I was only chatting to an 849 Sqn observer today and he feels that there is more of a justification for 'Joint Force ISTAR' than there is for 'Joint Force Harrier'.
Not_Whistlin_Dixie said:
There is under development a new generation of pilotless aircraft. These are not mere remotely piloted drones. Rather, they have no human pilot.
A prototype robot tactical bomber
when will we ever learn?
look what happened with the cyborgs in terminator and the Cylons in Battlestar Galactica!! theyll turn against us,they always do, were doomed I tells ya!!

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