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Robot Jet Fighter Takes First Flight

Roblimo posted more than 3 years ago | from the look-ma-no-hands dept.

Robotics 119

lysdexia writes "The X-47B is a Tailless Flying Robotic Overlord, which requires neither puny human pilot nor extraneous remote control. First flight was 29 minutes, climbing to a height of 5000 ft. Next step: landing on aircraft carrier."

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I for one (1)

nimbius (983462) | more than 3 years ago | (#35144822)

welcome our new stealth overlords.

Re:I for one (1, Insightful)

WarmNoodles (899413) | more than 3 years ago | (#35144878)

Yes because this is /. and we all have aging robotic overlords in need of a tech refresh

Re:I for one (4, Funny)

Doctor Faustus (127273) | more than 3 years ago | (#35144902)

I would, if only I could find them.

Re:I for one (1, Funny)

WarmNoodles (899413) | more than 3 years ago | (#35144950)

Obligatory, That's what she said.

Cowardice rises to the next level. (0)

bussdriver (620565) | more than 3 years ago | (#35145516)

Cowardice rises to the next level: another robot to replace the job of having some consequences to war.

Practicality replacing all that honor warrior crap - makes you wonder just how fat and lazy the future military will become; aside from an increased level of cowardice due to those types thriving...

The direction of all of this is not good; we are going to be the real problem long before the machines are able to take over. Will China rule the world by remote drone and hackers? These machines need to be banned and research to stop them should be performed.

On the lighter side, I'm waiting for DARPA to start funding bioelectric those cell projects so we can look forward to robots that refuel on dead people.... Then if we survive each other the machines will at least keep us around as fuel.

Are you an idiot? (1)

jamrock (863246) | more than 3 years ago | (#35146460)

Cowardice rises to the next level: another robot to replace the job of having some consequences to war.

Practicality replacing all that honor warrior crap - makes you wonder just how fat and lazy the future military will become; aside from an increased level of cowardice due to those types thriving...

Are you saying that a nation as rich and powerful as the U.S. should not expend the resources to better protect their military personnel in combat? They shouldn't investigate technology that increases force effectiveness while reducing exposure to counter-strikes? They shouldn't field weapons that could deter a potential adversary from engaging in battle?

Cowardice? If that's what you think then by all means let's take away all those assault rifles from the infantry and make them fight with swords and bows. That stand-off range afforded them by modern firearms is dishonorable don't you know.

You're not an idiot; you're a fucking idiot.

Re:Are you an idiot? (1)

EEPROMS (889169) | more than 3 years ago | (#35146790)

Although I do find the term "cowardice" wrong at the same time the bussdriver was partly correct. One of the benefits of people dying in wars is it re-enforces the basic rule that "war is stupid and you never win even when you think you have". Losses in a war makes the elites stand back and think, hmm can we talk first because if we start losing soldiers their families are not going to like it. With an automated war there is nothing stopping the political elites from going on a slaughter fest of imperialism backed by a distorted political mantra helping blind the populace from the truth (cough Iraq WMD's cough).

Re:Are you an idiot? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35147444)

Unfortunately, the USA considers the entire rest of the world a potential enemy, and is working as hard as it can to turn them into actual enemies. Read this: http://www.alternet.org/world/148094/america's_empire_and_endless_wars_are_destroying_the_world,_and_ruining_our_great_country/ [alternet.org]

You are the uninformed idiot.

Re:Cowardice rises to the next level. (0)

MrKaos (858439) | more than 3 years ago | (#35146894)

Cowardice rises to the next level: another robot to replace the job of having some consequences to war.

I wish I had mod points.

Practicality replacing all that honor warrior crap

The honour from war was lost when politicians started taking our foreign loans to bankroll conflict. It used to be that when there was a war *everyone* made sacrifices. Now war is seen as a reality TV program where one nation beats the crap out of another nation. As long as the US military budget is as big as the rest of the worlds military budget what we are funding is new ways to bring about the wholesale slaughter of the human race.

But as long as I'm the one vicariously watching the slaughter then I guess it's ok.

Re:Cowardice rises to the next level. (2)

profplump (309017) | more than 3 years ago | (#35147734)

Nations have been taking foreign loans to go to war since before man invented the gun. And the USA wouldn't exist if the rebels here didn't get massive military and financial assistance from France, Netherlands, etc. during the revolutionary war.

If automation in warfare leads to cowardice shouldn't you also be railing against the machine gun? Real, brave warriors should have to load their musket one bullet at a time. Or maybe guns themselves are a sign of cowardice -- real men wouldn't attack from a distance. Or maybe any sort of weapon induces cowardice -- no true Scotsman would ever consider going to war with anything other than his wits and his fists.

Seriously, get some perspective before you start spewing inflammatory words like "cowardice" in public.

Re:Cowardice rises to the next level. (0)

MrKaos (858439) | more than 3 years ago | (#35149042)

Nations have been taking foreign loans to go to war since before man invented the gun. And the USA wouldn't exist if the rebels here didn't get massive military and financial assistance from France, Netherlands, etc. during the revolutionary war.

France had a vested interest in America defeating the British. At the time *they* were a superpower and America was the revolutionary force they could use to propagate their own agenda in exactly the same way America trained Afgans against the Soviets. Tell me what the point of the Iraq war is again, what exactly was the idealogical imperative that required financing?

If automation in warfare leads to cowardice shouldn't you also be railing against the machine gun? Real, brave warriors should have to load their musket one bullet at a time. Or maybe guns themselves are a sign of cowardice -- real men wouldn't attack from a distance. Or maybe any sort of weapon induces cowardice -- no true Scotsman would ever consider going to war with anything other than his wits and his fists.

Don't be fucking ridiculous. A machine gun emplacement is a target with a real person operating it. If that person dies there is *human* sacrifice. If I was to use your reasoning then soldiers should weep every time they let off a grenade because the fuse is a form of automation. Were are talking about an autonomous system that can fly and take commands there is close to zero chance the operator will take any fire.

More than likely a weapon like this will become a weapon of intimidation an oppression because the politician who chooses to deploy it will never have to deal with a grieving parent whose son was lost.

Seriously, get some perspective before you start spewing inflammatory words like "cowardice" in public.

oh really, when was the last time you wrote to a politician? The OP is dead on with this comment a weapon like this can be deployed with very little risk of political consequences. Perspective indeed, how naive.

Re:I for one (1)

fabioalcor (1663783) | more than 3 years ago | (#35148672)

I would, if only I could last long enough to welcome them.

Re:I for one (1)

Exclamation mark! (1961328) | more than 3 years ago | (#35145468)

I anticipate that the next headline will be something like: Robot Jet Fighter Takes Over World

Re:I for one is not very impressed (1)

Dr Max (1696200) | more than 3 years ago | (#35145680)

Don't get me wrong the plane is very nice but average geeks have been doing this with rc planes for ages. Do a diy drone search or look for audriopiolt and they can do much cooler tricks than this (take off; land; loop to loop, barrel rolls, you name it) all on its own if you want. It couldn't fit a warhead in it or go as fast or as far but its all the same theory. When this thing can take down a human in dog fight then I might be impressed.

Re:I for one (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35145620)

TFA

Saving pilots’ lives, increasing effectiveness, keeping an edge on other militaries – the benefits are too compelling for the US to ignore. We’re going to keep building deadlier and deadlier unmanned aircraft systems, hopefully it will work out for the best.

You are not alone... after all, this will be outsourcing the fighting, the economics prove outsourcing is such a good way to drive down the costs - they can keep their CEO's (err... generals), ditch the privates and still continue playing the game.
Can't stop to wonder how much of the costs would be saved if refraining from war.

Re:I for one (1)

Dr Max (1696200) | more than 3 years ago | (#35145952)

Too right if we could get the world to agree to global peace we could put the millions of billions into really cool and useful stuff. Like unimaginable amounts of power generation; space exploration; accelerated concentrated food production; robot butlers; medical breakthroughs; gene mutation and age slowing/stopping. That said war has benefited our scientific advancement ever since the first tribal battles, hell we are still using most of the stuff the Nazis came up with for ww2.

Not a Jet Fighter (5, Informative)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 3 years ago | (#35144832)

Nor is it as other websites have called it, a bomber.

X-47 is pure experimental but does have a weapons bay that could theoretically hold two 1000 pound JDAMs. Were a production plane made out of this it would be an MQ - multi-role (M) unmanned aircraft system (Q) or AQ - attack (A) unmanned aircraft system (Q).

It doesn't carry nor is it currently designed to carry an M-61 gatling gun, which every current F designated US aircraft has, nor does it have any missile capable hard points.

And yea, the F-117A is misdesginated too.

Re:Not a Jet Fighter (4, Interesting)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 3 years ago | (#35144898)

Very true. But once the avionics and autonomous flight systems are tuned, building and flying fighter and bomber UAVs is going to be cake. Kids going through the pilot pipeline now are probably some of the last armed forces pilots who will do so.

Now, before you huff and say, "No way will software and electronic kit replace people wholesale in military aircraft!", I'd think about it a bit. I was able to watch a UAV dock, refuel, and detach from a KC-130 tanker ~7 months ago, with no human intervention. Refueling? Check. Carrier takeoffs/landings? Almost here. You can have some pretty amazing flight characteristics when you don't have to support the human body in flight.

Re:Not a Jet Fighter (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 3 years ago | (#35145210)

Yep, F-35 series is going to be the last US manned fighter program I suspect.

Future will probably be F-22s, AESA equipped F-15/16/18s, F-35s acting as the master control for drones.

Need a SAM net taken out? Launch 20 drones and one or two control aircraft to designate targets and let them loose.

Re:Not a Jet Fighter (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35145976)

I think the concept of master fighter / drone is correct, but I think the numbers are off. Probably more like 1/4 or even 1/2. The fundamental problem is that despite how good you can make a UAV at any particular task or set of tasks it lacks the inherent flexibility of a human operator. If you start looking at more challenging opponents and seriously contested airspace, UAVs suddenly become a lot less attractive. Try going to war with a UAV with
- No GPS
- No satellite communications
- Jammed long range data-links
A manned Master fighter would be able to provide man in the loop decision making and control his wingman via a directional data link that would be much more difficult to jam.

Re:Not a Jet Fighter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35147050)

Kids going through the pilot pipeline now are probably some of the last armed forces pilots who will do so.

I somehow very much doubt this.

Re:Not a Jet Fighter (1)

hitmark (640295) | more than 3 years ago | (#35147894)

I wonder if the real issue will be liability for "blue on blue" events.

Re:Not a Jet Fighter (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 3 years ago | (#35149156)

The problem is that UAVs is that they need to make decisions independently in a combat situation and that is hard even for a human pilot.

For your basic "go here, blow this up" missions cruise missiles are fine. You only need a UAV if you want to do surveillance or attack moving targets. The latter is particularly difficult if you can't rely on sending video back to a human. The UAV has to identify the target, make sure it isn't friendly and then figure out how best to attack it, all while avoiding being shot down itself.

The Russians already deploy inflatable tanks as decoys. You can imagine an insurgent deliberately placing a radar array in a populated area that a human pilot would judge too risky to attack.

We will get there but there are bound to be some very serious mistakes along the way.

Re:Not a Jet Fighter (3, Insightful)

hyades1 (1149581) | more than 3 years ago | (#35144922)

If I recall correctly, the F-4 originally mounted no guns. When it was offered to the Israelis, they had to demand that they be incorporated into the planes slated for them. In action in Viet Nam, American pilots also learned how stupid this concept was, and remedial action was taken.

Re:Not a Jet Fighter (2)

Penguinshit (591885) | more than 3 years ago | (#35145100)

The F4 was originally a bomber-intercept aircraft. Dogfighting was thought to be a relic of the past in the new guided missile age.

Re:Not a Jet Fighter (4, Informative)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 3 years ago | (#35145250)

F-4 was originally going to be four 20mm cannons, then Sparrow came along and they deleted the single internal cannon.

Vietnam showed that Sparrow wasn't that effective at long range and Sidewinder had too limited of engagement envelope so by the F-4D in 1967 they carried an external gun pod, and the F-4E had an internal M-61 cannon in '68/69.

The models Israel got were the F-4E which already had the cannons.

Re:Not a Jet Fighter (1)

Nimey (114278) | more than 3 years ago | (#35145666)

I believe the Air Force's F-4E was the only Phantom model that carried an internal cannon; none of the Navy or Marine variants ever carried one, except in an external pod.

Re:Not a Jet Fighter (1)

rhook (943951) | more than 3 years ago | (#35147278)

If I recall correctly, the F-4 originally mounted no guns. When it was offered to the Israelis, they had to demand that they be incorporated into the planes slated for them. In action in Viet Nam, American pilots also learned how stupid this concept was, and remedial action was taken.

And this is how Top Gun was born.

Re:Not a Jet Fighter (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35144946)

Adding weapons isn't a problem. Weight considerations aside, this thing can (and will ) be a weapon.

I don't like the idea of unmanned drones or automatic anything. I'm a big fan of the military technology and using weapons to bring about peace.

What I don't like is when we remove ourselves from living close to the bone. War is ugly, awful and at times necessary. When we see the cost of war and the bloodshed men will find ways to avoid it. Any enemy who has seen the wasteland of fallen soldiers knows that they will either submit or become another body.

Re:Not a Jet Fighter (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#35145092)

That's the thing, it's not really war if people aren't in harms way. While it would be nice to settle things over an arm wrestling match or similar, the reality is that this sort of thing isn't really going to satisfy the people that demand war because it doesn't really allow for medals to be awarded in any particularly meaningful sense.

Re:Not a Jet Fighter (2, Insightful)

badboy_tw2002 (524611) | more than 3 years ago | (#35145112)

Don't worry, there will still be a wasteland of fallen soldiers, just mixed in with more regular people.

Re:Not a Jet Fighter (3, Interesting)

cshotton (46965) | more than 3 years ago | (#35145384)

As it turns out, the real problem on these platforms is power generation. With synthetic aperture radars, flight control systems, on-board mission management systems, laser designators, EO sensors, and LOS and BLOS/satellite comms gear on board, the problem of supplying electricity for all the systems becomes critical.

I worked on the original J-UCAS program which transitioned from DARPA to the Navy, and designing the autonomous flight and mission management systems was the easier part of the problem. Creating the comm infrastructure (software defined radios), the operational procedures, the peer-to-peer cooperation, and mundane stuff like dealing with air traffic control turn out to be much harder in practice.

Definitely one of the coolest projects I have ever worked on and I'm glad to see one of the J-UCAS derived UAVs finally getting into the air.

Re:Not a Jet Fighter (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#35149176)

As it turns out, the real problem on these platforms is power generation.

Can't any turbine engine basically be designed to produce as much of its output as electricity as you like?

Wrong (0)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#35145068)

F designation simple means its a fighter. Fighter meaning its for air to air combat. A M-61 has nothing to do with it. Having a machine gun has nothing to do with it.

Since most air-air combat will happen far outside any practical use of the a M-61
Guns in a modern fighter is a complete waste of money.
Combat will be done in far to many miles apart to make it worth while.

and no, the F-117A is not an incorrect designation. It's a fucking combat fighter by design.

Re:Wrong (3, Informative)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 3 years ago | (#35145130)

Guns in a modern fighter is a complete waste of money.

This has been said several times since WW2, and every time they tried to follow up on the idea, they ended up putting the gun back in. AA missiles are not the be-all and end-all.

Re:Wrong (1)

ducomputergeek (595742) | more than 3 years ago | (#35147334)

If you look at the AA role, you might have a point, but what are the chances of us seeing Air to Air engagements this day in age? Maybe in the opening moves before one side's airbases are decimated from cruise missile/drone attacks. Most of the combat today is air to ground. And in that role Guns still have their place. There have several instances where F-15's and F-16's have used their guns for danger close strafing runs in Afghanistan where allied troops were too close to the enemy for bombs.

I've read a number of after action reports that pretty much say the same thing: the Air Force doesn't need F-22's, it's needs more A-10's or a drone to replace it. The most effective aircraft since 1990 are still the B-52 and A-10. And the A-10 was built around its gun. The A-10 can do two things: carry a shit load of mixed ordinance and loiter around a battlefield for on-call CAS. F-15's and F-16's don't carry near the array of weapons and can remain on station for about 20 - 30 minutes before they have to go gas up again and come back. That usually takes an hour or more for a four ship group to refuel and come back.

I know the Reaper is a step towards a replacement for the A-10, but it carries about the same amount of ordinance as an F-16.

Re:Wrong (2)

radtea (464814) | more than 3 years ago | (#35149820)

If you look at the AA role, you might have a point, but what are the chances of us seeing Air to Air engagements this day in age?

If you aren't prepared for them?

One hundred percent.

Re:Wrong (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 3 years ago | (#35145374)

Despite that, all US manned fighters have an internal 20mm cannon. The Russians include a cannon in their new fighter/attack, Eurofighter Typhoon has the option for one, the Koreans have one in the T-50, the French have a cannon in their fighters and attack, the Chinese include a cannon, even the Swedes have a cannon in the JAS 39. I guess all of them missed the memo on a cannon being obsolete.

F-117A didn't have one, but it's now retired so it remains true that all US fighters have a cannon. F-117 wasn't a fighter by design, it was designed for the attack role. If F-117 was designed to be a fighter it would have a radar, higher thrust engines and a better thrust to weight ratio. The fact that it's flight systems and parts like the undercarriage are derived from fighter parts doesn't make it a fighter.

Vietnam and the Arab Israeli Wars show very clearly that in some engagements the cannon remains a viable weapons system for a modern fighter.

Re:Wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35145608)

Vietnam and the Arab Israeli Wars show very clearly that in some engagements the cannon remains a viable weapons system for a modern fighter.

Sometimes, using a 45 year old test case just isn't the best mode of argument. Here's an example, using the same logic: the Vietnam era F-4 couldn't land itself back on the carrier unmanned - this will never work...

Re:Wrong (1)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 3 years ago | (#35147716)

Guns in a modern fighter is a complete waste of money.

That's been said before, and proven wrong every time. Sometimes, you need a gun. You wouldn't say that since most ground combat happens out of knife range, soldiers do not need to be equipped and trained with knives, but that's basically what you've said here. You want to be equipped for as many situations as is reasonably possible. Needing a gun on a fighter is a real possibility, so you want to be able to equip your planes with them.

Re:Not a Jet Fighter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35145440)

Neither F-35B nor F-35C carry an internal gun...

uh oh start of terminator series ? (1)

Fineliner (1971154) | more than 3 years ago | (#35144838)

oh i think sarah corner is now making a phone call to.. huh what th@#$ ... [connection timed out]

Re:uh oh start of terminator series ? (1)

nopainogain (1091795) | more than 3 years ago | (#35145458)

it is time!

interesting definition of "next" in summary (0)

Hungus (585181) | more than 3 years ago | (#35144844)

FTA:Northrop Grumman will have to perfect the UAS’ flight for it to survive in that challenging environment. In the next two years its expected that the X-47B will expand its flight capabilities, and begin testing mid-air refueling as it prepares for real world carrier tests in 2013.

LOTA? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35144862)

The summary leaves me wondering how it feels about pronouns...

Errors (3, Interesting)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 3 years ago | (#35144868)

1. Carrier trials are not until 2013 so they are not "next".
2. This isn't a fighter it is an attack aircraft or a bomber. Actually a light bomber but then the F-117 Stealth Fighter was not a fighter but also a bomber and or attack aircraft.

Then why not just use missles? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35145404)

What's the point of this?

Re:Errors (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35145450)

1. Carrier trials are not until 2013 so they are not "next".
2. This isn't a fighter it is an attack aircraft or a bomber. Actually a light bomber but then the F-117 Stealth Fighter was not a fighter but also a bomber and or attack aircraft.

Re your #2 If you want to be pedantic X-47B is none of the above. It is purely a demonstrator being used to prove we can: create a stealthy unmanned system (tailless), land an unmanned system on a carrier, land a tailless design on a carrier (stability and massively different lift/glide coefficients are an issue), operate an unmanned aircraft in one of the most involved and unforgiving environments there is (carrier deck), and many other 'firsts' that have never been tried let alone accomplished before. Teaching it to behave like a navy pilot for flight ops around a carrier is actually one of the *easier* things, comparatively. There are a million details we've had to work out over the years. Given all this no effort has been made to focus on sensors, weapons, or any other mission equipment for X-47B. That will be for it's kids (Google 'UCLASS').

When we do go about giving it some fangs after proving itself a bit more there is some difference of opinion on what that will mean and what category of aircraft it is. The Navy, mostly to protect fighter pilot ego, calls it a surveillance-strike platform. Those of us working on it think of it more as a strike-fighter (emphasis strike) - there is nothing preventing us from loading this thing with A2A ordnance later on. In any case that will be a conversation we won't have for another year or two. Now that we've partied ourselves silly after the flight on Friday (press release was out Saturday - little late to the party Slashdot) we still have a lot of hoops to fly through (forgive the pun) before we get to the boat. The idea of an unmanned craft the approx. size and weight of an F-18 coming anywhere near the flight deck makes a few of the old school aviators and ship captains understandably nervous. We have to earn their trust.

Posted anon for obvious reasons.

Re:Errors (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35146524)

So how do you go from building ArduPilotMega DIYDrones airframes to playing with the real deal?

Re:Errors (1)

RNLockwood (224353) | more than 3 years ago | (#35149764)

"the F-117 Stealth Fighter was not a fighter"

Of course it was (is). It was clearly designed to take out strategic bombers by stealthily flying above them and dropping Walleye bombs on them. If not the Air Force would have corrected the designation by now.

ED 209 (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 3 years ago | (#35144904)

Re:ED 209 (1)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 3 years ago | (#35144958)

Pull the boards!

The robotic jet of death was created by man... (1)

Alphaman001 (1987934) | more than 3 years ago | (#35144916)

Quick, get me Edward James Olmos and the chick from Dances with Wolves before the darn things rebel and evolve.

Re:The robotic jet of death was created by man... (1)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 3 years ago | (#35144976)

Impossible! That jet was struck by lightning.

Everyone knows that real stealth aircraft are not rated for operating in the rain because its skin would be damaged.

Cover (1)

gznork26 (1195943) | more than 3 years ago | (#35144938)

I would imagine that s group of some later version of the bird could fly cover for a single (remote or actual) piloted aircraft. That strategy would insinuate human judgement into the mission, while freeing the robots to do what they need to within those restrictions. Of course, hijacking the flight of robots would then require only gaining control over the piloted craft and changing the mission definition. When do we start seeing these things in movies?

I for one (1)

simonbp (412489) | more than 3 years ago | (#35144962)

I for one, do NOT welcome our flying robot overlords. The land-based robot overlords are much more effective.

Re:I for one (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#35149210)

Unless of course your enemy owns the skies, in which case you're just fucked.

2007 called, they want their tech back (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35144970)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5wJHj3hOcuI I did this with about $3000 as part of my thesis. Nobody wanted to buy the tech afterward.

Re:2007 called, they want their tech back (1)

citizenr (871508) | more than 3 years ago | (#35147008)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5wJHj3hOcuI I did this with about $3000 as part of my thesis. Nobody wanted to buy the tech afterward.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rNuZwY2iDcM [youtube.com]

Sold to Polish army for ~$1mil a pop (unofficial, obviously price secret).

Is its call sign "Tin Man"? (1)

sehlat (180760) | more than 3 years ago | (#35145016)

If that's the case, it's time to get the hell off the planet/outta Dodge.

A Taste of Armageddon (3, Interesting)

Spikeles (972972) | more than 3 years ago | (#35145102)

From there, robotic jet fighters could prove to be valuable assets in a modern military that is increasingly automating its approach to war.

Dont say we didn't warn you [wikipedia.org] .

Re:A Taste of Armageddon (2)

jfengel (409917) | more than 3 years ago | (#35145226)

Oh, man. People remember the epically bad episodes, like The Savage Curtain or Spock's Brain or The Omega Glory. But we always just gloss over the plain old dumb ones, like "The Lights of Zetar" or "The Alternative Factor" or "A Taste of Armageddon".

TOS... I do love it, but oh, some days it's tough love.

Thank you for dredging that out of the dark recesses of my brain.

Been down that road... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35145140)

So...nobody saw Stealth [imdb.com] , I take it?

Does the Navy still need the F-35? (1)

schwit1 (797399) | more than 3 years ago | (#35145176)

The F/A-18E/F is a very capable fighter/bomber.
The F-35 is not a big enough leap in capability to warrant the price tag and not as stealthy as originally advertised.
UCAVs are the future.

Let's take these one by one (2)

DesScorp (410532) | more than 3 years ago | (#35147806)

The F/A-18E/F is a very capable fighter/bomber.

The biggest virtue of the Super Hornet is that it's cheap and has a larger payload and more range than the older versions of the Hornet. As a fighter, it's a dog. It's slower, has less zip, less acceleration, and less maneuverability than older Hornets. The F/A-18C pilots that flew against them during trials actually said they felt sorry for them. In the fleet, Tomcat vets call them "Not So Super Hornets". Again, the biggest virtue is the price tag... $50 million apiece, which is a bargain for modern fighters. The CBO says the F-35 could reach $184 million apiece, flyaway. So I predict that we'll be using Super Hornets for a long, long time, and will simply attempt to make up for the plane's deficiencies via training and tactics. It's a great,economical strike aircraft. But the Super is nowhere near where the Navy would like it to be as a fighter.

The F-35 is not a big enough leap in capability to warrant the price tag and not as stealthy as originally advertised.

All true. The F-35 may end up being the biggest military procurement boondoggle of all time. It does nothing well, and at a price astronomically higher than it's competitors.

UCAVs are the future.

Yes,but the problem is that the future is probably far,far away. We're in the infancy of UAV's, practically in the same place as the Sopwith Camel in terms of fighter development. Thus, you're going to see manned fighters in wide production for at least another 50 years.

Missiles... (3, Interesting)

sirsnork (530512) | more than 3 years ago | (#35145298)

Heres a question for anyone in the know.

Given there no longer needs to be a meatsack in the chair, whats stopping UAV's from being able to literally dodge incoming fire (RPG's, missles etc)?

As long as they could be detected they could theoritically be dodged and destroyed given the ability of being able to do very high G's in a turn.

Re:Missiles... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35145572)

You still have problems ripping components off. Fewer problems, but all it takes is one overstressed bolt in an aileron motivator mount point, and it doesn't matter if you dodged or not. Dodging a missile would require some serious (well timed) acceleration in directions planes aren't really built to accelerate in...

Re:Missiles... (1)

SETIGuy (33768) | more than 3 years ago | (#35146262)

Actually most of the accelerations when dodging would be OK, primarily because the most effective control surfaces (the elevons) will be most effective for accelerations perpendicular to them and that's the direction planes are built to accelerate in. My suggestion for dodging a missile would be to throttle to max and a an accelerating turn to put the incoming missile about 45 degrees above (our perspective) the nose. We'll use whatever non-stalling control inputs we need to keep it there. We can get a rough distance estimate by our rate of turn. Eventually we can't hold the incoming at a stable position any more and it's heading towards the nose (meaning the missile is leading us, rather than trailing. It has some smarts.), so we roll inverted and point the nose to the ground, stalling the wings in the process. Think Pugachev's Cobra upside down. Making a lot of drag is the fastest deceleration we can do. Fortunately we think fast enough to be in control of an unstable aircraft. Now we accelerate downward until the threat is moving away or we are in danger of not being able to avoid the ground.

Now, having survived, the AI should be wondering what the hell it was doing so high in the air. 18 inches above the highest obstacle in the projected flight path projected out 2 seconds is a much safer place to be.

OK, so I'm being a smart ass. But seriously, I think that eventually missile avoidance on AI drones will be good enough that there will be two types of missile attacks. 1) No time for the drone to recognize there was a threat. 2) Successful avoidance. I think it's going to be hard to make a Mach 2.5 missile maneuverable enough to take a subsonic aircraft capable of 20g turns and 30g braking maeuvers, if the launch comes from a significant distance.

Re:Missiles... (1)

johnjaydk (584895) | more than 3 years ago | (#35147760)

First off, fire up the ECM in order to defeat or degrade the seeker/guidance system. Second, peg airspeed at corner velocity to have maximum maneuverability. Third, maneuver to create an intercept geometry that maximizes the missiles g-load. Turn into it. Don't take it up the ass. Timing is everything here. Finally, give it a doze of chaff and flares to mess up the terminal guidance.

They are called miss-iles not hit-iles for a reason.

Personally, I would prefer to be in a strike package that also includes some dedicated SEAD assets. Standard procedure since Vietnam.

Re:Missiles... (1)

mbkennel (97636) | more than 3 years ago | (#35145576)

"whats stopping UAV's from being able to literally dodge incoming fire (RPG's, missles etc)?"

A RPG isn't going to hit a UAV. A purpose-designed anti-aircraft missile has a very high thrust to weight ratio, higher than any jet-propelled aircraft. It will always be more maneuverable, though with limited range. It's not clear that a very tight turn radius is going to help tremendously.

Actual anti-aircraft missiles don't have to physically touch the aircraft to detonate, unlike a video game. In fact, they work better if they go up to the sides of the aircraft and blow up there, disabling propulsion and control (i.e. pilot).

Increased maneuverability of UAV's could give them an advantage in some cases, but experience and awareness of a pilot is also an advantage.

The primary advantage would be the UAV's smaller mass to payload ratio and anything else which gives a lower radar return.

Re:Missiles... (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 3 years ago | (#35145600)

Sensors, software and the fact that missiles explode a fair distance away and they tend to be just as good at following an airplane and destroying them as an airplane is at getting away from them.

Like Starstreak from the UK. - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Starstreak_missile [wikipedia.org]
It goes Mach 3.5, so about twice as a fast as current generation fighters/attack, and launches three mini missiles.

"The three sub-munitions fly in a formation about 1.5 meters in radius, and have enough kinetic energy to maneuver to meet a target evading at 9G at 7,000 meters."

Re:Missiles... (4, Interesting)

lelitsch (31136) | more than 3 years ago | (#35145660)

Physics!

First off all, nobody is going to shoot down a UAV with an RPG, unless it is hovering at very low altitude. If you got this idea from Black Hawk down, the helicopters got shot down while they were basically hovering at roof level. A small plane going a few hundred mph is impossible to hit.

The physics part comes in, because a small missile with lower mass, much higher thrust to weight ratio and much smaller control surfaces can pull much higher g's than anything with large wings. A F-16 can pull around 9G before things start coming off, this might be able to do 15, a light AA or SA missile can pull 20-50.

So yeah, it might out-turn more than a manned plane, but not a missile.

Re:Missiles... (2)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 3 years ago | (#35147104)

A F-16 can pull around 9G before things start coming off ....

Ummm... no.
IIRC, the G-rating of an airframe is usually 2/3s the designed structural fatigue limit.
To be clear, the fatigue limit just means "repeatedly doing this will cause something to fail eventually"
This isn't the same as "doing this will cause things to fall off right now"

Of course, there's all kinds of qualifiers about fuel and ordnance loadout,
but for the sake of brevity I'm presuming the plane has minimal fuel and nothing mounted.
Otherwise, you can tear parts off a fully loaded plane just by doing a 6G turn.

and this is what's coming next: (1)

porky_pig_jr (129948) | more than 3 years ago | (#35145310)

http://www.theonion.com/articles/bored-predator-drone-pumps-a-few-rounds-into-mount,10159/

What's the "unique challenge"? (2)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 3 years ago | (#35145314)

The aircraftâ(TM)s sleek tailless design will make it harder to spot on radar, but proves a unique challenge for an unmanned aerial system (UAS).

Last I checked, all the kinks had been worked out of the blended wing design by the time the the B-2 bomber was built.
It was pretty much a matter of throwing enough computing power at a fly-by-wire system to make the craft stable.
And we managed to accomplish this with 80s technology.

I may be speaking out of ignorance, but I can't really see what "unique challenge" is created by a tailless design and can't be solved with 21st century computing power.

Re:What's the "unique challenge"? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35145596)

Story missed a key term. It is a unique challenge for a carrier landing. B-2 and other air force craft have a (comparatively) endless runway to play with. Being so slippery and having no tail control authority makes things tricky for the high speed / high angle of an arrested carrier landing.

If you go to the video contained in the press release and watch the landing it would be considered 'soft' by Navy standards but make an Air Force pilot wince a little - that is because they were intentionally splitting the difference for early flights (have to prove can do navy landings, but they stress the only airframe available).

Also it isn't a matter of just throwing enough computers at guidance/nav. The software is complicated. Just because B-2 is 30 year old tech doesn't mean many people know how to do it yet. It is a small community.

Re:What's the "unique challenge"? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35147062)

Tails stability it 'supposedly' compensated for by "directed thrust" controlled by a movable aperture and vectored thrust nozzle. In effect a jet exhaust nozzle that can change size shape and direction jet-gas exhaust/thrust(plasma) heats of several thousands of degrees in microsecond time steps over a variety or aperture sizes ( like afterburners), and thrust angles .

Re:What's the "unique challenge"? (2)

DesScorp (410532) | more than 3 years ago | (#35147826)

The unique challenge isn't the stealth part.It's building a truly robotic carrier aircraft. The difference between this and other UAV's isn't just that it can take off and land from carriers. This plane will eventually be fully robotic, with pre-programmed missions instead of a remote control pilot sitting in a trailer with a joystick and a monitor. This is meant to be a launch-and-forget warplane.

Re:What's the "unique challenge"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35149390)

At one point in the past it was a unique challenge, but you're right, it's not even close to a new problem anymore. I worked on a project back in the late 90's where we had a scale UAV very similar to the X-47B and, while there was an initial mental shift for the people working on it, we had it flying autonomously without too much trouble. You just learn to control yaw in a different way and make some tweaks when turning.

Skynet (1)

TechHacker1 (1546481) | more than 3 years ago | (#35145340)

Don't these guys EVER watch movies...Dumb...Where's John Connor when you need him...

Re:Skynet (1)

bugs2squash (1132591) | more than 3 years ago | (#35145434)

put down the weapon, you have 15 seconds to comply...

Programmers--Ultimately responsible. (2)

Anachragnome (1008495) | more than 3 years ago | (#35145668)

Programmers--Ultimately responsible.

As with any programming, there is the distinct likelihood of bugs--hell, more of an expectation.

I guess that makes every person on the ground beta testers? Still going to rely on the release-and-patch model?

Re:Programmers--Ultimately responsible. (1)

NortySpock (1966236) | more than 3 years ago | (#35146188)

Programmers--Ultimately responsible.

As with any programming, there is the distinct likelihood of bugs--hell, more of an expectation.

I guess that makes every person on the ground beta testers? Still going to rely on the release-and-patch model?

You can also put it through a lot more testing than you can a human -- unit testing, simulation testing, fuzz testing, stability testing -- and all of it can be done in parallel. Sure, you're still going to be going through the study-design-test-release model, but to run around saying "bugs are inevitable" and "UAVs are a menace because programmers can create bugs" is to ignore a whole fucking lot of safety standards and tests that are (or can be) put in place.

Cue Top Gun Theme (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35145852)

Information Super Highway to the Danger Zone.

Re:Cue Top Gun Theme (1)

Luthwyhn (527835) | more than 3 years ago | (#35149628)

Somehow you got the right words in there, but not the right idea:

Cue Macross Plus, Information High.

Top Gun (1)

secretplans (1489863) | more than 3 years ago | (#35146050)

Original Top Gun on Nintendo Champion here. If they need help landing on the aircraft carrier, I'd be happy to lend my services.

Robotic Jet (1)

KrispiCritter (1992638) | more than 3 years ago | (#35146152)

Is it just me, or does anyone else hear Starbuck staying "Oh Frak, here we go again!"?

This should help (0)

mevets (322601) | more than 3 years ago | (#35146368)

when the robots rise up and overthrow their human masters, they'll have some pretty effective weapons.

The T-FRO? Really?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35146770)

I'm sure there's a joke there somewhere...

How Many G's Can it Pull? (1)

bezenek (958723) | more than 3 years ago | (#35147164)

This plane can potentially fly in scary, unbelievable ways. It is too bad a full demo will give away too much. I wonder what the minimum turning radius is for a plane moving a Mach 2. Exciting!

-Todd

Re:How Many G's Can it Pull? (1)

dutchd00d (823703) | more than 3 years ago | (#35148696)

Assuming level flight:

R = v^2 / (g * sqrt(G^2 - 1))

R: turn radius in m
v: speed in m/s
g: acceleration due to gravity (~9.8 m/s^2)
G: g-load factor (standard gravity = 1)

Physics! Is there anything it can't do?

Dumbest idea out of Washington yet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35148236)

What dumb idea.
A Robot bomber plane?
Did I say dumb? I meant stupid.
A robot kamikaze air/air or air/ground drone would have been far smarter and a million times cheaper.

Cheaper? No no no wait a minute, we got to keep those jobs at Northrop Grumman, seeing as how we are all responsible for their profit margin.

Mark my words, it's the social funded companies that are running this country's budget and your tax dollars. But when has any media outlets complained about that one? Sheesh.

No need for carriers (1)

Davemania (580154) | more than 3 years ago | (#35148400)

If the Navy does manage to deploy UAV with more capabilities, they would have to re-think the role of carriers, you would think I new generation of destroyer type warships capable of launching UAV would be a feasible option to project airpower using UAV.

Re:No need for carriers (1)

BigTom (38321) | more than 3 years ago | (#35148488)

They are quite expensive, it would be good to be able to land them too.

Re:No need for carriers (1)

heathen_01 (1191043) | more than 3 years ago | (#35149462)

Yes, but do you need to land them on the same platform that launched them?

Stanislaw Lem predicted all this in 1986 (1)

the_olo (160789) | more than 3 years ago | (#35148630)

The polish SF writer Stanislaw Lem has predicted the evolution of warfare we're observing today as far back as 1986 [std.com] :

The really interesting essay of the three, and the one with the greatest connection to the rest of Lem's work, is the middle one, "The Upside-Down Evolution." Lem announces that, by unspecified means, he's gotten hold of "a military history of the twenty-first century," and proceeds to describe the advent and evolution of warfare by micro- and nano-robots.

It's been some time since I read it, but I recall him having envisioned evolution of war machinery as it became more and more miniaturized and swarm-like, until it was completely impossible to know if and who was attacking who. A country was able to e.g. form giant undetectable light-focusing lens overlaid in the upper layers of the atmosphere to influence agricultural yield of another country and affect its economy without needing to resort to direct contact and observable violence.

Very interesting to see the actual 21st century technology follow the exact path predicted by Stanislaw Lem. And we're only at its beginning.

All in all, a recommended read (like many other works by Lem).

"...automation is probably unstoppable..." it says (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35148838)

It says in the article, "Yet the progress towards automation is probably unstoppable." I am fed up with reading this lame old excuse every time some crackpot scientist wants to play with their favourite new technology at great expense, without having to bother justifying it to the rest of us.

No process controlled by man is "unstoppable". We don't have to have more CCTV, or face recognition in road side advertising, or automated machine gun fire when drivers jump a red light. If it is implemented then someone, somewhere must have taken the decision to implement it, and they can be made accountable if there is a will.

The sad and stupid people who casually pronounce that the introduction of a new technology is inevitable should be lynched by the angry mob of people over whose lives they are attempting to trample. Then they would realise what "unstoppable" really means.

Is this actually a robot? (1)

AP31R0N (723649) | more than 3 years ago | (#35149294)

Most of the time people say robot when they mean unmanned/remote control. A land mine is more robotic than the Predator. Someone flies the Predator and fires its weapons. A land mine does what it does without human intervention, that's a robot.

An IR missile is a robot. The "bots" in battle WERE NOT ROBOTS. They were remote controlled cars with armor and weapons.

Even if this thing takes off, lands and cruises on it's own, it's a robot for only those functions. When it can pick it's own targets and fire upon them without asking for permission we'll call it a Robot Jet Fighter.

Nice, BUT, I want to do the X48. (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 3 years ago | (#35149778)

The X47 is good, but the X-48 has many uses. Interestingly, the X-47 is similar to X-48. Hopefully, we can speed up X-48 by using the same electronics for testing purposes.
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