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Future Fighters Won't Need Ejection Seats

timothy posted about a year ago | from the top-gun-will-just-be-the-uppermost-gun dept.

The Military 622

Dr. Tom writes "The U.S. has deployed more than 11,000 military drones, up from fewer than 200 in 2002. They carry out a wide variety of missions while saving money and American lives. Within a generation they could replace most manned military aircraft, says John Pike, a defense expert at the think tank GlobalSecurity.org. Pike suspects that the F-35 Lightning II, now under development by Lockheed Martin, might be 'the last fighter with an ejector seat, and might get converted into a drone itself.' The weakest link is the pilot. A jet could pull 15 Gs, out-turning any conventional aircraft, except it would kill the pilot. Is it time to stop spending billions on obsolete aircraft?"

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622 comments

Hope no one hacks our entire Air Force one day (5, Insightful)

crazyjj (2598719) | about a year ago | (#43014037)

Nah, no one could ever do that.

Re:Hope no one hacks our entire Air Force one day (5, Funny)

noh8rz10 (2716597) | about a year ago | (#43014067)

I would install gps controls so it could never attack anything in the US. Then we'd be safe.

Re:Hope no one hacks our entire Air Force one day (3, Insightful)

lister king of smeg (2481612) | about a year ago | (#43014141)

didn't iran make one of our drones think it was landing at our base when instead it landed on theirs with gps spoofing.

Re:Hope no one hacks our entire Air Force one day (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43014391)

didn't iran make one of our drones think it was landing at our base when instead it landed on theirs with gps spoofing.

They claimed to have done so, but personally I'm a little suspicious of anything they claim. Don't forget they've also claimed to have developed a stealth fighter jet and provided pictures of a cheap mock-up, and video of a hobby-size RC model craft as "proof".

Re:Hope no one hacks our entire Air Force one day (1)

PeterM from Berkeley (15510) | about a year ago | (#43014175)

I hope you're joking? GPS can be hacked just like anything else, or jammed. GPS controls like you propose would be about as secure as a sign on your house "BEWARE OF DOG".

--PM

Re:Hope no one hacks our entire Air Force one day (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43014361)

GPS can be hacked just like anything else, or jammed

I thought the (US) military had switched away from what became the 'public GPS system' to their own for just that reason.

Re:Hope no one hacks our entire Air Force one day (1)

hawguy (1600213) | about a year ago | (#43014367)

I hope you're joking? GPS can be hacked just like anything else, or jammed. GPS controls like you propose would be about as secure as a sign on your house "BEWARE OF DOG".

--PM

A smart drone will use inertial reference and terrain/celestial mapping as a backup to GPS, as well as analyzing the signal strength of the incoming GPS signals to look for jamming/spoofing. You might be able to spoof GPS well enough to get the drone to think it's a few hundred feet from where it is, but I don't think you can make it think it's miles away.

Re:Hope no one hacks our entire Air Force one day (1)

kwerle (39371) | about a year ago | (#43014499)

Lucky for us there also exist altimeters and maps!

Re:Hope no one hacks our entire Air Force one day (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#43014249)

I would install gps controls so it could never attack anything in the US. Then we'd be safe.

haha. HAHAHAHAHA. at least then it would be just for attacking on paper too.

Re:Hope no one hacks our entire Air Force one day (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43014507)

Autonomous drones attacking? Can't happen - that would violate the first law of robotics.

Re:Hope no one hacks our entire Air Force one day (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43014327)

I would install gps controls so it could never attack anything in the US. Then we'd be safe.

Yeah, right. Because we have the Constitution and due process to protect us from things like, oh, say, summary execution by said drones?

Re:Hope no one hacks our entire Air Force one day (2)

Opportunist (166417) | about a year ago | (#43014493)

Depends on how good that hack is. See that skyline? Nooo, that's not New York, that's Tehran, dear AI.

Re:Hope no one hacks our entire Air Force one day (3, Insightful)

Vlad_the_Inhaler (32958) | about a year ago | (#43014259)

How could this go wrong?

  • A DOS attack stops everything, a decent EMP pulse would probably have the same effect
  • That Chinese unit based in Shanghai manages to comandeer parts of the air force
  • They use Windows and catch an updated version of Stuxnet
  • Either they can take commands in flight or they can not. In one case they can be taken over, in the other they can't react to a changing situation.

I am not a security expert. There is so much wrong with this idea I can't even start to get my head around the ramifications. April 1 came early this year.

Re:Hope no one hacks our entire Air Force one day (4, Insightful)

AvitarX (172628) | about a year ago | (#43014551)

Half of those apply to current fighters with people too.

Re:Hope no one hacks our entire Air Force one day (3, Insightful)

hawguy (1600213) | about a year ago | (#43014317)

Nah, no one could ever do that.

Having a piloted plane doesn't eliminate the risk of hacking. If someone can hack the control system for a drone, they can do the same thing to an F-35. The pilot has little (or no) control if the computer doesn't want him to.

The F-117 stealth fighter was said to be so aerodynamically unstable that it was unflyable without computer assistance.

Re:Hope no one hacks our entire Air Force one day (3, Insightful)

Stone Rhino (532581) | about a year ago | (#43014359)

There's a big difference - even on a computerized plane, all the inputs come from somewhere aboard the plane. You can't log in and tell it to bomb somewhere else. Drones are remotely controlled by design.

Firmware updates (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43014505)

There's a big difference - even on a computerized plane, all the inputs come from somewhere aboard the plane. You can't log in and tell it to bomb somewhere else. Drones are remotely controlled by design.

The F-22 has pancaked a couple of times because of software errors. Pilots have been put in jeorpardy because of software errors.

Let's assume that you can't update the software to tell the plane to bomb somewhere else. But you would be able to tell it to crash and other things that would make it ineffective.

I'll take losing a drone over a plane that costs 20 times as much and a pilot.

Also, drones are realatively cheap. Just keep making them.

Don't think you can have air superiority with a drone?

I can do it - with enough of them.

Re:Hope no one hacks our entire Air Force one day (3, Informative)

hawguy (1600213) | about a year ago | (#43014519)

There's a big difference - even on a computerized plane, all the inputs come from somewhere aboard the plane. You can't log in and tell it to bomb somewhere else. Drones are remotely controlled by design.

Except that the outputs come from the computer, so if you can get your software onto the computer (don't forget that hackers already stole 1 TB of design plans for the F-35 - and that's just the known breach, who knows what else they may have), then you can make the plane fly anywhere you want, regardless of what the pilot wants.

Re:Hope no one hacks our entire Air Force one day (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43014555)

Right now we have remote controlled planes, keep talking like that and we will have fully autonomous backup systems that can complete the mission in case of signal loss. I would be surprised if they didn't already automatically fly home if jammed after that sentinel crashed in Pakistan. Its not too much harder to fly over a predefined target and drop a bomb.

A system with as little input lag as possible makes sense if they start making fighter drones, so I'm sure that fully autonomous dog fighting and missile dodging will be coming soon.

Re:Hope no one hacks our entire Air Force one day (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43014509)

Nah, no one could ever do that.

Having a piloted plane doesn't eliminate the risk of hacking. If someone can hack the control system for a drone, they can do the same thing to an F-35. The pilot has little (or no) control if the computer doesn't want him to.

The F-117 stealth fighter was said to be so aerodynamically unstable that it was unflyable without computer assistance.

Uh, no, you aren't understanding how this works at all. It is theoretically possible to remotely seize control of a drone by flooding out the authorized control signals and replacing them with your own "pirate" signals. But that still isn't actually hacking the control systems, it's just hijacking the remote commands. Which is completely irrelevant to a manned fighter as there isn't any remote control capability to begin with. With a manned fighter, even if you managed to jam GPS signals, the pilot can still rely on other instruments or simply look out the window.

Calling manned craft "obsolete" is more than a little premature.

Re:Hope no one hacks our entire Air Force one day (3, Insightful)

Joce640k (829181) | about a year ago | (#43014387)

" A jet could pull 15 g's, out-turning any conventional aircraft"

Whys is that an advantage?

Aren't high-G turns already obsolete (along with 'dogfighting')?

it does not matter (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43014433)

The military that has a bigger fleet of better-performing aircraft will win. The risk of having them hacked is outweighed by the benefits they provide in military strength.

Of course, they are also frightening. All weapons are frightening, and they more effective they are, the more frightening they are.

That won't stop their production, though. Humans are hard-wired to assert power over one another, including (and especially) the power over each other's existence, so the development and deployment of such weapons will not be curtailed. The only question is who gets them first.

There will always be a physological need (2)

Shivetya (243324) | about a year ago | (#43014077)

for manned aircraft but realistically we don't need fighter or bomber pilots once we can prove that they can not be taken over by an enemy and that they could operate autonomously when conditions warrant

its no different than convincing the Navy that carriers will be if not already obsolete for most missions. Changing how people feel about something takes longer to catch up to technology than it takes for technology to advance.

Re:There will always be a physological need (3, Insightful)

Cassini2 (956052) | about a year ago | (#43014159)

If the current drone craze takes off, the Navy aircraft carrier will be far from obsolete. Those drones need somewhere to refuel and reload, and an aircraft carrier is the easiest thing to keep in theatre.

Re:There will always be a physological need (2, Interesting)

hawguy (1600213) | about a year ago | (#43014413)

If the current drone craze takes off, the Navy aircraft carrier will be far from obsolete. Those drones need somewhere to refuel and reload, and an aircraft carrier is the easiest thing to keep in theatre.

When you have a 20 foot long drone that can withstand 20G's of stopping force and 20G's of takeoff force from a relatively short magnetic rail gun, you don't necessarily need a 1000 foot 100,000 ton aircraft carrier to service it.

Re:There will always be a physological need (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43014483)

You still need that 1000 foot 100,000 ton aircraft carrier to service the tanker drone that will be used for inflight refueling.

Re:There will always be a physological need (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43014491)

a 1000 foot 100,000 ton aircraft carrier to service it.

That depends on how many drones you want...

Re:There will always be a physological need (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about a year ago | (#43014459)

Well, the easiest thing to keep in theater is a floating island somewhere in international waters. Which is an AC, granted, but you can do that a LOT cheaper, at least if you plan to park it there for some time, which seems to be the kind of war in the future where wars seem to take a few decades, if for no other reason than one side being unable and the other being unwilling to end it.

Re:There will always be a physological need (0)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year ago | (#43014537)

If the current drone craze takes off, the Navy aircraft carrier will be far from obsolete.

Aircraft carriers are enormously expensive and 90% of their firepower is devoted to defending themselves. The main rationale for aircraft carriers, even today, is that it gives the admiral someplace to sit while feeling important.

Those drones need somewhere to refuel and reload

Drones can launched from submarines, barges, or cargo planes, and can be refueled with aerial refueling tankers. They can stay on station for weeks or even months.

Re:There will always be a physological need (4, Insightful)

crazyjj (2598719) | about a year ago | (#43014181)

once we can prove that they can not be taken over by an enemy

Any system can be hacked. Having humans directly in the loop is the basic Wargames lesson.

they could operate autonomously when conditions warrant

And that is exactly what these drones should NEVER be allowed to do. And that's the basic Terminator lesson.

Instructions (1)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | about a year ago | (#43014253)

they could operate autonomously when conditions warrant

And that is exactly what these drones should NEVER be allowed to do. And that's the basic Terminator lesson.

Well, the autonomous operation commands would likely be things like "fly to the location where you are needed and wait for instructions", or "fly a survey grid over this area and take pictures," and "if you lose contact with control, go to altitude XX and circle for 30 minutes waiting for instructions, and if you don't get instructions, fly home and land."

Re:Instructions (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#43014393)

they could operate autonomously when conditions warrant

And that is exactly what these drones should NEVER be allowed to do. And that's the basic Terminator lesson.

Well, the autonomous operation commands would likely be things like "fly to the location where you are needed and wait for instructions", or "fly a survey grid over this area and take pictures," and "if you lose contact with control, go to altitude XX and circle for 30 minutes waiting for instructions, and if you don't get instructions, fly home and land."

that's what the drones do now. taking conditions warrant further would be "shoot a hellfire at any vehicle that has a passanger with an ak-47" or "gatling down anyone walking around with an ak-47". humans fail often at deciding when to do that too though.

Re:There will always be a physological need (5, Insightful)

MBGMorden (803437) | about a year ago | (#43014343)

Any system can be hacked. Having humans directly in the loop is the basic Wargames lesson. ...
And that is exactly what these drones should NEVER be allowed to do. And that's the basic Terminator lesson.

Because our military should really be basing decisions on fictional movies.

Re:There will always be a physological need (5, Insightful)

JDG1980 (2438906) | about a year ago | (#43014475)

Because our military should really be basing decisions on fictional movies.

Well-written fiction often speaks to real-world concerns. George Orwell's 1984 was also fictional, but it was and is taken seriously as a cautionary tale, and rightly so.

Sure, it's unlikely that an evil sentient computer will declare nuclear war on humanity, but one reason why the Terminator films are so popular is that they address real-world anxieties about how our lives are increasingly dominated by technology. It's perfectly reasonable to ask whether bad consequences could result from taking humans out of the loop, especially on military decisions.

Re:There will always be a physological need (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43014485)

You can learn a lot from 80's movies. I've based my life on them.

Re:There will always be a physological need (5, Informative)

leonardluen (211265) | about a year ago | (#43014371)

Any system can be hacked. Having humans directly in the loop is the basic Wargames lesson.

and humans can be hacked [wikipedia.org] also.

or if you want a movie reference to back this up, how about humans can also defect on their own with large war machines...that is the basic Hunt for Red October lesson

Re:There will always be a physological need (1)

crazyjj (2598719) | about a year ago | (#43014557)

humans can be hacked also.

That's true. But trying to hack *all* of them (or even a significant number of them) at once, without someone blabbing, is very difficult. If you've discovered a good enough exploit, it would be trivial to do that with computer systems.

Re:There will always be a physological need (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43014527)

None of this is real anyway. And that's the basic Matrix lesson.

Or, you could not form opinions based on the plots of blockbuster sci-fi films.

Re:There will always be a physological need (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43014565)

You play Wargames and Terminator cards.
I raise you a Dr. Strangelove.
People can go haywire as well.

Re:There will always be a physological need (1)

Andy Dodd (701) | about a year ago | (#43014301)

"once we can prove that they can not be taken over by an enemy and that they could operate autonomously when conditions warrant"

Which can never be proven.

Full autonomy is highly unlikely to ever occur. Right now, weapons release must ALWAYS have a human in the loop, and in fact, there are quite a few rules on WHO is allowed to release weapons.

Partial autonomy (with command and control datalinks) has a major flaw - that communications link. It can be jammed/disrupted, or simply tracked.

Only a manned aircraft can autonomously enter hostile airspace and release weapons without any active communications links that could give its position away, and it is always going to be this way.

Re:There will always be a physological need (1)

demachina (71715) | about a year ago | (#43014513)

"Only a manned aircraft can autonomously enter hostile airspace and release weapons without any active communications links that could give its position away, and it is always going to be this way."

Cruise missiles have been doing exactly that for decades.

Re:There will always be a physological need (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43014347)

for manned aircraft but realistically we don't need fighter or bomber pilots once we can prove that they can not be taken over by an enemy and that they could operate autonomously when conditions warrant

The current problem with drones in fighter roles is that you cannot turn one to sharply or else it will lose it's satellite uplink. Until they fix that you will never drones in a fighter role. http://video.pbs.org/video/2326108547/

its no different than convincing the Navy that carriers will be if not already obsolete for most missions.

There are no missions that carriers are obsolete for. You cannot launch an aircraft without an airfield/runway. A carrier is an airfield you can send anywhere in the world. That's why the first air missions in Afghanistan were all Navy flights because there were no airbases in range.

Re:There will always be a physological need (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43014405)

>>for manned aircraft but realistically we don't need fighter or bomber pilots once we can prove that they can not be taken over by an enemy and that they could operate autonomously when conditions warrant

Forget them being taken over by an enemy, I'd be much more concerned with an enemy just figuring out how to jam the comms channel between the operator and the drone. Much cheaper to accomplish, requires much less sophistication. Just kill the signal. Letting them operate autonomously would help mitigate that problem but something tells me that having large numbers of autonomous robots making kill decisions independent of human input on a regular basis is an amazingly bad idea.

Re:There will always be a physological need (2)

pr0t0 (216378) | about a year ago | (#43014535)

I can see a time when the operational need for a carrier is diminished if not made obsolete. The psychological need for a carrier may be harder to replace. Parking a carrier 200 miles off the coast of a nation that is acting in an unwanted manner gives that nation pause. It's a form of deterrence that says, "Hey bud...we're watching you.", and can sometimes prevent an escalation of hostility.

Also, it can sometimes increase the level hostility, so...there you go.

What's the rush? (5, Funny)

ReallyEvilCanine (991886) | about a year ago | (#43014079)

Install ejection seats on the remote pilots' chairs would certainly serve as a strong deterrent to unsafe manoeuvres as well as providing a means for a broad range of disciplinary actions.

Re: What's the rush? (1)

madprof (4723) | about a year ago | (#43014139)

What a superb idea!

http://www.dailynewsmagzine.blogspot.com (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43014245)

Install ejection seats on the remote pilots' chairs would certainly serve as a strong deterrent to unsafe manoeuvres as well as providing a means for a broad range of disciplinary actions.

except it would kill the pilot. Is it time to stop spending billions on obsolete aircraft.your staf is good.i was search news magzine [blogspot.com] nad intaer you websites.

Re:What's the rush? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43014487)

I'm an ejector seat maker and my father was one as was his father's father.

And now the complete business is shut down for these young whippersnappers with their drones.

Whom will I be ejecting in the future?

Whats the point of calling it a plane. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43014099)

Why don't we just have a constellation of cruise missles in permanent orbit. See target, slam into target.

Save money on landing gear and explosive ordanance.

captcha: oppress

Re:Whats the point of calling it a plane. (1)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | about a year ago | (#43014143)

It's against treaty to put weapons in space... at least out in the open.

Whether it has happened already or not, however...

It has. The Soviets did at least. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43014495)

See Salyut 3

Re:Whats the point of calling it a plane. (1)

nospam007 (722110) | about a year ago | (#43014515)

"It's against treaty to put weapons in space... at least out in the open."

It's not a weapon if you just lost some... let's call it ballast.

Re:Whats the point of calling it a plane. (1)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | about a year ago | (#43014169)

Why not just go the whole hog and have The Rod from God [wikipedia.org]

(ok, they're not very cost-efficient).

Re:Whats the point of calling it a plane. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43014197)

Screw you, Londo.

Re:Whats the point of calling it a plane. (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about a year ago | (#43014431)

Because it is not cost effective to put them up there on a just-in-case base. First, putting something into a stable orbit takes HEAPS more fuel than a simple ballistic flight. It's pretty much impossible to service them up there and you still have to spend more fuel to correct the orbit from time to time to compensate for air friction (unless you put them SO far out there that it's even less economic). Then, unless you plan to use them as a first strike weapon, they become very predictable due to their orbit. You pretty much KNOW when they will hit you because they will only be above you during a fairly small time window, unless you're close enough to the equator that a zero inclined equatorial orbiting warhead can hit you (and even then your window is a few minutes every few hours).

I guess that's the main reason your plan wasn't implemented yet. It's cheaper to just fire them when they're needed.

No (5, Insightful)

jjeffries (17675) | about a year ago | (#43014137)

People in the military need to be injured or killed in war, to remind everyone that it is fucking terrible and that no one should *want* to do it.

Re:No (1)

cant_get_a_good_nick (172131) | about a year ago | (#43014173)

This reminded me of the Star Trek episode (original Shatner-ized series) where the aliens encountered "evolved" to pushbutton war. Basically they just declared you "hit" like Battleship and you were supposed to exterminate yourself. It led to a war that never ended.

Re:No (1)

ReallyEvilCanine (991886) | about a year ago | (#43014325)

A Taste of Armageddon, one of the few ST episodes I ever reference because it not only remains relevant (or has become moreso), it isn't too heavy-handed in driving its point home. Patterns of Force, OTOH, is too fucking preachy and hackneyed for my taste.

Re:No (2)

X0563511 (793323) | about a year ago | (#43014177)

Because the ones making the decision to go to war so often think about the poor folks getting killed...

Re:No (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43014243)

You should be more specific: If no one was injured or killed in war, it would become something between "sport" and "vandalism." A waste of resources, but less tragic. The real problem is when only one side no longer has to risk injury or death to wage war.

Re:No (2)

Opportunist (166417) | about a year ago | (#43014379)

Sadly, the ones that could NOT want it (and also have the power to not DO it) are not the same that get shot at. Trust me, if that was only remotely the case, wars would be pretty short and our self absorbed leaders would think twice before starting a never ending war like the one we're in right now.

Re:No (2)

fermion (181285) | about a year ago | (#43014383)

Unfortunately this does not work because the people who make us go to war aren't the ones whose families are going to fight. Look at the Bush II. Did he have any experience in the war that killed thousands of americans, many thousands of children, and injured tens of thousand more? No, he was able to pull a duty in that national guard, one he did not even complete according to government documents.

And the one's that did fight are now generals and are worried about budgets and pensions, and whose board they are going to sit on when they retire. Right now the military budget is about 10% above where it was in 2001, inflation adjusted. Some of his is the war on terror, but most of it is really just fighting wars to keep a job.

Re:No (1)

alen (225700) | about a year ago | (#43014465)

General Patton said it best, the goal in war is to make the other guy die for his country

Saving American lives (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43014147)

saving money and American lives

Sadly, an American soldiers' live is worth less than an innocent civilian's live, even with the additional money savings.

Re:Saving American lives (1)

Joce640k (829181) | about a year ago | (#43014335)

Sadly, an American soldiers' live is worth less than an innocent civilian's live, even with the additional money savings.

The soldiers sign that agreement, yes.

Re:Saving American lives (3, Interesting)

loonwings (1519397) | about a year ago | (#43014369)

That's not sad, that's 100% appropriate. Their very existence is to protect civilians.

Satellites are vulnerable (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43014149)

This guy clearly hasn't been watching the various powers of the world shoot down satellites. If there are no ways to control an autonomous aircraft then it's a useless, multi-billion-dollar piece of junk. Local control will always be necessary.

Re:Satellites are vulnerable (1)

X0563511 (793323) | about a year ago | (#43014183)

Two words: artificial intelligence.

Let the apocalypse begin.

Re:Satellites are vulnerable (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about a year ago | (#43014351)

Show me a flawless AI and I show you its flaws.

Sadly, AIs are limited in their ability to react to completely alien situations. All you'd have to do is to get that AI into a situation it cannot handle due to a shortcoming of its programming. This ain't some SciFi movie, real AIs are pretty dumb. Especially in the departments "learning" and "improvisation".

Decision ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43014161)

What about the human part when dropping nuclear bombs for example ?

lag (3, Interesting)

pezpunk (205653) | about a year ago | (#43014179)

well, in a dogfight, manned aircraft will easily trump remote-piloted aircraft, even with the maneuvability disadvantage. the reason is lag. i've read there is a 2 second delay between a remote operator's input and action by a drone. even assuming technology progresses and that lag is reduced, there are certain physical laws that can't be broken, and a delay is always going to exist. as any gamer knows, lag kills.

there is a world of difference between telling a drone to hit a fixed, stationary target versus piloting an aircraft through a dynamic set of circumstances.

so yeah, if all we ever want to do with our planes is hit-and-runs on stationary targets, then sure, we don't need manned aircraft anymore.

Re:lag (4, Insightful)

Crash24 (808326) | about a year ago | (#43014339)

You're assuming that the drones will never be autonomous in a situation that requires low latency. While a human pilot may have better ingenuity and unpredictability in a dogfight, he cannot physically react faster than a computer. Connect that computer to the right sensors, and you'll have a system ready to fly an airframe capable of doing turns that will turn any human pilot into red jelly.

Re:lag (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43014429)

Yup, and all the human operator needs to do in that scenario, is to say, this is friendly, this is enemy, then the software takes over.

Re:lag (1)

kwerle (39371) | about a year ago | (#43014547)

Thanks to IFF, that seems barely necessary.

Re:lag (0)

Joce640k (829181) | about a year ago | (#43014355)

What's a 'dogfight'? Is that the thing they used to do back in the 1970s?

Re:lag (3, Informative)

dave420 (699308) | about a year ago | (#43014467)

Try 1999. Hint: Balkans conflict.

Re:lag (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43014411)

That 2-second lag is the difference between a confirmed terrorist kill or civilian casualties...

Re:lag (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43014415)

Have you ever seen someone play Counterstrike with a speed hack on? It doesn't matter what their ping is if you can't hit them. Not to mention that dog fights haven't really been a major part of air combat for some time now. Much easier just to make a drone with the same kind of long range air to air missiles that we're already using but so small and fast that conventional aircraft have trouble spotting and hitting them. Not to mention 0 risk of ever losing a pilot. Who's going to win that war of attrition, an endless supply of drones piloted by the best pilots in the Air Force or a country that not only has to replace planes but pilots that take years to train?

Welcome to the future.

Nope. Can't target a drone's remote control system (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43014215)

Yeah, no enemy would ever think to target the remote control systems for drones. Or jam the signals.

Better use of money and effort (5, Insightful)

ZorroXXX (610877) | about a year ago | (#43014221)

Is it time to stop spending billions on obsolete aircraft?

It is time to stop spending billions on military weapons in general; sadly weapon is the world's largest trading goods. If all that money had been spent more wisely the world could have been a much safer and better place.

Re:Better use of money and effort (0)

giveen1 (2727899) | about a year ago | (#43014389)

And how do you plan on making this world "safer" when all the bad guys are using weapons to KILL YOU?

Neverhappen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43014223)

What most folks don't understand is the "lag" time of the remotely piloted devices. Even with a pilot sitting in a chair somewhere the lag time between him moving the joystick to the drone moving is too great for air to air combat. Until that's overcome, pilot's in the airplane are here to stay.

Re:Neverhappen (2)

hawguy (1600213) | about a year ago | (#43014471)

What most folks don't understand is the "lag" time of the remotely piloted devices. Even with a pilot sitting in a chair somewhere the lag time between him moving the joystick to the drone moving is too great for air to air combat. Until that's overcome, pilot's in the airplane are here to stay.

You don't need to be able to control the drone in real-time, the drone can pilot itself and can evade (or attack) air defenses much better than a human operator thousands of miles away can. (if that's not true today, it will be true in a decade or less)

You need the human to review surveillance footage and to do target selection. Once the target is selected, the drone can find and attack it on its own. If it's supporting troops on the ground, the ground troops can do the target selection.

I've got a great idea (1)

Chrisq (894406) | about a year ago | (#43014229)

A jet could pull 15 g's, out-turning any conventional aircraft, except it would kill the pilot. Is it time to stop spending billions on obsolete aircraft

But the pilot's reaction time would still be the weakest link. Why not link it up to skynet, a super-intelligent network of computers that could react in picoseconds? That has to be the next step, doesn't it?

Weakest link? (1)

lq_x_pl (822011) | about a year ago | (#43014237)

Yes, a physical pilot prevents the craft from pulling 15Gs.
As others have pointed out, that same fragile bag of fluids is also the component that can't be hacked. Even if pilots are remotely controlling the planes, the tenuous connection between pilot and drone can be interrupted. There is no substitute for having a human in the cockpit, this is particularly true for the times when we're confronted with a technologically advanced opponent.

It is Bandwidth and latency stupid. (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | about a year ago | (#43014241)

There is a reason why Drones can not replace all combat aircraft and that is it. There is not enough bandwidth to control 500 drones with the senors that an F35 has. Until you can solve those problems along with jamming there will always be a need for manned aircraft. Drones are good for lots of things but way too many couch experts over look the command and control problems with replacing all combat aircraft with drones.

Re:It is Bandwidth and latency stupid. (1)

Andy Dodd (701) | about a year ago | (#43014353)

Don't forget that the most advanced and capable signal processing system on the planet (most difficult to jam reliably) can only be used with one sensor in an aircraft: Mk I Eyeball (which still has much higher dynamic range than any other imaging sensor I know of).

Sounds familiar (1)

Ubi_NL (313657) | about a year ago | (#43014257)

Back in the sixties the us all but abandoned close combat training for fighter pilots, as all would be done with long range missiles. When they got their ass kicked in vietnam, they had to set up programs like SFTI/TOPGUN to regain air supremacy.

Interesting... (1)

ctrl-alt-canc (977108) | about a year ago | (#43014263)

So pilots will soon be able to fight staying at home, while Yahoo employees now must stay at their workplace [businessweek.com] .

Reaction Times (1)

jimmifett (2434568) | about a year ago | (#43014275)

Radar to Rarget, Radar Rreturn, Video Capture, Process, Transmit to Ground Operator, Human Processing and Decision, Transmission of Commands, Actuating of Commands.

Increase for transmission times for distance and relays such as satellites.

Talk about intolerable lag. For a fighter, impossible. For a Ground Strike where the craft is considered highly expendable, sure, maybe, but we already have that.
Then you factor in jamming and such...
Humans still better.

delay time (1)

StillNeedMoreCoffee (123989) | about a year ago | (#43014287)

There is a reason we send men to the moon. The value of there observation and ability to adapt and re-task (currently) is far superior to machines. As for unmanned attack aircraft. There is a delay from the remote control site to the plane. That delay both ways says that the ability to pull 15g's to get out of a bad situation probably will present itself too late, or because of the delay you will need that speed of evasion.

Not to mention the de-humanizing effect we have seen already with the video game war where the warrior has no skin in the game. The human equations that should be there as a deterent to war, aren't. That is probably the biggest risk and failing of this direction. Of course those who just want to win and don't care of the cost to the other side, that can engage in riskless carnage, will attract the very people that would naturally be culled out through the process of war. That culling of sociopaths is part of our natural evolution. If you take away their natural predators (man, the other side) then as with all species they will overpopulate and strain and break there ecosystem.

The weakest link is the pilot. (1)

OpenSourced (323149) | about a year ago | (#43014297)

Now the weakest link will be the comm link. Not sure which one I prefer.

However, I suppose the future points that way. Next step, as a further method of savings, I suggest outsourcing of piloting to India. Then, after a time, when everybody has unmanned fighters, it'll be seen as a waste to really go to the cost of building the fighters. Wars will be fought virtually in probably the same Indian subcontractor war room, elbowing telecom service personnel and telemarketers. The loser will demolish some buildings and bridges in its own country, and promptly surrender to the winner.

Ponder for a split moment (2)

Opportunist (166417) | about a year ago | (#43014313)

Unless you manage to develop an AI intelligent enough to actually pilot that craft without any outside control, you better can that idea. Else the enemy's jet fighters of the future will be armed with huge arrays of radio jamming equipment. If all that's necessary to shoot down your enemy is to wait for him to point his nose down in a maneuver and then ensure he won't change the attitude before terrain altitude matches aircraft altitude all that will accomplish is to make it heaps cheaper to take out your crafts.

For some odd reason the whole idea reminds me of the German V1s that were "shot down" by English pilots by nudging the wings of those flying bombs with their own, making the former spiral out of control and crash. Why bother wasting ammo if there's way easier, cheaper and also safer ways of getting rid of your enemy? And yes, it was actually safer to perform a pretty dangerous maneuver instead of trying to blow up a bomb stuffed with hundreds of pounds of explosives from a few feet behind it.

They kinda saw this coming. (1)

cant_get_a_good_nick (172131) | about a year ago | (#43014321)

When they had the JSF [wikipedia.org] contest between the X-32 (Boeing) and the X-35 (Lockheed Marting), they already saw the handwriting on the wall. A lot of people at those firms fought hard for the contract because they felt that this would be the last big run of manned warplanes, at least for the US (where the big money was). Boeing lost, and as consolation got some tanker contracts, knowing there wouldn't be many big expensive fighter planes for it down the road.

Mind you competition was decided way back in 2001, way before the Predator/Reaper entered our daily lexicon (and even some really bad movies [imdb.com] ). This has been coming for a while.

Re:They kinda saw this coming. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43014553)

It would be nice to see how the F-16 class machines (small, maneuverable and a fair number of them) would fight the newer stealth designs during the day once the intrusion is detected. And, unless whatever the current definition of superpowers decide to fight, there's no risk of a horde of fighters of any form coming over the horizon. The fighters from the 70's (F-15 class) do just fine against any "normal" combatant when backed up by an airborne radar platform.

And, if the superpowers DO fight, there's the risk of escalation. MAD better work in that case...

He's kidding, right? (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43014363)

Drones can be effective, don't get me wrong, and they're getting more advanced all the time. However, anything that is controlled remotely can be jammed. You either have to create a control suite that can respond to a variety of situations or pray that you have constant contact with the aircraft. A local pilot, however, cannot be jammed.

I remember a discussion once about this sort of problem: One model of fighter jet (I forget which) was capable of performing maneuvers that would cause the pilot to black out. The initial response was to lock down the controls to physically prevent the pilot from initiating any such maneuver, but then it cropped up that there were times when the restricted controls were a hindrance (during landing maneuvers or bad weather, something like that). So, they went back to the drawing board, and one idea was that the pilot could initiate a pre-programmed blackout-maneuver, but the designers couldn't agree on what to do AFTER that. What sort of flying pattern should it default to?

And, as I understand, the idea that modern dogfighting amounts to launching missiles ouside of visible range is a fallacy, that was one of the factors leading to the founding of the Top Gun training academy. Wasn't there at least one fighter initially designed with just missiles that was retrofitted or redesigned to carry a machine gun?

Then there's the immersion. Fighter pilots can feel their aircraft, they know how it's moving. You don't get the same feeling from a joystick and readout displays. Possibly you could put them in one of those omni-rotational spheres similar to how amusement parks make you feel like you're on a rollercoaster by simply tilting your seat, but that would also seem rather excessive.

Don't drink the kool-aid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43014397)

Another shill to build up the perspective that everything is going to be better and cheaper. You just have to trust in the robotic overlords, especially once the human piloting the drones - albeit remotely - is taken out of the picture progressively.
It's got nothing to do with capacity - it's not like these drones are the epitome of maneuvrability and dogfighting capabilities. Just like someone else pointed out, their connection can be interrupted, they could be hacked, and there is also the lag to be considered.
But those things are fine if you're just trying to put together a militia. Or an army with inferior technology.
Oh, the land of the free.
Best case scenario: The DoD just spends more money on things it doesn't really need to use.
Worst case scenario: Skynet goes operational without all the nuclear post-apocalyptic drama.

Signal jamming, friend or foe (2)

chriswaco (37809) | about a year ago | (#43014455)

Drones can be hacked. Their signals jammed or spoofed. Their satellites destroyed. Their home bases attacked or infiltrated. They work very well against low tech enemies like Iraq and Afghanistan. Against the Russians or Chinese it would be a different matter, especially when the chips in a drone originate in China. War is an ever-changing game where every move has a countermove. The nice thing about human pilots is that they understand their orders and the underlying reasons for those orders. They can change their minds quickly and use situational information that drones would lack.

I'm not sure that g-force matters all that much in an era of smarter, faster missiles. When was the last real movie-style dogfight?

On the other hand, there is no question that drones are useful and will continue to improve at a rapid pace. Eventually they will replace most of our planes. With longer flight times we might be able to replace half of our aircraft carriers with land-based drones, but the inevitable cost overruns won't magically disappear.

And if you ever need... (1)

tw3lv3 (2141250) | about a year ago | (#43014501)

.. to transport living persons at 15G+, just put the person in foam, then put foam inside the person. See Iain M. Banks.

What does the math tell us? (2)

ThomasBHardy (827616) | about a year ago | (#43014541)

I'd read somewhere about how much cheaper drones are than pilot based fighter craft. However fully sized fighter craft are more flexible in combat in some ways while drones are more flexible in others.

So what does this tell us when we put it into practice. Using the wholly made up economic factor of 5 drones to one pilot driven top notch fighter, who wins the following scenario?

1 modern top tier fighter jet with a nice jamming suite -vs- 5 drones forced to fight without signal from home base/pilots?

If the answer is not the drones, then this is premature. If a human driven fighter can maintain vigil and keep the skies clear of drones, then the doctrine will not work against actual militaries and is only effective against those unable to resist drone projected force.

If the answer is that the drones will win, then it's time to get serious about the topic.
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