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Boeing Turning Old F-16s Into Unmanned Drones

Soulskill posted about 10 months ago | from the i'll-order-a-dozen dept.

The Military 239

dryriver sends this news from the BBC: "Boeing has revealed that it has retrofitted retired fighter jets to turn them into drones. It said that one of the Lockheed Martin F-16s made a first flight with an empty cockpit last week. Two U.S. Air Force pilots controlled the plane from the ground as it flew from a Florida base to the Gulf of Mexico (video). Boeing suggested that the innovation could ultimately be used to help train pilots, providing an adversary they could practise firing on. The jet — which had previously sat mothballed at an Arizona site for 15 years — flew at an altitude of 40,000ft (12.2km) and a speed of Mach 1.47 (1,119mph/1,800km/h). It carried out a series of maneuvers including a barrel roll and a 'split S' — a move in which the aircraft turns upside down before making a half loop so that it flies the right-way-up in the opposite direction. This can be used in combat to evade missile lock-ons. Boeing said the unmanned F-16 was followed by two chase planes to ensure it stayed in sight, and also contained equipment that would have allowed it to self-destruct if necessary. The firm added that the flight attained 7Gs of acceleration but was capable of carrying out maneuvers at 9Gs — something that might cause physical problems for a pilot. 'It flew great, everything worked great, [it] made a beautiful landing — probably one of the best landings I've ever seen,' said Paul Cejas, the project's chief engineer."

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239 comments

FIRST POST (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44942101)

do a barrel roll!

Re:FIRST POST (1, Funny)

Ghostworks (991012) | about 10 months ago | (#44942149)

You've failed me for the last time, Starscream!

What? Success? Oh. Well good then.

Re:FIRST POST (1)

Penguinisto (415985) | about 10 months ago | (#44942217)

IIRC, wasn't StarScream an F-15/F-14-ish looking variant? The F-16 only has one engine.

(Man - I feel *old* - I remember working on the F-16 A/B models )

Re:FIRST POST (1)

PlastikMissle (2498382) | about 10 months ago | (#44942263)

Yeah came here to post that. Starscream and most of the Seekers were F-15s in the original cartoon.

I'M AN OLD FIGHTER JET! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44942493)

You punk kids with your GPS and HUD! In my day it was line of sight plus VOR, no fly-by-wire, and we liked it that way!

Now get off my tarmac.

Re:FIRST POST (2)

rickb928 (945187) | about 10 months ago | (#44942573)

I remember working on F-4Ds. Those (or were they -Gs?) were turned into both drones as targets. QF was the designation I think.

As were F-100s, F-104s, even F-86s, almost all as target drones.

Nothing new to see here, unless one of these shoots down something fast. That would be cool.

Still dangerous (0)

eclectro (227083) | about 10 months ago | (#44942117)

If after self destructing, an F-16 engine falling on you could still wreck your day.

Re:Still dangerous (0)

DarkOx (621550) | about 10 months ago | (#44942181)

Probably why they mostly flew over water eh? Sure you might still be in a boat or something but the gulf is big; so if it happended to hit you'd be having a really really bad day statistically speaking.

Re:Still dangerous (3, Insightful)

almitydave (2452422) | about 10 months ago | (#44942203)

True. However, the summary indicates testing was done over the Gulf of Mexico, although the article isn't clear. It does say they exceeded Mach 1, which is generally prohibited over populated areas except in emergencies, so that's another indicator they were over water.

And military pilots are expected to be able to handle 9G with a G-suit [wikipedia.org] , but only briefly, and the structural limits for the F16 are beyond a human's limits for sustained G-forces, so there's a potentially great improvement in performance.

As an aside, I read that the Blue Angels (and presumably the Thunderbirds) pull sustained 7G during their maneuvers without a G-suit, which is impressive.

Re:Still dangerous (2)

xQx (5744) | about 10 months ago | (#44942555)

The other interesting thing is, you will notice that all aircraft always only perform positive G maneuvers (ie, to turn left, you roll left, then pull up.) The human body can sustain far less negative G's.

It will be very interesting to watch these aircraft perform in a combat situation now that they are not limited by the physical issues with a human in the cockpit.

I imagine it would be very difficult to catch a fighter jet that has the capability to perform a 'split-s' maneuver without first inverting, or can perform 'S' maneuvers by just rolling right, then pulling up then pulling down - rather than the traditional way of rolling right, pulling up, inverting, then pulling up again.

They might only be shooting at them now, but it doesn't look like it will be long before pilots just sit in cockpits on an aircraft carrier and control their aircraft in combat.

Re:Still dangerous (1)

afidel (530433) | about 9 months ago | (#44942725)

There's not enough spectrum to replace the entire fleet of manned craft with drones, not to mention the fact that any enemy beyond cave dwellers will figure out how to jam the drones (ARM missiles only go so far to helping with the problem).

Re:Still dangerous (3, Interesting)

Anubis IV (1279820) | about 9 months ago | (#44942799)

Sure, but it's better than having the whole thing land on someone's place. Not to mention that it flew from Tyndall AFB to the Gulf of Mexico according to the article (which is odd thing to say, considering Tyndall is on the Gulf Coast, but I assume it means that it flew out over deeper waters), which means that self-destructing would mean it wouldn't make it back to land to cause damage in the first place.

Also worth noting: if you think that would ruin your day, consider the fact that the space shuttles had self-destruct capabilities as well, in case they went out of control. Imagine that landing on your house. Actually, to get a bit grim (and not at all in the direction I originally planned for this comment), for some of us we don't really need to imagine, since we helped clean up the wreckage spread out across Texas following Columbia, most of which wouldn't have killed anyone from impact. In fact, related to that, the source for that fact about the self-destruct is a family friend who's now a retired astronaut that flew on four flights. They offhandedly mentioned the self-destruct (which earned me a well-deserved remark from them that made me feel like the ass I was after I said something along the lines of "that's so cool!") shortly before flying on STS-109.

For those of you not keeping score, STS-109 was the last successful flight that Columbia flew. STS-107 was its next and last one. And as you might guess from the numbering, 107 was originally scheduled to fly first, but due to delays, NASA swapped the two missions in the schedule. It's the sort of thing that really does get you thinking about what a person means to you and what life would be like if they were suddenly not a part of it any longer.

Anyway, I'm way off-topic. Suffice to say, self-destruct = a good thing to have in case something goes very wrong.

Re:Still dangerous (1)

icebike (68054) | about 10 months ago | (#44943043)

Depending on Which Runway they used [google.com] , this plane probably never crossed over civilian areas.

great weapon to use in the middle east (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44942159)

Great, now we can bomb the crap out of all of our enemies in the Middle East without the fear of losing pilots. And these things can carry BIG bombs. Think about it.... Syria, Iran, maybe even Iraq again.

Yes, I am being sarcastic, for those who are sarcasm impaired.

Re:great weapon to use in the middle east (0)

mmell (832646) | about 10 months ago | (#44942213)

What part was sarcasm?

(*smiles innocently*)

Re:great weapon to use in the middle east (4, Informative)

Penguinisto (415985) | about 10 months ago | (#44942339)

An F-16 can carry 4 2,000-lb bombs at the absolute most (and anything after two is risky on the wings).

It has 9 hard-points to hang ordinance on, but two of those (1 and 9) are wingtip rails, which means AIM-9 missiles. It will usually have 1-3 "bags" (fuel pods) hanging off of stations 4, 5 (centerline, under the fuselage), and 6. You'll need them in some combination to get any kind of real combat range (otherwise you're stuck with ~900lbs of internally-stored fuel, which ain't jack.) The big bombs would hang off of stations 3 and 7.

Now anti-personnel and fragmentary bombs? You can pack a buttload of 'em on that, and add in two AIM-9 Air-Groung missles to do some damage (which is what most ground-attack configured F-16's carry).

I am curious if they can slave in a LANTIRN pod kit onto the things and use that to get all-weather capability... though I can't remember if they retrofitted any of the A/B model jets to carry those.

Re:great weapon to use in the middle east (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44942561)

A B-52 full of JDAMS is waaaaay more capable at mass precision bombing than any F/A aircraft

Let the drones keep the other fighters and missiles at bay, leave the bombing to the heavies

Re:great weapon to use in the middle east (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44942801)

You can stop jacking off now

AIM-9 is no Air-to-Ground missile (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44942867)

AIM-9 is an Air-to-Air IR homing missile.

Re:great weapon to use in the middle east (1)

CthulhuDreamer (844223) | about 9 months ago | (#44942925)

The Block 20 of the A/B model was fitted for LANTIRN, but I think those all went to Taiwan. I have no idea if the European Block 20 MLU program included it or not.

(I'll take useless '80's trivia for $600, Alex.)

Re:great weapon to use in the middle east (4, Insightful)

icebike (68054) | about 10 months ago | (#44942471)

Well, yes, of course.

You didn't actually believe the line about:

the innovation could ultimately be used to help train pilots, providing an adversary they could practice firing on.

did you?

First, this isn't all that innovative, its been done to creating target drones for decades.

Second, this is still a front line aircraft, no matter how many we have in mothballs, because the usual target countries have nothing close. Its also fairly stealthy for its age, and its payload is in excess of 15,000 pounds of munitions even with a full load of fuel. You are not going to be using that quality of plane for a target drone.

Its meant as a delivery platform, piloted from afar, for very dangerous areas.

Re:great weapon to use in the middle east (2)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 10 months ago | (#44942479)

Yes, I am being sarcastic, for those who are sarcasm impaired.

I fail to see any sarcasm. Your post is a simple statement of fact: Military planes exist to carry out military operations. Duh.

Sacrilege (1)

sycodon (149926) | about 10 months ago | (#44942179)

Such a noble and iconic aircraft turned into a play toy.

50 years from now it will seem like the Air Force scrapping P-51s.

Re:Sacrilege (5, Interesting)

vtcodger (957785) | about 10 months ago | (#44942231)

If memory serves me correctly, there's nothing all that new here. Back around 1960, the USAF was flying radio controlled WWII bombers out over the Gulf of Mexico to use in interception tests. Same thing, today? Better technology.

Re:Sacrilege (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44942257)

that's nonsense.

a noble and iconic and RETIRED aircraft pioneering a new role as one of the highest performance modern weapon systems ever, capable of intricate maneuvers at higher mach and g than any ever before...

Re:Sacrilege (1)

icebike (68054) | about 10 months ago | (#44942519)

that's nonsense.

a noble and iconic and RETIRED aircraft pioneering a new role as one of the highest performance modern weapon systems ever, capable of intricate maneuvers at higher mach and g than any ever before...

Exactly. Anyone thinking this is going to be a target drone is as naive as a 10 year old in a whore house.

Re: Sacrilege (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44942695)

...playing GTA 5

Re:Sacrilege (3, Funny)

luckymutt (996573) | about 9 months ago | (#44942853)

I don't think a 10 year old in a whore house is going to be very naive. At least not for long.

Re:Sacrilege (2)

osu-neko (2604) | about 10 months ago | (#44942383)

It spent the last 15 years sitting in a glorified junkyard. That's a greater sacrilege than having these birds in the skies again, regardless of the pilots' location...

Re:Sacrilege (2)

sycodon (149926) | about 10 months ago | (#44942385)

Put another way, in 50 years, at airshows, we will be seeing an F-16 flying and the announcer will say it's one of the last X flying examples in the world.

Sad.

Re:Sacrilege (2)

godel_56 (1287256) | about 9 months ago | (#44942845)

Such a noble and iconic aircraft turned into a play toy.

If I recall correctly the F16 was a Tier 2 fighter, specifically designed to be cheap to buy and cheap to run — quantity was a higher priority than capability, as least compared with its larger two-engined brethren. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but "noble and iconic" seems a bit much.

Lockheed's Gonna Be Pissed (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44942187)

'nuff said

Control signal jamming (2)

Phoeniyx (2751919) | about 10 months ago | (#44942205)

While we are on topic, what would prevent an enemy missile from having an onboard jamming unit to jam the control signals coming from a remote pilot to the plane? Does == ? Or are these planes equipped with a Borg shield adaption (i.e. rotate frequency) mechanism that makes jamming very difficult?

Re:Control signal jamming (1)

Phoeniyx (2751919) | about 10 months ago | (#44942223)

Curses slashdot. You made me look like a tool by pre-processing my message! I meant to write "Does [jamming] == [sitting duck mode]"? Now it just says "Does [blank] == [blank]".. No more angle brackets! :-@

Re:Control signal jamming (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 10 months ago | (#44943207)

Use preview.

You don't look like a tool, you look like someone who had their formatting messed up. It's happened to all of us, once. No big deal.

Re:Control signal jamming (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about 10 months ago | (#44942239)

Physics.

the onboard jammer would have to be HUGE to affect anything outside of a short range, or the thing would have to be on top of it, so you might as well just use a heat seeking missile and blow it up.

Re:Control signal jamming (1)

vux984 (928602) | about 10 months ago | (#44942389)

I think that's his thought... jam the plane when you get close to it. Just how close does it have to get? If the drone remote operator can't fire counter measures and take evasive action once the missile is within X meters due to jamming, the missile is going to have a much easier time hitting the target.

Re:Control signal jamming (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44942569)

The plane could easily go into fully automatic evasion mode if it detects that it's being jammed when the missile is very close.

Re:Control signal jamming (1)

PlusFiveTroll (754249) | about 10 months ago | (#44942585)

Jamming is dangerous. Start jamming something and you are going to get an ALARM or a HARM right up your antenna.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-radiation_missile [wikipedia.org]

Re:Control signal jamming (2)

JWSmythe (446288) | about 9 months ago | (#44942781)

From the evil dictator perspective...

If I knew jamming would make me a target, I'd put jammers out in remote locations, so they'd waste their ordinance on worthless targets.

Re:Control signal jamming (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 10 months ago | (#44943391)

From the Countermeasures Department, Evil Dictator Removal Group:

We find your remote jammers, land some special ops troops and jack into your control systems.

Have a nice day. What's left of it, anyway.

Re:Control signal jamming (1)

vux984 (928602) | about 9 months ago | (#44942907)

You realize we're speculating about a short range jammer right on a missile itself right? Not sure HARM etc really applies here.

Re:Control signal jamming (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44942559)

In Viet Nam they made entire planes just full of jamming equipment to let the other attack planes get closer to targets without having to worry about SAMs as much. I believe one was called the EA-6B [wikipedia.org] . From the story they were used in Iraq to prevent remote explosive detonation. If its good enough to stop a remote detonator its good enough to stop remote control, just a matter of frequency at that point.

Re:Control signal jamming (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about 9 months ago | (#44942709)

Yeah. go ahead and try to jam a directional satellite link with a general area jammer. there is 60db of attenuation alone if you are not above the aircraft.

Re:Control signal jamming (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44943083)

Ok, but I'll have to jump from the 70s tech all the way to 80s tech to do it.
Missles [wikipedia.org] can shoot down satellietes.

So now we need a plane from the 70s and a missle from the 80s and suddenly all the drones are worthless.

Re:Control signal jamming (2)

rickb928 (945187) | about 10 months ago | (#44942637)

It doesn't have to be big at all. Within a few miles of the drone, around 100W would be enough to swamp a satellite link. Get the jammer high enough, it can radiate down and cause trouble, IF it can find a way to render the link unusable for a few moments. At the right time. Like when the drone is maneuvering towards the ground. Assuming the drone doesn't have a failsafe to survive loss of comm and avoid the ground. Of course then, if it's headless, it will need some intelligence to avoid the ground fire and other stuff while it regains contact with its master.

All good fun. Wish I were in the business again. Real electronic warfare still fascinates me.

Re:Control signal jamming (2)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 10 months ago | (#44942535)

what would prevent an enemy missile from having an onboard jamming unit to jam the control signals coming from a remote pilot to the plane?

Anti-radiation missiles. Any source transmitting with enough power to jam the signal would be a very conspicuous and short lived target.

Re:Control signal jamming (1)

mirix (1649853) | about 9 months ago | (#44942795)

My Serbian friends have told me that a $50 microwave with the door taken off can destroy a $200k HARM.

Sounds like urban legend to me, but, pretty comical if true. You'd think Raytheon would be out deploying microwaves if it were the case.

Re:Control signal jamming (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44943155)

As another poster said, put the jammers in remote areas. At $200K each wasting munitions is costly..

Re:Control signal jamming (1)

rickb928 (945187) | about 10 months ago | (#44942609)

You can count on it, both airborne jammers and ground-based.

And when 'they' figure out where the ground facilities are, and the uplinks, expect to see vans packed with goodies trying to jam there also.

For the drone wars, SAMs and AAMs are the secondary threats. Communications will be the primary weakness, and the effort is surely underway to degrade or defeat that. Obvious tactic.

And equally obvious to secure the command link, even if the video feeds aren't. At least until the little buggers become autonomous.

But I'm not much worried. If you can keep an F-4 from being shot down, you can keep the comm channel secured. Or something like that.

Re:Control signal jamming (1)

AHuxley (892839) | about 10 months ago | (#44943443)

Very true, other nations will just re task their many deep cover clandestine forces for additional distant 'drone' related missions.
Whats the cost of a crash program http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-satellite_weapon [wikipedia.org] for a middle power in 2020?

Efficient for Risky Missions (2)

BoRegardless (721219) | about 10 months ago | (#44942209)

& using near obsolete aircraft to boot at low cost. What is not to like?

Re:Efficient for Risky Missions (1)

icebike (68054) | about 10 months ago | (#44942635)

Near obsolete?
These are still very capable aircraft, with a wide variety of weapon systems [wikimedia.org] .
They exceed the capabilities of all but two or three nations, and we have them in numbers, both on active duty and in reserve [google.com] .

Don't right them off as obsolete yet.

Re:Efficient for Risky Missions (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44943219)

Don't right them off as obsolete yet.

Nor should you write them off as absolute.

They might as well. (0)

Lumpy (12016) | about 10 months ago | (#44942225)

The aircraft was useless as a fighter. It cant carry anything and is just a lawn dart.

Re:They might as well. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44942417)

It's an air frame the military will use until 2028, capable of using the latest avionics and weaponry. That's hardly useless.

Re:They might as well. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44942483)

Against whom? It doesn't scare the Russians, and it doesn't scare the Europeans. The US could go bombing someone's desert again I suppose...

Re:They might as well. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44942685)

Do you know anything about it? because it sounds like you dont.

I worked on them, they are useless. and are NEVER used in combat.

Makes a good trainer though.

Re:They might as well. (1)

tsotha (720379) | about 10 months ago | (#44942605)

This is just wrong. The block 50 is one of the best fighters in the world even today.

Re:They might as well. (1)

roc97007 (608802) | about 9 months ago | (#44942727)

The aircraft was useless as a fighter. It cant carry anything and is just a lawn dart.

Seriously? Compared to what?

Re:They might as well. (1)

icebike (68054) | about 9 months ago | (#44942793)

The aircraft was useless as a fighter. It cant carry anything and is just a lawn dart.

Some Dart [googleusercontent.com] .

Some Lawn. [wordpress.com]

How many Predator Equivalences is that.

Re:They might as well. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44942951)

Ever wonder how many schools or crumbling infrastructure could have been repaired instead?

Worlds most expensive RC Model (1)

Eddy_D (557002) | about 10 months ago | (#44942245)

Really...

Re:Worlds most expensive RC Model (1)

cusco (717999) | about 10 months ago | (#44942403)

They should let a private company buy a bunch of these things, connect them to a simulator, and rent out time on the system (with pre-programmed fail safes in place.) Wouldn't be quite the same as flying an F-16 yourself, but damn it would be fun.

Not really news (1)

DaveAtFraud (460127) | about 10 months ago | (#44942303)

The U.S. military (Navy and Air Force, especially) has been repurposing obsolete aircraft as radio controlled target drones since not long after WWII. The only newsworthy part of this story is that they landed the F-16 after putting it through its paces. Previous target drones were intentionally one use only.

Cheers,
Dave

Re:Not really news (2)

Deadstick (535032) | about 10 months ago | (#44942481)

Previous target drones were intentionally one use only.

Au contraire. The Air Force and the Navy both had F-86's modified so they could be flown either by a live pilot or by RC. The Navy had a squadron of them, called QF-86's, in California that provided drone services for all military users on the West Coast.

Pilots would make a number of unarmed sorties against live-pilot machines to practice the techniques, then take a few actual shots at unmanned ones. Live-fire missions were done out over the water, so if a drone was damaged and unsafe to land, they could safely deep-six it.

Every flight of a military aircraft goes into a logbook, and if a drone wasn't manned, the entry for pilot name would be NOLO: No Onboard Live Operator. Navy pilots referred to those missions as "shooting down Ensign Nolo".

The Culver Aircraft Co. produced a small piston-powered aircraft that worked the same way in the post-WW2 years called the PQ-14; a few of them found their way into private hands, with the remote controls removed.

Re:Not really news (1)

rickb928 (945187) | about 10 months ago | (#44942647)

And F-100s, F-104s, F-4s. Probably others I won't bother to look up.

No, not new, not even a new purpose. Unless they shoot back. And a cheap way to develop the concept of unmanned fighters. Which are inevitable.

Re:Not really news (1)

icebike (68054) | about 9 months ago | (#44942805)

If you believe this is to be uses as a target drone, I have a Bridge in San Francisco I'd like to sell you.

Re:Not really news (1)

triffid_98 (899609) | about 10 months ago | (#44943041)

The only newsworthy part of this story is that they landed the F-16 after putting it through its paces

That rather depends on whether you believe these are going to be used as 'target drones' or drones that take out 'targets'.

We literally have thousands of F-15 and F-16's either in mothballs now or scheduled to be decommissioned in the near future.

this is the future of aerial combat (4, Insightful)

lophophore (4087) | about 10 months ago | (#44942327)

This is the future of aerial combat. No need to risk a pilot's life, no need for a $400,000,000 F-22 Raptor, if you can turn at 9G, you can outperform just about anything with a human being in it.

I'm all for it. Take them all out of mothballs and make them all into drones.

Re:this is the future of aerial combat (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44943209)

Soon. Mothballed Spitfire drones above the Channel, to prevent the mothballed Messerschmitts drones of the EU from causing uproar in the parliament, lower house. "Ballsy move" was the statement received from the Buckingham Palace about the drone situation.

You were in a what.. ?! (1)

snotclot (836055) | about 10 months ago | (#44942335)

Charlie: So, lieutenant, where exactly were you?
Maverick: Well, we...
Goose: Thank you.
Maverick: Started up on a 6, when he pulled from the clouds, and then I moved in above him.
Charlie: Well, if you were directly above him, how could you see him?
Maverick: Because I was inverted.
Iceman: [coughs whilst saying] Bullshit.
Goose: No, he was man. It was a really great move. He was inverted.
Charlie: You were in a 4g inverted dive with a MiG28?
Maverick: Yes, ma'am.
Charlie: At what range?
Maverick: Um, about two meters.
Goose: It was actually about one and a half I think. It was one and a half. I've got a great Polaroid of it, and he's right there, must be one and a half.
Maverick: Was a nice picture.
Goose: Thanks.
Charlie: Eh, lieutenant, what were you doing there?
Goose: Communicating.
Maverick: Communicating. Keeping up foreign relations. You know, giving him the bird!
Goose: [Charlie looks puzzled, so Goose clarifies] You know, the finger
Charlie: Yes, I know the finger, Goose.
Goose: I-I'm sorry, I hate it when it does that, I'm sorry. Excuse me.

pilotless fighter (1)

green is the enemy (3021751) | about 10 months ago | (#44942353)

This is probably the next logical step in the evolution of fighter aircraft. Maintaining a reliable wireless link for quick maneuvers might be an issue. Maybe the maneuvering can be semi-automated.

Re:pilotless fighter (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44942487)

This is probably the next logical step in the evolution of fighter aircraft. Maintaining a reliable wireless link for quick maneuvers might be an issue. Maybe the maneuvering can be semi-automated.

That's what the macro keys are for!

One Word (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44942371)

Muuurica!

Summary problem? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44942377)

The summary suggests the F-16 was made by Lockheed Martin, but wasn't the F-16 a product of General Dynamics? Also, the F-16 was capable of pulling more than 9gs. A human pilot can almost take 9gs on a good day, but the F-16 was thought to be capable of turning with 11gs. This is, in fact, what makes the F-16 so appealing as a drone, the plane can perform better than a human pilot can tolerate.

Re:Summary problem? (1)

Deadstick (535032) | about 9 months ago | (#44942677)

The summary suggests the F-16 was made by Lockheed Martin, but wasn't the F-16 a product of General Dynamics?

GD sold the F-16 business to Lockmart in 1993.

9Gs! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44942399)

The firm added that the flight attained 7Gs of acceleration but was capable of carrying out maneuvers at 9Gs — something that might cause physical problems for a pilot.

Um...the F-16 was designed from the beginning to help the pilot maneuver at 9Gs by having a reclined seat and the side stick controller. Above 9Gs or so is when G-LOC rears it's ugly head.

Alright! Let's kill some muslims! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44942425)

Time to power up some F16 drones and go muslim hunting ! Watch out Mohamed, we're coming for you!

A split S? (1)

Nidi62 (1525137) | about 10 months ago | (#44942431)

But Charlie says that's the last thing you should do.

This is a waste of money. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44942507)

Missiles are better able to do any job the F-16 drone can do and for less money.

This exercise was just a waste of TAX money that the US cannot afford to waste.

All you who are fascinated by the idea of an F-16 drone are like monkeys
transfixed by a shiny coin. You are yourselves drones, and that is an insult of
the first order.

Latency (1)

Sulik (1849922) | about 10 months ago | (#44942515)

I wonder what kind of latency they're getting for the controls. Seems like you'd want roundtrip latency to be under 50ms, which best case with speed of light transmission, line-of-sight controls and infinite transmission rate would correspond roughly to a limit of 4000 miles away for the operator... (probably much less in practice since you'd need to account for the time to send visual feedback presumably as a compressed video stream)

Re:Latency (1)

Nidi62 (1525137) | about 10 months ago | (#44942629)

Convert some AWACS or another larger-crewed aircraft and make them a "mothership" that can loiter maybe 1000 miles (or however close they can get) away from the combat area, with manned fighters to protect it. Instead of radar or communication stations in the back, you have drone control stations. This would allow multiple drone fighters to be controlled from a distance that is far enough to be relatively safe, but close enough for real time adjustments. 13-19 non-flight crew members in a AWACS (according to wikipedia) would allow 1 aircraft to control 10-15 drone aircraft. With an 8 hour loiter time, the drones could stay on the ground until needed, could fly a sortie, return/rearm, and be ready for another one. Or you could break it up into 2 flights of 5-10 aircraft and you could always keep 1 flight in the air.

Re:Latency (1)

Duhavid (677874) | about 10 months ago | (#44943295)

Then, enemy cracks comm links, cant maneuver the drones, control mother ship is helpless and gets shot down ( by it's own drones potentially ).
Enemy lands drones either where they like, or crash them into targets of their choosing.

Re:Latency (1)

Deadstick (535032) | about 9 months ago | (#44942697)

It's possible to operate drones from an AWACS loitering just outside the combat area.

I guess the command was... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44942645)

"...Do a barrel roll!"

Fighters have low loiter time (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 9 months ago | (#44942655)

The drones as used by the US now a days are on very long loiter and patrol missions. More than six hours. Fighters have limited range, limited loiter time, and limited combat time. F16 drones might be very good research platforms, but not very useful operationally. Further drone pilots like the stable slow reacting planes. May be there are some training opportunities with a fast agile plane as drone. But still it operational use is not very clear.

Re:Fighters have low loiter time (1)

Nidi62 (1525137) | about 9 months ago | (#44942871)

The drones as used by the US now a days are on very long loiter and patrol missions. More than six hours. Fighters have limited range, limited loiter time, and limited combat time. F16 drones might be very good research platforms, but not very useful operationally. Further drone pilots like the stable slow reacting planes. May be there are some training opportunities with a fast agile plane as drone. But still it operational use is not very clear.

Drone fighter aircraft would be perfect in a Wild Weasel type of role.

Been there, done that... (5, Informative)

bobbied (2522392) | about 9 months ago | (#44942659)

Um.. this is NOT new. I used to work at a Naval Aviation Depot where they where making F-4's into radio controlled target drones way back in the 80's. The radio controls where a bit more basic, but the Navy still used them for target practice with live ammo. I remember that after the controls where fitted, some lucky test pilot would get to sit in the aircraft and watch while the guys on the ground tested things.

So, been there, done that.... Have a T-Shirt.

QF-4 (2)

supertall (1163993) | about 9 months ago | (#44942681)

They've been doing this for years with old F-4s for target practice over the Gulf. Must be running out of lead sleds. QF-4 [avionics-i...igence.com]

A good fit (2, Interesting)

sootman (158191) | about 9 months ago | (#44942787)

The F-16 is difficult to fly due to its natural instability. [wikipedia.org] It's a good candidate to be operated by a computer. (I mean, it can be told where to go by a human, but the second-to-second flying should be handled by a machine.)

Next military invention (1)

Hoi Polloi (522990) | about 9 months ago | (#44942817)

Waiting for the drone communications jammers to start coming out. Drone isn't very useful without a communications link.

Re:Next military invention (1)

ImprovOmega (744717) | about 10 months ago | (#44943003)

Yeah, ground based jammers just make it easy for an ARM [wikipedia.org] to come a knockin'

Skynet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44942893)

How come this hasn't been tagged "Skynet"? If this article wasn't the most deserving of a Terminator reference I don't know what would be.

Back to the Future. (1)

ElitistWhiner (79961) | about 9 months ago | (#44942903)

Welcome back to the future F-16 is the new DeLorean.

Manned fighter or Drone? U can't tell.

Neither drone nor manned fighter, https nor nsa and reporter or terrorist neither...armed and dangerous all

It's called an Immelmann, you jackasses (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44942911)

It's not a "Split-S."

Old Farts (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44942927)

I read this as "Boeing Turning Old Farts into Unmanned Drones"

QF-4 target drones (2)

gatkinso (15975) | about 10 months ago | (#44943337)

They were flying these years ago. I am sure the F-16 drones are much improved... but it basically the same thing.

Boeing Revealed??? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44943397)

Revealed? More like bragging about their first NOLO flight. This isn't a classified contract and it was awarded in 2010. This is the follow-on to the QF-4 Full Scale Aerial Target (FSAT) program, which followed the QF-86 etc.

I flew the QF-4 (both in the manned and unmanned configuration). Target drones are not the same as UAVs. They are targets. They are designed to deliver realistic treat representations and get shot at by our airplanes and that's about it.

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