View Full Version : UAV's... the future of the Air-forces ?

02-26-2004, 12:35 AM
Just wondering about the opinions people have on drone aircraft ?

Will the use of UAV's be as widespread as some believe ?

Are we seeing the end of a Era in piloted assault aircraft ?

Eh, mates! What's the good word?

02-26-2004, 12:35 AM
Just wondering about the opinions people have on drone aircraft ?

Will the use of UAV's be as widespread as some believe ?

Are we seeing the end of a Era in piloted assault aircraft ?

Eh, mates! What's the good word?

02-26-2004, 01:08 AM
Garunteed !! Follow the post about Metal storm and you get a pretty good idea where most countries defence plans are headed. Fact is pilots and Jets cost too much. Short of some major shake up in the next few years I would say that the days of mano a mano aircombat are well and truely over. Besides the next time we have a major war the only clue will be the smell of extra crispy bacon and a big white light !!

02-26-2004, 02:22 AM
Definitely. Manned bombers and fighters are going the same way as the man-of-war, the horsed cavalry and the battleship. And there will be exactly the same resistance against it. http://ubbxforums.ubi.com/infopop/emoticons/icon_wink.gif

Just watch this thread ... http://ubbxforums.ubi.com/infopop/emoticons/icon_biggrin.gif



02-26-2004, 02:39 AM
I think I put some of the comments in the metal storm discussion.

A short summary of my observations: Whether pilots like it or not, several trends combine to suggest that this is likely.

Firstly, a little history:

The earliest examples are such things as the V1: it flew in a straight line, had no effective intelligence, and was 'fire and forget' - once it was in the air, the Germans had no further ability to control it. Nonetheless, this can be seen as the first example of a successful 'cruise missile'.

Next generations began to include greater degrees of intelligence - 60s and 70s have a host of drones and recce 'missiles' being used. These began to feature the ability to pre-programme a flight path (over, say, an enemy missile battery that you did not want pilots near,) and then return for analysis of photos.

The most recent wave really began with the insertion of the 'man in the loop'. Recce remained the principal focus for this sort of thing. Early versions were used by the Israelis, and were little more than r/c model aircraft with cameras hung off them. By the late 80s, the US had the Predator operational. This was the logical next step: a really big model aircraft, capable of much longer duration, higher flight, with a greater payload. It has proved very useful. This concept is now reaching maturity with Global Hawk and other such programs: huge vehicles that are effectively remote controlled spy planes. Global Hawk has already been flown across the atlantic by a controller in the US to observe activity in Europe (and that's just what we've been told...) Given the real issues of flight safety, European agreement to the equivalent of FAA certification, etc etc, you can see how sophisticated the beast is.

In effect, this is now a stealthy version of a spy plane (U2). With no pilot, it can be flown anywhere with no concern for US lives, it can linger in the air for as long as the designers have made possible (days?) without pilot fatigue being an issue, and can carry any recce payload that a manned aircraft can. Conclusion? we are already seeing UAVs match the utility of manned a/c in a particular role -and exceed them in some aspects, as mentioned above.

Secondly however, the more interesting/emotive bit is when we turn from UAVs to UCAVs (unmanned air combat vehicles).

My personal view is that we are at a lesser stage here, but that growth will be fast. The best example was the attachment of hellfire missiles to predator after/during afghanistan, when the US realised they were missing opportunities to kill high value targets. This is now effectively an unmanned precision strike air vehicle: a man in the loop still exists of course. He need not however - consider cruise missiles...

Next steps? The hardest thing will be to remove the man from the loop in UCAVs tha tare not totally pre-programmed (like cruise missiles): processor power will be significant here: you don't want your armed predator taking off and attacking the nearest friendly tanks..

In addition, it will be interesting to see the development of UCAV 'AI' for self defence/attack of other air vehicles. before we all say it'll never happen, just consider firsly the performance of AI pilots in this $40 game, and secondly the abilities of the latest missiles - which are fire and forget UCAVs, if you like.

Bottom line? It's happening now. And aside from all this technological stuff, just remember that the largest long term element of any defence budget is personnel costs: a UCAV doesn't expect an inflation proofed pension, require a quarter to live in, and need all that medical and welfare expenditure: so you can buy many more of them...

And they don't get trained at the tax-payers' expense, and then bail out to fly for United Airlines or British Airways before you've got return on investment. (Note: this is not to **** pilots off - it's to point out why politicians and civil servants will be attracted to them.)

It ain't romantic, but it's happening now. My personal view is that we're in the middle of a revolution in air warfare, that will not become clearly apparent for about 30 years. You could imagine an air force composed of unmanned, intelligent 'interceptor missiles' for homeland defence, with strike/attack drones and specialised hunter killers: how about putting some of them on permanent CAP by having them in orbit, ready to free fall on any designated target? The manned element will be confined to such sexy tasks as transport, and possibly special ops stuff... Off topic, but kinda interesting, dontcha think?

02-26-2004, 04:11 AM
The new arms race . Unmanned fighting planes & vehicles.
These are just the tip of the iceburg.
I would be happy with unmanned vacum cleaner!?!?.
Personally I perfer manned killing machines.
There is alot of good that can be done and also bad.
These new gizmos & gadet are coming weather we like it or not.
The spying stuff scares me. For war use is fine , but I can see others to use it for policing the population.
It also may give control to too few people.

02-26-2004, 06:06 AM
About the Romantic aspect of losing humanoid piloted combat aircraft, as time goes on, they are getting more expensive and airforces can afford fewer, and now (F~22 http://ubbxforums.ubi.com/infopop/emoticons/icon_biggrin.gif) seem to take 50+ years to go from concept to production. Indeed, Bill Gunsten has pointed out that in future WAR, if the bomber has a flat tire, the WAR won't be able to start--assuming a superpower airforce that can afford only one (1) super modern bomber. As airforces shrink in size with more modern and capable aircraft, the number of aircrew drops to Zero, thus the Romantic aspect of losing aircrew to UAVs is seen in a new light.

Its not like replacing 20,000 or so combat pilots in WW2 all at once by UAVs, but more like replacing the last 12 aircrew of the 12 F~32 fighters (at 50 billion dollars per plane). Not many humanoid pilots to get all teary eyed over. Indeed, the real emotional pain is the gradual loss in the number of humanoid piloted aircraft that can be afforded, and that has been going on for some time now.

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02-26-2004, 03:16 PM
thats a negative ghost rider.

there will always be a need for a man with a gun in the air.

yes yes, machines do a damn good job replacing humans, but in the end there is nothing finer than a trained eye.

although slightly off track look at it this way.
automotive factories indeed are mostly robotic. a high degree of tolerences are produced from said machines...but they are always off to a degree.. thats why you "blueprint" a motor the old fashion way .. by hand, only the human, and human eye, can make judgement calls on where to remove material, and make it a perfect running engine..

UCAVs are important.. but they wont get rid of humans totally.. if thats the case... lets get rid of MANNED aircraft carriers as well, and supply ships.that will free up a lot of human life (ori have i not researched it enought to know this is being done as well?)

02-26-2004, 09:38 PM
Who knows...maybe they will start using remotely manned drones....... you figure..if you could get a drone with a camera in it with a wide enough field of view and enough avionics to make up for the lack of a physical presence.... h@ll... what do you think we do when we sim? Who knows? I dont see completely unmanned drones...not across the board anyway... some situations will always demand a personal touch....even if for decision making.. but a mix of totally unmanned and remotely manned drones? Definitely.

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02-26-2004, 09:50 PM
There was one really neat episode of StarGate SG-1 where O'Neil piloted what amounted to an armed UAV through a VR interface and it actually controlled a group of UAV's that all operated in reaction to the controls.

I can see UAV's becoming a standard combat weapon and then having more emphasis on mobile command aircraft that may be nearby (probably stealthed) in terms of hundreds of kilometers and co-ordinating the attacks. The thing is that UAV's either have to work independantly on an AI system if their communications are jammed. Thats a problem...

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02-26-2004, 10:07 PM
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Menthol_moose:
Will the use of UAV's be as widespread as some believe ?

Are we seeing the end of a Era in piloted assault aircraft ?<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>Well.. some day.. but not some day soon.. We have SATS running round the earth.. but they are typicall eyes in the sky and bent pipes (ie signals up signals down).. But.. The day you build an airforce of fighter and bomber UAV's.. is the day that hackers of some other country will be getting the big bucks to crack that code.. So.. there are alot of PRO's about UAV's.. but the one big CON is loosing control of them to some HACKER on the enmys side! Thus.. I think we will see men in the loop for some time to come.. They may not be doing as much.. but they can flip the big switch marked AUTO-PILOT back to MANUAL! http://ubbxforums.ubi.com/infopop/emoticons/icon_wink.gif


02-26-2004, 10:11 PM
Interesting topic. The thread is still new, and already the point has been made that processors/cpu's lack judgment and, ultimately, creativity.

I believe the coming generations of chips will allow an incredible array of "If...then" options, but the battle field is generally filled with thousands of unpredictables. Can the control system for a UAV create a new solution to deal with an unexpected problem? Can they accept surrender?

Somewhere, it seems to me, trained minds will be involved...on the ground, overhead, or in space...to bring judgment, compassion and creativity.

I have one final concern that isn't technical or economic. If war is finally without conscience and the political cost is measured only in dollars, who will we trust with the "remote?"

Winning isn't everything;
It's the only thing!

02-26-2004, 10:12 PM
Yes.. jamming is a problem, but hasnt it always been a issue for air communications ?

Sure the human eye is good, but what if you have 3, 4 or 5 guys on the ground each "piloting" one UAV ? Each totally dedicated to a part of the mission or sensor. Surely this is better than one pilot, there is information overload as it is.

One the living human has been removed from inside the cockpit, costs go down, performance and endurance goes up.

Removing the danger to humans is a major political bonus too. No more missing and tourtured pilots.

The next flyers just maybe the g33ks kids of today, sitting at stations with headseats, drinking jolt cola and eating pizza, and yelling "pwn3d". Though this time its a tank on the ground, not a pixilated character.

Eh, mates! What's the good word?

02-26-2004, 11:10 PM
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>
Removing the danger to humans is a major political bonus too. No more missing and tourtured pilots.

you got a point..but then again... think about it this way. if there is no fear for the pilot, then is there less amount of responibility to do a better job? think of it as FB. look at us. i take many risks in FB.. but put me in the very real situation.... diferent story. could that effect put us in greater debt because there is no fear, taking "video" risks.. enough aircraft/money lost by "armchair pilots" could be more than what we use to spend on the real thing....pilots risk thier family /life to fly.. armchairs dont.. no risk..higher chances for mistake. but i do see your side

02-27-2004, 01:46 AM
Hah! One of these posts just reminded me of something:

"can they accept surrender"?

Well, a drone already has: a group of Iraquis surrendered to one in the first gulf war... Not strictly fair, cos there was a man in the loop, but still an example of how automation and remoting is on the increase.

As to creativity etc, I agree that it's lacking - for the moment... But remember that IBM's chess computer is now effectively matching grand masters - and would whip the *** off most of the human race: computing power is only getting better with time.

In any case, I don't want a creative killer out there - I want one that will deter any enemy from trying to interfere with my country. Put it this way: a missile is a form of autonomous hunter killer drone, although with a limited operational envelope. Do you feel that its lack of intelligence/flexibility of response is hindering its performance as it hunts you down in something like Flanker or LOMAC? They've got me running scared, and that's just a tiny routine in a cheapo mass produced game...

As to the point about 'there will always be situations where you need a man in the cockpit': well there may be some, but there's no fundamental reason why this should be the case. Do you feel less safe when a modern airliner pilot switches to full auto when he's landing blind in fog/cloud at night? The FAA/CAA regard this - relatively simple - piece of automation/computer controlled flying as safe enough - and a better bet than leaving the landing to a human with years of experience and training...

Wait and see - the drones are coming!! (Try this link for an example of what the military is willing to let you know at the moment: http://www.boeing.com/news/releases/2002/q2/nr_020523m.html )