It would seem that a driverless automobile is an idea that does is not an ideal plan for The Pentagon (well, at least for the moment) but they are looking into pilotless aircrafts. The U.S. Air Force Research Lab is now moving forward with their plans on making F-16 fighter jets fly themselves, literally. They will become an autonomous combat aircraft and these planes will fly alongside newer aircrafts such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
The Pentagon Wants Pilotless Planes for Combat
The Pentagon may even get their pilotless planes before driverless automobiles hit the road. Also, Robert Work, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense, spoke at a recent form in Washington about their plans. He said that they expect to see autonomous flying plans soaring through the skies along manned jets even before driverless vehicles enter public service on the ground. The secretary of defense also talked about the efforts of the U.S. Air Force to create autonomous wingmen for the pilots of said aircrafts. This will give “new life” (so to speak) to older planes as they will be imbued with autonomous piloting technologies when teamed up with a next-generation plane.
“You take an F-16 and make it totally unmanned,” Work stated. “The F-16 is a fourth-generation fighter, and pair it with an F-35, a fifth-generation battle network node, and have those two operating together.” The reference of “fourth-generation fighters” in Work’s statement generally refers to the fighters in service from the eighties up to the present day. These include F-15s. F-16s, and also F/A-18s that make up the bulk of the U.S. military fighter fleet. When it comes to “fifth-generation fighters,” it refers to the newest generation of stealth fighters such as the F-22 and F-35. Both types of planes were built by Lockheed Martin.
The Pentagon’s concept of teaming unmanned aircrafts with piloted ones has circulated for years. So much so that it even has a name and it is called “Loyal Wingman.” The U.S. Air Force has already experimented with the idea for quite some time. Furthermore, since the high-profile mention from the Department of Defense’s deputy secretary signals that the rest of the Pentagon is already taking the idea of completing this project very well.
The “Loyal Wingmen” from the Pentagon would be the foothold that will stretch U.S. military capabilities towards better technologies in combat. Rather than increasing manpower, autonomous pilots are better to be used instead of losing human life should situations turn for the worse.