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The F-35 JSF in all its glory
Lockheed has proposed a JSF that fly by remote control

Lockheed Martin’s new single-engine F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is the latest Swiss Army Knife of fighter aircraft for the US military.  The plane, which is destined to replace the F-16, AV8-B, A-10 and F/A-18, will be available in three variants:

  • F-35A: Conventional Take-Off and Landing (CTOL)
  • F-35B: Short Take-Off Vertical Landing (STOVL)
  • F-35C: Carrier Based Variant (CV)

Lockheed is now proposing a fourth variant that it has been working on for the past two years. The design proposal is for an unmanned version of the F-35 that could operate as a hybrid -- that is, it could be configured to either fly by remote or if need be with a human pilot in the cockpit. Many have stated that the F-35 would be the last manned fighter jet for the Air Force as the military has been pouring more and more dollars into unmanned combat systems. Lockheed's proposed unmanned J-35 would bridge the gap between the past and the future of aerial combat. From the Washington Post:

The Pentagon, looking to save money, has accelerated spending on unmanned systems since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. This year, it allocated $2 billion for unmanned aircraft and millions more in the supplemental budget, compared with $363 million in 2001. The figure is projected to reach more than $3 billion by the end of the decade. What has resulted is a hodgepodge of unmanned vehicles, such as small, bomb-seeking robots that can be carried in a backpack, and airplanes that provide surveillance for days at a time. The systems have become bigger and more expensive in recent years, such as the Predator, built by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., and the Global Hawk, which has a 134-foot wingspan, comparable to the Boeing 737.

Lockheed has been playing second fiddle to other names in the industry, namely Boeing, when it comes to unmanned aircraft. The price tag of the F-35 program has also ballooned from $201 billion to $276 billion. The price increase along with the government's increasing fascination with unmanned drones is probably why the initial order for 2,000 planes could likely drop significantly in the near future.

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pretty much.
By Armorize on 8/17/2006 12:00:09 PM , Rating: 2
on top of this plane being added to the us arsenal, its going to a couple of our allies as well, mainly the uk and australia. also this plane is by all means NOT going to replace the A-10. however if it is made to be a UAV i could see it possible.

RE: pretty much.
By Knish on 8/17/2006 12:01:43 PM , Rating: 2
It's true, the A-10, aside from being built like a tank, can loiter over the theater. The only logical replacement for the A-10 coming up is a UAV.

RE: pretty much.
By kextyn on 8/17/2006 2:41:09 PM , Rating: 2
That's why the A-10's service life has been extended untill at least 2028. Don't expect to ever see a proper replacement for the A-10 either, it just won't happen in this day and age.

Best. Plane. Ever.
By therealnickdanger on 8/17/2006 4:04:37 PM , Rating: 2
I love the A-10, it's such a beast! The GE gattling gun just RIPS UP anything it touches.... radical.

RE: pretty much.
By FNG on 8/17/2006 4:09:57 PM , Rating: 2
I suppose you are right, if you are looking for a flat out replacement. Even though it was supposed to be decommissioned many moons ago, it just kicks arse. That being said, I think the reason for not "replacing" it is because unmanned drones can do it cheaper and better.

I remember reading something saying that some DARPA funded contractors are building UCAVs that will loiter for up to 15 hours. Beat that in an A10. The pilot has to piss sometime. No waiting...just paint, and splat, or send coordinates and splat, whatever. I would bet something cool like the laser or some form of GPS system will be built into future personal weapon systems so you can just click a button, agree in your HUD and watch the fireworks. Ah, thinking of blowing stuff up gives me a chubby.

"We shipped it on Saturday. Then on Sunday, we rested." -- Steve Jobs on the iPad launch
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