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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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RE: Toys
By Griswold on 8/17/2006 1:52:30 PM , Rating: 2
Lets paint an ugly picture. Your army of robots, marching towards the enemy who knows full well that he cant win this fight. Now lets assume this enemy does have nuclear capability. He may not use that option when facing a humanoid army in fear of retaliation (you drop a nuke on, lets say, an american force and you'll get your ass handed to you on the nuclear platter, thats for sure).

But in this scenario he only faces drones/robots. He drops a nuke or two on the advancing force. Or maybe instead of just melting everything to a pulp, he uses the EMP of such a weapon. In fact, what about EMP resistance? You can harden electronics, but only to a certain degree I would think.

RE: Toys
By rrsurfer1 on 8/17/2006 2:23:01 PM , Rating: 2
Interesting picture. However the military rarely bunches up forces like this. It would be hard to hit them all at once. Most military electronics are hardened against EMP to some extent. Usually not enough to take a direct "hit" but enough that some would survive.

Besides that, there's nothing stopping us from sending more machines in.

The upside of this is no loss of human life - here's another picture for ya. Your in a war against an enemy, a dictatorship where the dictator will do anything to retain power. He has nukes and you know he will use them, but he must be removed from power. This dictator won't care about America's nuclear deterrent because he's going to lose his power anyhow. Without these remote controlled forces, we would not only lose human life, but almost be forced to respond in kind to the nuclear attack. With them, we can simply replace them, remove the dictator, and save countless innocent lives.

RE: Toys
By Griswold on 8/17/2006 2:51:16 PM , Rating: 2
Well, for one, there are tactical nuclear weapons built just for that purpose. If you invade a country, you'll have to move your units and you dont send them in one by one.
So, you can most definitely take out large quantities of any type of unit by means of nuclear weapons. You just better hit them before they're at your city gates.

The whole point was, it could actually further lower the inhibition threshold to use nuclear weapons. Even today, brass heads are eager to use small nukes for all kinds of purposes with the excuse that they would not annihilate whole cities or landscapes - thankfully, that hasnt happened yet.

But whos going to shed a tear for a bunch of robots somewhere in a desert? Makes it easier to ignore the local and global environmental effects of such use of weapons.

To respond to your scenario:

Such a madman would probably not waste much time on nuking robots if he realizes that it has no effect on the outcome. Instead, he will just blow up some neighbors - as seen in Bush vs. Saddam part I. Granted, that could happen no matter how you kick his ass. Be it robots or todays conventional forces.

And as far as saving countless lives is concerned, that would mainly be a one sided thing, as the use of nukes will cost many lives in the long term in that region.

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