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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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This is the Future
By Master Kenobi on 8/17/2006 2:11:01 PM , Rating: 2
This most certaintly is the future of modern warfare. It will eventually come to the point where we can have floating anti-grav bots patrol whole countries and take out problems with terrorist groups, they wont be able to walk outside without being locked and fired upon.

In the short term however, this will basically give us the iron grip of Air superiority, not like we dont already have it, but this will allow quicker response (no need to prep the pilots and get em suited up, just give the launch command and planes are in the air in seconds), we could increase our military presence tenfold if we didn't have to worry about as many casualties, and didn't have to spend time conditioning pilots, training would also become alot easier/cheaper. A Mounted short range anti-missile laser would also work wonders on one of these planes, just fly a dozen of them on the Israeli border, let hezbollah shoot rockets all day long, and knock every one of em out of the sky, all with electronic precision, and no risk to our soldiers.

This is the Future, and were just getting started.

RE: This is the Future
By Griswold on 8/17/2006 2:27:46 PM , Rating: 2
Let's just hope the future does not render humans totally obsolete. Antigrav bots.. heh that reminds me of a certain movie trilogy. ;)

You know, first they are unmanned but still piloted by man. Next they act according to a program without outside influence. Then they wont have to follow a strict program and make their own combat decisions - and then...

Science fiction can be so scary.

RE: This is the Future
By rrsurfer1 on 8/17/2006 2:38:51 PM , Rating: 2
I think it's almost inevitable. To compete with the remote control variety more effectively, you can increase response times using computers.

At first this would be subtle, say a laser system that automatically defend the remote controlled "bot" from missile attacks. Then less subtle, like auto-targeting and destuction of a known type of enemy tank. Someone builds one, another country builds a better one, and so on and so forth.

Inevitably this would seem to lead to less and less human control. I don't know if there will be artificial intelligence, at least within our lifetime. But you can bet there will be fuzzy-logic control systems on some new weapons to respond faster than any human ever could.

RE: This is the Future
By Chillin1248 on 8/18/2006 6:42:40 AM , Rating: 3
Actually these would not work in a conflict like just happened here with Hezbollah.

The problem is that when you launch over 4,000 missiles, usually in groups of 5 or so, it is very hard to target all of them in time. Also the way the current lasers work, which is why you only see them mounted on a 767 or larger, is that they need a gigantic chemical tank needed for the mixing of the correct chemicals to make the laser strong and hot enough. If you would mount this on a plane the size of a F-35, you would at best only get out of it roughly a second or two burst of laser energy and that is all... Highly impractical if you ask me.

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