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Boeing X-45C Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle - Courtesy Boeing
The DoD continues work on its X-45C UAV and has called for an unmanned heavy bomber by 2020

When it comes to the future of military aircraft, unmanned planes seems to be where the United States is heading. The Department of Defense has been extremely impressed with the performance of the X-45A test program along with the combat performance of the unmmanned Predator drone. The US Air Force and Navy are currently developing the next generation X-45C UAV and it is quite an impressive platform in its own right.

The X-45C, an outgrowth of the developmental X-45A, uses a composite skin over an aluminum frame and incorporates stealth techniques pioneered on the F-117 Nighthawk and carried forward on the B-2 Spirit and F-22A Raptor. It has a cruising speed of 650MPH, a service ceiling of 40,000 feet and an operational range of 1,300 miles. The X-45C is also capable of carrying eight 250 lb bombs in its internal weapons bay. The estimated cost for each plane is $30 million (compared to for a $133 million single F-22A Raptor).

The military plans on taking UAV's a step further by year 2020 with a next generation unmanned heavy bomber. America's current heavy bombers include the B-1B Lancer, B-2 Spirit and B-52 Superfortress (aka BUFF) so the size of this thing must be enormous.



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What if...
By Shining Arcanine on 1/27/2006 10:11:41 AM , Rating: 2
What happens if the enermy is jamming the signals and the military needs to cancel a bombing raid because US Marines have taken the area from the enermy? At least with a manned vehicle, the pilot can see signals from the ground such as colored smoke and American flags. The same is not true for unmanned vehicles. I think I understand what General Patton meant when he said that he was glad he would not live to see the day wars can be fought without men at the push of a button.




RE: What if...
By creathir on 1/27/2006 10:32:40 AM , Rating: 2
You don't let them jam it...
Or, you make it battlefield aware.
In other words, it "sees" the marines electronically...
- Creathir


RE: What if...
By Kuroyama on 1/27/2006 10:56:24 AM , Rating: 3
And what happens when the pilot sees guns fired on the ground, mistakes them as being fired at him, and in panic drops bombs without permission? Like say a certain Air Force pilot who killed several Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan. At least with an unmanned vehicle the controller will be less likely to panic and do something he's not supposed to, so I think this will be safer for those on the ground.

However, somehow it feels wrong to kill people with no risk at all to oneself. Imagine when totalitarian states get ahold of say a remote control tank. They will be able to kill with little risk of mutiny, as killing little people on a video screen will not have the same effect on a soldier as actually standing in front of a civilian and shooting them.


RE: What if...
By bldckstark on 1/27/2006 1:27:07 PM , Rating: 2
I believe this type of RC plane is directed by signals from satellite. Kinda hard to jam that unless they are doing it from space, besides the plane can fly itself home if it loses the signal. Jamming signals is not as easy as it sounds. When you consider the transmissions change frequencies faster than you can turn a dial, the redundancy of Tx and Rx on different freqs at the same time, etc., you may start to understand the difficulties involved.

As for the rest of the arguments, this is not a robot plane, it is more like an RC plane. There is a human at the controls throughout the flight. There is a pilot, he is just not in the plane. Some of the flight is performed automatically (like auto pilot now), but humans do the grunt work.
These guys aren't stupid you know. Every problem you or I can think of has probably already been solved. What they are dealing with now are problems related to top secret crap we have never even heard of, like how many cupholders does an unmanned aircraft need?


RE: What if...
By ksherman on 1/27/2006 5:47:16 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
What they are dealing with now are problems related to top secret crap we have never even heard of, like how many cupholders does an unmanned aircraft need?


two... the answer is two my friend...


RE: What if...
By ZmaxDP on 1/27/2006 6:50:45 PM , Rating: 2
Beat me to it...

I don't know about two though. My guess is that it will have more than my truck (6). The bigger question for me is where they'll put the mini-fridge, and will it use AC or DC power? (The fridge.) After all, if you've got cup holders, you've got to have drinks...


And in other news...
By jt63 on 1/27/2006 11:45:41 AM , Rating: 5
The Skynet funding bill has been introduced in Congress. The bill, which is being lobbied heavily by CyberDyne Systems, looks to automate the US Armed Forces.




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