Now this is interesting, courtesy of occasional reader Tom:
A jet airliner was flown over south-west England recently with no pilot in the cockpit, to test technology that might one day be used to control swarms of unpiloted aircraft from a single fighter jet.
The two-hour flight, conducted by the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) and UK defence firm Qinetiq on 30 October 2006, was designed to assess whether a fighter pilot could someday control several uncrewed air vehicles (UAVs) from their own plane.
“The big burning question at the MoD is how to operate UAVs in attack missions in the future,” says Kevin Williams, project manager at Qinetiq. “We wanted to see if a fast-jet pilot, flying a Tornado perhaps, could control a pack of four UAVs in deep, target attack situations while still doing his own job.”
Of course, it’s no great leap from a skilled airborne operator flinging his UAVs into the fight in order to tunnel a safe passage through an integrated air defense system to having the same guy do it from a computer monitor the ground.
At the end of the day, it may be that the only justification for manned strike fighters in the out-years is the fact that in a close air support environment, with friendlies and hostiles in close proximity, the folks calling for support are going to want actual eyeballs on the battle area and a voice they can associate with a flight path rather than the same combination looking at a two-dimensional monitor somewhere safely in the rear.
Sometimes I can’t escape the feeling that I got it while the getting was good. Still, as we say, even these are somebody’s future good old days.