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Modern combat drones have proven to be effective weapons, sometimes even determining the outcome of a battle. Many military experts see drones as a promising weapon of the future. But Elon Musk went even further – in his opinion, in the near future, in general, all fighters will become unmanned, and they will work offline.
That is, drones will operate independently, without human intervention. The fact that Elon Musk is obsessed with the idea of introducing artificial intelligence into all spheres of human life has long been known. But can AI be trusted in such a delicate matter as killing people, even on the battlefield? Many military men do not share the position of the founder of Space X.
Why there are no fighter drones in service
Attack drones have been used in various armies of the world for more than a dozen years. For example, the Russian Forpost drone was built on the basis of the Israeli Searcher Mk II UAV, which was introduced back in 1998. But despite this, fighter drones to this day do not exist in service with any country in the world.
True, kamikaze drones, including the Russian “Cube” and “Lancet”, are capable of hitting air targets. However, to call them fighters, of course, is impossible. They carry out only “air mining”. But why haven’t real fighters been created yet?
The fact is that the tasks that modern drones solve are much simpler than air combat. UAVs are usually only required to collect intelligence data and carry out missile and bomb strikes against given targets. Conducting air combat in three-dimensional space is a much more difficult task.
However, work on the creation of fighter drones is underway in many countries. Some samples have even successfully passed flight tests.
The most promising fighter drones
Not so long ago, we talked about the Russian heavy strike UAV “Hunter”, which has already passed flight tests. This is a truly modern multifunctional drone, which in some respects even surpasses the latest Su-57 fighter. It is the first Russian drone capable of air combat. Although, the serial production of these drones is still far away.
The United States is also developing the XQ-58A UAV fighter, which is called the Valkyrie. During test flights, it also showed the ability to conduct air combat. Like other modern drones, be it Orion or Altius, the Hunter can perform various actions in automatic mode. However, the XQ-58A UAV fighter and the Russian counterpart cannot be called completely autonomous. Both UAVs can be controlled from the command center or cockpit of a fighter plane.
In other words, modern fighter drones are primarily designed to support aircraft pilots in air combat. In this case, their task is to reduce the risks for the pilot and his aircraft. However, the possibility of using the UAV as an independent combat unit is also provided.
In addition, three fighter UAVs are being developed by Boeing. The most famous project is Loyal Wingman, which is being worked on by the Australian division of the company. According to analysts, this is not about auxiliary ammunition, but a real unmanned fighter.
It will be able to conduct air combat, and thereby distract the enemy from the main forces. Moreover, according to some reports, it will be able to work completely offline.
Fighter drones will not replace aircraft
Earlier we talked about the fact that military experts are extremely negative about the use of autonomous combat robots in the armies. Many are simply terrified by the prospect of a “rise of the machines.” But that’s not the only reason the military disagrees with Elon Musk about fighter drones.
The pilot of a modern jet fighter is considered one of the most difficult military professions. To master it, you need many years of training, the ability to instantly make the right decisions and have impeccable reflexes. No matter how perfect artificial intelligence is, it cannot yet replace the flexible human mind.
But, even if artificial intelligence will eventually be able to conduct air combat on its own, there is another problem that has not been solved – the possibility of intercepting drones. Almost every army in the world has means of interception.
“The drone cannot replace a manned aircraft. Musk, by proposing such an idea, demonstrates his incompetence in military matters. This is an amateur suggestion. Remote control, which Musk offers in addition, is easily neutralized, ”says military expert Konstantin Sivkov.
Moreover, the enemy can not only take control and land the UAV, but also simply disrupt the operation of its software, as a result of which the actions of the drone will be unpredictable.
In general, there are many means to “break”. For example, aiming aids combined with combat modules can automatically shoot any enemy drone. In addition, there are electronic warfare installations that simply “burn” the electronics of the robot.
Why Elon Musk considers fighter drones to be promising
Despite all these shortcomings of fighter drones, Elon Musk considers them quite promising. Drones have several distinct advantages over airplanes, and not only that their use will save the lives of pilots.
UAVs have no restrictions in terms of overloads, as a result of which, theoretically, they can be more maneuverable. At the same time, the cost of drones is much lower than aircraft. In addition, they do not require long and expensive pilot training.
Thanks to all this, fighter UAVs can be used in situations where it is impractical to risk the life of a pilot and an expensive aircraft. Therefore, the appearance of drones would expand the capabilities of the military forces. However, the replacement of fighter jets by drones predicted by Elon Musk remains in question.