Warplanes: August 10, 2001

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With more and more unmanned aircraft (UAV) coming into use, more thought is given about how to control them. Currently, recon UAVs are either "flown" by an operator on the ground, or sent off on preprogrammed flight patterns. Cruise missiles, the "UAV suicide bombers" fly on their own, following stored instructions about course and target. But sensors and computers are getting better and air forces are beginning to think about UAVs that can defend themselves, or even participate in air superiority (attacking other aircraft) missions. One new twist that appears promising is the use of datalinks between UAV and manned aircraft operating in the same area. Sweden has been secretly using this technology for over a decade and is quite satisfied with the results. Given the speed with which UAVs can react to large amounts of information, a datalinked formation of UAVs could quickly maneuver and fire air-to-air missiles to defend themselves. Sort of like the science fiction concept of the "shared consciousness." Actually, it IS shared consciousness. So when these datalinked UAVs go into service, yet another science fiction concept will become science fact. The concept will also be useful for pilots in aircraft, for they can obtain targeting and situation updates from a number of UAV wingmen. Air combat will never be the same. 

 


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