Warplanes: September 8, 2002


There is a growing civil war in the Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle realm between two rival and very different visions of what these aircraft should be. Boeing, which is working on the only current UCAV program, notes that it has grown to the size of a Joint Strike Fighter and costs far more than a mere expendable robot was ever expected to cost. And consequently, it is much less likely to be used as a throwaway-fighter, but will instead be smart, mean, and tough enough to survive the most dangerous missions. Lockheed Martin, which wants to get into the UCAV business, says that Boeing's idea is all wrong and that UCAVs should be small, cheap, and expendable. It would ultimately cost less, L-M insists, to build cheaper aircraft and lose a few in combat than to build far fewer expensive aircraft even if they can never be shot down.--Stephen V Cole 


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