Naval Air: February 8, 2001

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Noting that the Air Force, and many foreign nations, are working on pilotless combat aircraft (UCAV, or Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle), the US Navy has gone ahead with it's own program. The navy has some unique problems. Its UACV must be able to withstand constant exposure to corrosive salt water. No big deal, all navy aircraft are built to deal with that. More troublesome is building an automated system to allow the UCAV to land on a carrier deck. Even though ground based (or, in this case, ship based) pilots can "fly" UCAVs, the craft still need automated systems that can handle some of the workload, and take over completely if the ground link is broken or jammed. Aircraft designers feel that can build a UCAV with capabilities similar to the JSF (Joint Strike Fighter), but at a third of the JSF $40 million per plane cost. 

 


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