Thursday, April 23, 2009

Next stop, Skynet

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles are getting startlingly effective these days. Contrast the rapid evolution of Predator drones from the mid 1990s to present with the 30-year long battle over the F-22. While it's true that the Predators have been able to rapidly incorporate developments that were originally for manned aircraft, I'm still astonished at how rapidly these drones have advanced. (It's the Pentagon, after all.)

Prediction: the USAF will fight tooth and nail from having drones with serious air-to-air capabilities. This idea is simply too threatening to their ideological assumption of what their core competency is. Meanwhile, their actual core mission -- trucking bombs to targets that can't shoot back -- will be almost entirely supplemented with unmanned planes, for political and economic reasons.

We don't know what the cost of the Avenger will be yet, but I'd bet less than $15 million, easy. That would make it about 1/5 the likely cost of the JSF.


The Mound of Sound said...

It's curious that we've gone so far down this road without a proper debate on the ethics and morality of unleashing robots to hunt down and kill humans. There are some significant dimensions to where this could be taking us that seem consigned to lie below the public's radar.

john said...

MoS: Well, in the case of the Avenger the UAV is still controlled by a human, although it's not always one in the military chain of command.

Gotta say, I don't see much difference in the morality of the act just because different ends are used to accomplish the same means.

One exception would be when commanders try to blame the machinery of war for accidents where human actions are pretty clearly at fault. (see the USS Vincennes and IR655.)