Air Force Plans Fully Armed, Fully Autonomous Robot Plane

Illustration for article titled Air Force Plans Fully Armed, Fully Autonomous Robot Plane

It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead. And, also, the U.S. Air Force is thinking of building a few of them - unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) with vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) capability, armed to the robotic teeth with Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) missiles and equipped with YARA (Yet Another Rad Acronym). But, much like Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Aurora Excalibur has a softer, friendlier side as well.Aurora's Excalibur VTOL UAV is intended to have fully automated flight systems. It will know its mission and complete without remote operator control. One of those missions could be operating as a tactical strike platform, wielding Hellfire missiles, Viper Strike missiles, and the aforementioned APKWS. Technically, only the flight controls will be automated - an operator will be paying attention to target acquisition (and, one would imagine, target explosition). Still, seeing the words "robot" and "Hellfire" together is a little chilling. On the bright side, it could also be sent in to recover wounded soldiers, airlifting them out of sticky situations without diverting the attention of a remote pilot. Small special ops teams (like, Delta Force) could even use Excaliburs for fast, light ingress and egress. It's amazing what you can do with hybrid turbine-electric propulsion these days. Small scale tests are planned for late this year. Image by: Aurora. Firm Building Man-carrying VTOL Drone. []



If this works out, you'll probably see the end of the USAF as we know it.

With economic considerations (looming deficits and Wall St crunch) I'm guessing the F-35 and F-22 programs will be dramatically scaled back in favor of more UCAVs.

$500 Million for an F-22 vs $10 Million for a UCAV.