Given that current Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle (UCAV) development is mainly directed towards the strike role, is it most probable that a future manned vs unmanned combat aircraft scenario will involve manned aircraft attempting to defend ground targets against attack by UCAVs?


closed as primarily opinion-based by GdD, Dan Hulme, Gerry, kevin, Dan Pichelman Nov 8 '17 at 14:33

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    $\begingroup$ Too bad this was put on hold, there was a 2008 incident between Georgia and Russia where this thing happened: a Russian jet took out a UAV. But given that this is speculation about the future, I understand why it was closed as opinion based. $\endgroup$ – KorvinStarmast Nov 8 '17 at 15:21
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    $\begingroup$ My understanding is that the UAV in question was unarmed. $\endgroup$ – J. Southworth Nov 10 '17 at 16:16
  • $\begingroup$ It was, but had it been armed it would not have mattered for that engagement. $\endgroup$ – KorvinStarmast Nov 10 '17 at 16:20
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    $\begingroup$ Assuming a one on one engagement would be a big mistake, when the probability is that it would be more like 20 to 1 in favour of the UCAVs. $\endgroup$ – J. Southworth Feb 14 '18 at 11:47
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    $\begingroup$ A UCAV does not need a speed advantage to destroy a manned fighter with a head on collision. During the Second World War, Japanese fighters sometimes used this tactic against the B29 Superfortress bomber. $\endgroup$ – J. Southworth Feb 14 '18 at 11:55

Some advantages of UCAVs over manned aircraft in the strike role:

  1. The enemy doesn't gain hostages when they get shot down over enemy territory

  2. The numbers that can be deployed are limited by the rate at which they can be turned out on automated production lines, not by the time it takes to train a combat fast jet pilot to a high standard (about 5 years minimum)

  3. The UCAV can potentially be much smaller than a manned aircraft, if a reduction in range is acceptable, reducing the radar signature and vulnerability to air defence systems

  4. As a result of 3, the UCAV can potentially be based nearer the area of operations and launched by catapult or using a rocket booster, leading to a shorter reaction time

In a scenerio where manned aircraft are intercepting UCAVs it is probably reasonable to assume that the UCAVs will have an advantage in numbers. UCAVs engaged in tactical missions will probably operate at low level and rely on superior manouverability and short range missiles to defend against attacks by manned fighters.

  • $\begingroup$ I'm not sure I understand why this was put on hold. The fact that that a UCAV doesn't need a pilot is just that, it's not a statement of opinion. All I've really done is to draw a few logical inferences from that fact. $\endgroup$ – J. Southworth Nov 9 '17 at 14:28
  • $\begingroup$ Basically, all arguments in favor of combat UAVs face the same problem - if it isn't fully autonomous, it can be incapacitated by disruption of control channel, and then it cannot use its advantage in speed/manouverability/numbers at all. If it is autonomous - we got ourselves a killer robot, what could possibly go wrong? /s And we cannot measure up these negatives against the positives at this moment due to us having no hard facts, only estimations of possible characteristics of UCAV. So the answer to your question is up to personal opinion, not to facts - thus it is closed. $\endgroup$ – Danila Smirnov Nov 14 '17 at 11:09
  • $\begingroup$ Anyone who has any knowledge of military history knows that in war there are always a lot of things that can potentially go wrong, with or without robotic weapon systems. $\endgroup$ – J. Southworth Feb 5 '18 at 15:31

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