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The Military Japan Technology

Japan Plans To Build Unmanned Fighter Jets (reuters.com) 117

Slashdot reader It's the tripnaut! quotes an article from Reuters: Japan aims to develop a prototype drone fighter jet in two decades with private sector help in a technology strategy that focuses on weapons communications and lasers, according to a document seen by Reuters... The military technology plan calls for first developing an unmanned surveillance aircraft in the next decade and then an unmanned fighter jet 10 years later, the document showed...

The ministry will also allocate budget funds to acquire an upgraded version of the F-35 stealth fighter, made by U.S. company Lockheed Martin Corp...as tension rises in the East China Sea and North Korea steps up its missile threat, government officials with direct knowledge of the matter said.

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Japan Plans To Build Unmanned Fighter Jets

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  • by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Saturday August 20, 2016 @04:45PM (#52739415)
    It could be great, it could not matter. One of the realities is that the current designs are not much stronger than the human body. Sure, they can pull 20g indefinitely, when the human can't, but a quick transition from -20g to +20g could cause structural failure. A plane with no delicate meat-sack inside would greatly out-perform the meat-sack, but not if it exceeds the airframe capabilities or performance envelope.
    • One of the realities is that the current designs are not much stronger than the human body.

      That is because there is no reason to do so. If you are carrying a human pilot, there is no point in designing the airframe to turn fast enough to kill him. But if there is no pilot, the design criteria are different. For instance, a SAM can generally turn much faster than a plane.

      • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
        The what is a "fighter jet"? Something designed to take out manned aircraft? Unmanned aircraft?

        What are the design considerations? Do you want a fighter jet that can out maneuver a SAM? Perhaps designed to dog-fight a SAM and shoot it down. Then you could deploy 10 of these around manned aircraft (bombers or the like) as an anti SAM defense.

        Part of my point to base the discussion around existing jets, is that that's all we know. Designing a jet with unlimited capabilities is beyond aerospace design.
        • by khallow ( 566160 )

          Or are the fighters of the future just mobile weapons platforms?

          The fighters of the present are of use only because they are mobile weapons platforms. The quality of the mobility and the kind of weapons are what makes fighter jets what they are.

          You do have good points to the first generation. Once humans are removed from the cockpit, there likely won't be a hard limit to the size of vehicles, but it'll take considerable time for humanity or its successors to come up with good designs to take advantage.

          • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
            The definition is the important point at this time. A "fighter" could be anything. Fighters are all purpose. So are these going to be remotely piloted F16s, based on F16 and modified slightly to remove the human component? Are they going to be remotely piloted F-16 with a full cockpit, so a human will fly them from one test ground to another? Are they to be ground support (precision bombers)? Air combat?

            TFA says there's a line item in a budget with the wish of having an unmanned fighter. No plan for
          • by HiThere ( 15173 )

            My question is "How do you prevent them being jammed?" Are they going to have a built-in AI? What could possibly go wrong with that?

    • Re:Stealth (Score:4, Interesting)

      by willy_me ( 212994 ) on Saturday August 20, 2016 @05:31PM (#52739627)
      An expensive plane with a "meat-sack" does not only have to be built strong, it has to be built to last. This results in larger development times and costs. One big advantage to an autonomous fighters that is rarely mentioned is that it does not have to last long. The aircraft can be designed to last 100 flights, not 10,000. This is because the planes would sit silent until needed. With piloted fighters, the pilots need regular training and practice using the same planes with which they will be fighting. With autonomous fighters the planes would almost never fly. Regular duties such as patrol could be taken over by simpler planes with lower maintenance costs where the full capabilities of a modern fighter are not required.
      • I didn't see anywhere in the article that these were "autonomous fighters", just that they were "drones", or "unmanned fighter jets". My assumption is that human controllers will still very much be in control of these things at some tactical level. You're still going to need to regularly train whoever controls, commands, and maintains these things.

        I'd agree that they'd need to fly less frequently, but they'd probably still need to regularly perform in training missions, just like every other military asse

        • Human controllers can train using simulators. Pilots require real flight time - although simulators undoubtedly help minimize the amount of flight time required.
      • Regular duties such as patrol could be taken over by simpler planes with lower maintenance costs where the full capabilities of a modern fighter are not required.

        Instead, those things would probably have massive endurance, I imagine.

      • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

        An expensive plane with a "meat-sack" does not only have to be built strong, it has to be built to last. This results in larger development times and costs. One big advantage to an autonomous fighters that is rarely mentioned is that it does not have to last long. The aircraft can be designed to last 100 flights, not 10,000. This is because the planes would sit silent until needed. With piloted fighters, the pilots need regular training and practice using the same planes with which they will be fighting. Wi

    • All the same, North Korea is not going to appreciate the Hello Kitty H-bomb drones that are controlled from Samsung phones.

    • by hey! ( 33014 )

      You're assuming you'd fly a drone fighter with the same air superiority tactics that you use for manned fighters. That might not be the case.

      You might opt to forgo the traditional aerobatic capabilities of a manned fighter for more stealth, even knowing that you'd lose more aircraft. It depends on how the math works out. Suppose you expect to lose 20% of your drones to dog fighters, but your early weapons lock advantage allows you to shoot down an additional 1.5 fighters for every drone you lose. That's

  • Without a pilot, a drone fighter will be unbeatable, except by other drones.

    The limitations will then be the HARDWARE, not the pilot.

  • till the Japanese launch the SDF-1 with the Rick Hunter Limited Ultra 2k99 Edition AI.

    Then we can only pray Godzilla comes to save us.
  • Seriously though, are we not heading to a future where we have robot fighting robot on behalf of humans, and killing humans in the process of domination and conquest? The implications of this future do not sound like they could ever play out well. War worse than war? Insert skynet remark here I suppose.

    The United States tried implementing autonomous killer bots in Iraq. They never saw action and one day starting targeting, but not firing on Marines. The were removed with quickness.
  • The biggest fear of the US Military is autonomous fighter jets. Even if you disrupt command and control it's quite possible the jets could still defend/attack enemy forces. The problem for that is the Chinese can make a MIG for a fraction of the cost of a F-35. Sure, the F-35 would take out some MIGs, but the it only holds a relatively small number of missiles.

  • Japanese pilots have demonstrated the ability to fly more than one craft simultaneously while defeating overwhelming odds:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

  • Flying a fully-armed drone into a structure doesn't cause much damage, but how about a fully-armed fighter jet full of fuel?

    Hey, let's build remotely-controlled fighter jets, great idea!
    Build a whole fleet of them
    Someone hacks a vulnerability in your control system and takes over the entire fleet
    Skyscrapers burning everywhere!
    Civilian targets hit everywhere!

    Hey here's an even better idea: Why not build an entire fleet of bombers? Be sure to put your nuclear weapons in them while you're at it.

    Hey here's an

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      Re "Someone hacks a vulnerability in your control system and takes over the entire fleet"
      Thats why nations are so careful about how much encryption to add. If a drone is captured, lost, induced to land in another nation or staff walk out with the codes thats an expected loss.
      The loss of US drones in the past shows the US thinking on the issue. The drone has just the right amount of crypto to fly for a long time and anything lost is only sensitive to that mission. No need to pack in, power and keep an e

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