And yet you will hand off a supersonic fighter to autopilot?
The Navy is in the final stages of fully adopting a Precision Landing Mode for fighter pilots, with young fleet replacement squadron pilots for the first time conducting carrier qualifications with the tool that significantly cuts down on the work required during an approach to the back of an...
It will be very interesting to see where AI leads us in the realm of air warfare. AI aircraft have already (virtually) defeated human pilots in DARPA testing
. There are still lots of questions and hurdles in fielding actual AI combat aircraft - not least of which being questions around autonomous weapons release. There are also questions as to how expansive the roles for AI aircraft will be. Some of the "loyal wingman" type programs (the RAF's "Mosquito
" for example) seem to be moving away from full fledged AI fighters as wingmen and more towards more specific "enhancement" enablers. If AI and Machine Learning actually make it possible to remove humans from the cockpit then the actual designs of aircraft could continue to evolve into more radical forms.
We have to face the fact that our current exquisite fleet of manned fighters is not sustainable in war time. Not if Ukraine is any example. The Air Forces available there are "surviving" by picking their fights. Even with the limited GBAD systems in evidence neither side feels they can achieve air superiority let alone air control.
I think that as always we need to be careful before we extrapolate what's happening in Ukraine to peer conflict in general. The concept of achieving air supremacy in a conflict is a Western (i.e. US) idea because frankly they are the only nation with the military capacity to have a realistic chance of achieving it. From everything I've read the Russian concept of operations is to use much smaller packets of aircraft to try and achieve temporary
air superiority over portions of the front in support of ground operations. They know they can't beat the Americans at their own game and have tailored their tactics accordingly. We don't really know how US SEAD/DEAD operations using both stealth aircraft and long range precision strikes would affect enemy GBAD effectiveness. Perhaps it would be effective enough that it would allow air superiority to be gained?
When the USAF is considering landing KC-46 tankers on highways, and has already practiced with A10s and C130s, you have to believe they don't have a lot of faith in their ability to defend and sustain their airbases with their runways, control systems, hard shelters and $100,000,000 aircraft and their 5 year pilots.
With the help of Airfield Marking Patterns, the tanker's potential to move fuel and supplies to austere locations is increasing.
ALGER COUNTY, Michigan – Air National Guard A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft, Air Force Special Operations Command MC-12W, C-145A and U-28A aircraft, and a C-146A aircraft from the Air Force Reserves
There has to be a different way of doing things.
We don't really know how effective Russian (or Chinese) strategic forces (bombers and ground launched missiles) would actually be in taking out allied airfields. Did Russian hubris in thinking that their Ukraine campaign would be a cake walk with minimal resistance by the Ukrainian military give the Ukrainian Air Force enough time to disperse their fighters before being taken out on the ground? Or did Western intelligence give enough warning allowing them to disperse in advance of the attack? Maybe Russia/China will learn from that and launch attacks on Western airfields without advance warning permitting dispersion? In the Taiwan wargames
by CSIS it noted that 90% of Western aircraft losses were on the ground. We may have plans to disperse our aircraft in wartime, but do we practice it? Have the assets/equipment/personnel ready to actually do it? Is it any good having a plan to disperse if on Day 1 of a conflict you haven't already dispersed? I've often wondered what the impact of Canada's expeditionary warfighting capability would be if the first action taken against us by an enemy was a mortar and SF attack on Trenton to destroy our CC-177/CC-150/CC-130J fleets.
In the middle of a war Russian aircraft were still parking outside in visible site in Crimea, Russia and more recently in Belarus where UAVs were able to destroy them on the ground (or land on top of an A-50
). As @Kirkhill
suggests, we may not really be taking adequate measures to protect our own very expensive aircraft and personnel when they are NOT in combat. We probably DO need a different way of doing things, but I'm not sure it's clear yet exactly what the best alternative is.
One think I do believe though is that our personnel issues are not likely to improve much. Our population is aging...and in many countries might actually be on its way to decreasing and a military career is maybe not as desirable as maybe it once was. I think we do really need to look at ways to do as much/more with less people.