Originally posted by Truth1000
There is NO WAY any piloted aircraft will stand a chance against the upcoming generation of drones. They can be flown by experts. They can be much
smaller and lighter since no pilot-support equipment is required, so they will be harder to acquire and identify than piloted craft, yet they can
carry the same weapons. In 15 years, the drones will dominate the skies, and those nations still using piloted aircraft will have no chance in
air-to-air combat. PERIOD!
There are several advantages drones have, and several problems they experience.
The advantage they have is being able to SUSTAIN high-G maneuvers far better than human pilots. However, you'll soon find these drones will be
swapping engines far more often than standard aircraft - high-G maneuvers are hell on the engines. However, it should be noted that they cannot pull
-that- many more Gs than a manned aircraft.
Furthermore, with advances in missile and laser technologies - it doesn't get you many points to be able to turn on a dime, as many ballistic
tracking and interception systems can compensate for any jinking.
This means drones would be exceptional in dogfights (with no appreciable difference, otherwise).... except for the fact that you have quite a bit of
lag in the connection. Physics, itself, dictates about a one-sixteenth second command lag just to get the signal from the U.S. to the drone (drone
operators are usually located in the U.S. - some one thousand people are required to put one drone in the air and establish the connection - though
one connection can support multiple drones). Considering bi-directional communication (you have to see what the drone sees to give a command) means a
bare minimum of 1/8th second lag (about 120ms - or a PING of 120, for you gamers) - which is good, except encryption, decryption, and processing are
going to add another 100 or so milliseconds into the whole works.
That's too slow for dog-fighting directly. Even if you were using a direct uplink using line-of-sight, it is still likely too much lag to really
allow for effective reaction during a dog-fight.
Now, you can compensate for this using an AI system that will control the aircraft, itself, with the 'pilot' managing several aircraft, designating
targets and setting tactical policies. AI networking and datalinking would come as an advantage, allowing the drones to 'fight as one.'
But effectiveness of drones will rely heavily on communication and relays. The favored method, so far, is the use of satellites. With many countries
(China) developing A-Sat weapons with successful tests, thereof - you can be completely denied drone operation over an entire theater for offensive or
Which is why there is a lot of research into using AWACS and other datalink hubs to relay signals for these drones, but you are still looking at
having to localize the network to the theater (bring the 'pilots' closer to the shooting).
While drones have a lot of advantages - taking the pilot out of the cockpit has the primary disadvantage of having very little/no control when the
com-link gets cut. If terrorists can lob mortars into the middle of an air base - then some other country's special forces can jeopardize land-based
network hubs very easily - and they would be *primary* targets.
They have their place - but I believe focusing too much on unmanned aircraft will be akin to putting too many of our eggs into one basket. An
effective use of drones would be as an aid to manned fighters - similar to how soldiers on the ground can call in a JDAM strike from a B-52 in high
orbit over the battlefield - a pilot can simply send in the drones to help him/her achieve the tactical advantage and force the hand of the enemy (at
a much reduced risk to the pilot).