Originally posted by Chakotay
Because no matter how good your code is, the enemy can break it.
All modern aircraft are fly-by-wire - they are already controlled by computers, with the pilot simply giving the systems 'hints' on what he wants to
do. His actions no longer control the movement of the control surfaces, he merely tells the computers that he wants to go 'in that direction, at
that speed' and the computers do what is necessary to both keep the aircraft within its flight envelope and go where the pilot wants to go.
The F-22, F-35 and modern refits of the F/A-18, F-15 and F-16 are all designed to share information, and to make tactical decisions in combat based on
that shared information.
Most of you are aware of this, so why am I mentioning this? Because its not the software that needs to be defeated - you aren't going to have some
elite hacker sat on the ground with a transmitter, hacking the F-22 as it flys overhead. Why not? Because hacking is hard.
But thats not even the hardest part. The hardest part is cracking the encryption on the data signals between aircraft - that is the hardest part.
You can use the most insecure internal designs you want, so long as the data is validated before it ever hits those systems, and if the data signals
do not come with the correct encryption authentication, then the data just gets dumped.
Now, encryption is not impossible to crack, but it is improbable. We are talking about days, weeks, months or even years to crack one transmission.
Which makes breaking that one transmission absolutely pointless, because aircraft missions do not last days, weeks, months or years.
And that act of breaking one transmission does not help you on the next one, or the one after that, or even the one after that. Each and every
transmission can be uniquely encrypted, each with its own key, making your life as a hacker immensly hard.
The only time encryption hacking works is when you find a flaw in the algorythm you are using - flaws are indeed found from time to time, but even
then they very very very rarely break the algorythm in such a way as to make it possible to read messages in real time, usually they simply reduce the
'search time' from thousands of years to hundreds of years.
All of this applies to UCAVs and UAVs - the data communication between base and ship is encrypted.
Add to that fact that the data communcation methods will include frequency hopping (to avoid jamming) et al, and the vehicle control is pretty much
But that is not why we will not see UCAVs and UAVs replacing manned aircraft for a long time yet.
The real reason is simple. Latency.
The further the pilot is away from the controls, the longer it takes for him to firstly get the information necessary to make a decision, and secondly
for the result of that decision to be carried out by the vehicle.
Every step in the process adds latency - this is ok while the actions to be performed are measured in multiple seconds, such as telling a current UAV
to 'go here, circle like this, then go here', or even controlling current UAVs in direct link.
But this becomes a whole different ballgame when you expect that pilot to get into a dogfight, where you expect subsecond reaction and response times.
The latency in the transmission may get that UAV killed, as they may be half a second or less behind the actual events in the air.
Once the latency issue is resolved, then replacing manned aircraft becomes a possibility. Until then...