Twitter Facebook Google RSS
 
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles 

Unmanned Systems Could Fly Majority of Air Force Missions 

2,009 

By Grace V. Jean 

How times have changed.

The Air Force years ago regarded unmanned aircraft as a distraction from their real flying missions. Now surveillance drones are becoming mainstream and the Air Force is even exploring a broader range of future missions for unmanned systems.

“There’s potential for various wide-body missions, whether cargo or air refueling, or command and control,” says Col. Eric Mathewson, director of the Air Force’s unmanned aircraft systems task force.

The group has put together an unmanned aircraft “flight plan” that examines the potential for remotely piloted systems in the Air Force through 2047.

“For many missions in the Air Force, it may be a viable alternative,” says Mathewson, who recently was a group commander and a squadron commander at Creech Air Force Base, Nev., where he flew the Predator and Reaper on hundreds of combat sorties.

The task force applied the unmanned concept to missions as diverse as electronic attack, combat search and rescue and long-range strike.

“You think of UAS not necessarily replacing but augmenting the traditional manned force, and in those terms, there’s potential for what we call ‘loyal wingmen,’ for a number of missions, where you might have a traditionally manned aircraft flying in conjunction with, and maybe controlling, unmanned aircraft,” says Mathewson.

There are some missions, such as those flown by fighter jets and attack airplanes that will never be automated or left solely for unmanned aircraft to accomplish. “There’s no way you can replace an F-35 or F-22 or something like that that’s involved in this dynamic mission. No way,” he says.
“But there are a lot of missions where we can.”

Before that happens, he cautions, several issues must be resolved.  

A key one is airspace integration, or how unmanned systems would be accommodated into the traditional manned airspace. “National airspace integration will lead to international recognition of UAS,” Mathewson says. Nations must formulate rules and regulations on how to accommodate them in airspace for safe flight. “That’s what it’s all about: safety,” he says.  

Other concerns are technology-related: automation, sense-and-avoid systems and lightweight materials.

Once senior service leaders approve the plan, the task force will reach out to industry and academia to help realize the potential for unmanned systems in the future.
Reader Comments

Re: Unmanned Systems Could Fly Majority of Air Force Missions

I heard the F-22 can do so much, but has to have limiters on it so it wont put stress and kill pilots. Why don't they make an unmanned F-22 that is controlled from the ground. It would allow for the Air Force to take those limiters off and allow the F-22 do its limits and not the pilots.

Jesse Kinsey on 01/14/2010 at 10:50

Submit Your Reader's Comment Below
*Name
 
*eMail
 
The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
*Comments
 
 
Refresh
Please enter the text displayed in the image.
The picture contains 6 characters.
*Characters
  
*Legal Notice

NDIA is not responsible for screening, policing, editing, or monitoring your or another user's postings and encourages all of its users to use reasonable discretion and caution in evaluating or reviewing any posting. Moreover, and except as provided below with respect to NDIA's right and ability to delete or remove a posting (or any part thereof), NDIA does not endorse, oppose, or edit any opinion or information provided by you or another user and does not make any representation with respect to, nor does it endorse the accuracy, completeness, timeliness, or reliability of any advice, opinion, statement, or other material displayed, uploaded, or distributed by you or any other user. Nevertheless, NDIA reserves the right to delete or take other action with respect to postings (or parts thereof) that NDIA believes in good faith violate this Legal Notice and/or are potentially harmful or unlawful. If you violate this Legal Notice, NDIA may, in its sole discretion, delete the unacceptable content from your posting, remove or delete the posting in its entirety, issue you a warning, and/or terminate your use of the NDIA site. Moreover, it is a policy of NDIA to take appropriate actions under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and other applicable intellectual property laws. If you become aware of postings that violate these rules regarding acceptable behavior or content, you may contact NDIA at 703.522.1820.

 
 
  Bookmark and Share