Autonomous UAV air-to-air combat capability

Sub-scale and Full-Scale Aerial Targets and RPAs - Remotely-Piloted Aircraft
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irishpyro93

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Unread post03 Nov 2011, 18:10

I was wondering what the current status is of unmanned aircraft with air-to-air combat capability. Are there any ongoing projects by the big aerospace firms to develop this? It seems that there are certainly efforts being made to build an unmanned long-range bomber aircraft, but I haven't been able to find much info about air-to-air systems. It has been said for years that drones will soon effectively replace the human fighter pilot; are there any indications as to when this will actually occur?

Note: I am referring to systems without a human operator in direct control of the aircraft.
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southernphantom

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Unread post29 Nov 2011, 02:02

For political reasons, I wouldn't count on it anytime soon. Meaning at least 2060.
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tacf-x

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Unread post30 Nov 2011, 00:51

Modern AI is simply not advanced enough to be trusted with the quick critical decision making requirements needed in air to air combat. International laws would probably prohibit it anyway for a LONG time.
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Unread post05 Dec 2011, 15:48

tacf-x you make a good point in the limits being critical decision trust and international law. Anyone who has played a combat flight sim knows that "AI" can be written to engage in air to air combat both BVR and WVR. The only difference is instead of controlling a virtual plane with virtual systems/physics/weapons it would be a real plane with real systems/physics/weapons.
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thestealthfighterguy

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Unread post05 Dec 2011, 20:56

sprstdlyscottsmn wrote:tacf-x you make a good point in the limits being critical decision trust and international law. Anyone who has played a combat flight sim knows that "AI" can be written to engage in air to air combat both BVR and WVR. The only difference is instead of controlling a virtual plane with virtual systems/physics/weapons it would be a real plane with real systems/physics/weapons.


December 2002 over Iraq. A Mig-25 vs a US Predator armed with Stinger missiles. Both aircraft fired one missile each. The Predator's stinger ran out if fuel before it hit the Mig. The Mig's missile hit the UAV and shot it down. This incident was the first in history where a manned and an unmanned aircraft did battle. IMO that may have been one dead Mig if the Predator was armed with a Aim-9X or Aim-120. This will not be the last time we see this. To date no UCAV has been built for purely A2A combat but it is coming, I'll be it slowly.

There will be a man in the loop for a long time to come.
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lb

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Unread post06 Dec 2011, 05:15

This will be a process. First UCAS will start being capable of defensive air. The next jump is probably WVR offensive air against other UCAS, helicopters, etc. At some point UCAS will be used to extend the sensor and/or weapons envelopes of manned fighters. The jump to an unmanned aircraft doing air superiority against the full range of threats is a very long way off and runs into two main issues.

We're nowhere near complete autonomous operations and while one keeps hearing AI's will good enough one day this has been heard for a long time now. Remote operating a partly autonomous aircraft brings it's own problems especially relating to communication security. Another reason why prior to unmanned air superiority aircraft we first see data linked unmanned aircraft supporting manned.

There's been some discussion of the NGAD/F/A-XX being optionally manned. It will be interesting to see how the concept of operations evolves there. Supporting manned fighters is probably where unmanned air superiority fighters really begin the progression.
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tacf-x

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Unread post06 Dec 2011, 05:35

thestealthfighterguy wrote:
sprstdlyscottsmn wrote:tacf-x you make a good point in the limits being critical decision trust and international law. Anyone who has played a combat flight sim knows that "AI" can be written to engage in air to air combat both BVR and WVR. The only difference is instead of controlling a virtual plane with virtual systems/physics/weapons it would be a real plane with real systems/physics/weapons.


December 2002 over Iraq. A Mig-25 vs a US Predator armed with Stinger missiles. Both aircraft fired one missile each. The Predator's stinger ran out if fuel before it hit the Mig. The Mig's missile hit the UAV and shot it down. This incident was the first in history where a manned and an unmanned aircraft did battle. IMO that may have been one dead Mig if the Predator was armed with a Aim-9X or Aim-120. This will not be the last time we see this. To date no UCAV has been built for purely A2A combat but it is coming, I'll be it slowly.

There will be a man in the loop for a long time to come.
TSFG


The predator's stinger was actually seduced by the exhaust plume of the MiG's missile while it was boosting. Predator couldn't have carried an AIM-9X or AIM-120 as it lacks the software and hardware to take full advantage of said systems. It lacks an A/A radar and the systems needed to send command updates to an AMRAAM. It also lacks the software to cue the AIM-9X and AMRAAM to its radar since it lacks the aforementioned A/A radar system. Henceforth it will be reduced to lock on before launch with regards to AIM-9X and the AMRAAM would be useless since it needs some sort of target data and the AAS-52 isn't optimized for Air to air engagements.

What I'm getting at here is that you would need to upgrade a Predator significantly in order to give it the ability to be truly potent in air combat. Even still I would gladly take an F-16 over it anyday. :wink:

As for in the future, who knows. Maybe someday AI will be advanced enough to take over fully but by then we'd probably be running away from HK drones as they wipe us out in their crusade to purge the world of humanity for enslaving them for so long.
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Unread post08 Dec 2011, 06:21

As far as I am aware autonomous aerial refueling has already been validated with manned stand in systems flying with the same programs as would be found on an operational UCAV. Plus, this is being developed as a capability of the X-47B, which, when it makes its first carrier trials sometime in the coming years, will be a game changer for the long endurance and persistence missions.
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tacf-x

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Unread post08 Dec 2011, 18:10

That's true, but the point that X-47Bs won't be flying air-air missions anytime soon still stands. Where something like the X-47B will become useful is in the persistence missions like you said. No longer will we have to worry about pilots dozing off or crapping their pants on an 8 hour sortie.
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Unread post08 Dec 2011, 19:19

I thought this thread was about air to air refueling! Ooops. I agree with the others that it is more a political decision than a technology issue. Imagine a giant conveyor belt of armed UCAVS stretching from Taiwan to Japan, armed with both air to air and air to ground weapons, Chrome Dome style, that is a serious capability.
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sanem

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Unread post10 Dec 2011, 14:55

- are big companies working on air-to-air UAVs?

not to my knownledge, I don't even think there's any serious concept work on it

in the 70's the USAF did do a test program, where they pitched manned F-4's against remotely operated, unmanned F-4's

at first the UAV pilots lost most battles, because they had to get used to flying remotely. but after a while they got the hang of it and defeated the manned F-4's every time, because they could pull more g's

the USAF then gave the program to the USN, to see if they could use remote controlled submarines for under-water combat (perhaps someone took the order "put it at the bottom of the ocean" a bit too literally?)


- can UAVs fire air-to-air missiles?

yes, the Predator is qualified for the Stinger and the Reaper for the Sidewinder

in theory you can also launch an AMRAAM from any UAV that can carry it, as you don't actually need to have a radar or sensor on the UAV itself. all the AMRAAM needs to know is the target location (which can come from any source, like AWACS, fighter jets or a ground station, possibly using the UAV as data relay). the missiles does the rest using inertial navigation system (INS) and its own radar

so a Reaper could be armed with AMRAAM missiles (the USAF was looking into it in 2002), as can any of the UCAVs being worked on (X-47b, Phantom Ray, nEuron) if it fits in their payload bays (which it does)


- can a UAV fight in air combat?

as the Predator proved, it can WVR

BVR is as yet unproven, but this should actually be easier to do, so I'd say yes (especially for stealthy UCAVs, who can sneak up on an enemy)
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Unread post13 Dec 2011, 08:20

Anything an aerial technical system can present to a human pilot can be discerned, analyzed, interpreted and acted upon by a machine today with equal or superior performance adjudged by human standards. ANYTHING. The unit patches will leak out soon enough. 0.02
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Unread post13 Dec 2011, 16:20

Salute!

This thread is starting to get REEEAAAALL interesting

Sanem A few sources would be of value here. Anecdotal evidence such as I and other folks have provided sound great but are just personal views of our personal experiences.

I don't agree with velocity to the extent the engineers cannot program all the variables that HAL uses to make a decision. Simply recognizing conditions real fast ain't enough. And if the program doesn't look for certain "conditions". then a human might not be as quick, but more effective in the fight.

At the bar we talked about sending our robot wingies in ahead of us to shoot first as well as be bait, and we would fly "wing", picking off the bandits attacking the robots. We sure as hell didn't want them BEHIND us!!!

Of course, we used some decoys in Desert Storm, and they seemed to have been valuable for the Navy Hornets coming in right behind them. Then there was the Quail of the 60's that the buffs carried.

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Unread post14 Dec 2011, 03:35

the Quail, wasn't that supposed to hide the RCS of a B-52 the same was the towed decoy does for fast jets today?
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Unread post14 Dec 2011, 04:56

Salute!

Prolly some stuff on Wiki about the Quail.

It was a small drone with the RCS of a buff and could be launched "x" miles from a high-threat area to distract the PVO.

The advent of the SRAM and Houndog improved the Buff's capability to penetrate, as they could be launched at low alt and then "pave the way". The SRAM had a better nav system than the buff at one point in time, and helped the buff navigator. Imagine that? Later improvements for the Buff made up for that.

Gotta research the ones that the Navy used in Desert Storm, but word on the street was they helped a lot getting the Hornets and last of the Slufs into the fight.

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