Magazine article National Defense

Pilot-Less Combat Aircraft Not Ready for Carrier Ops

Magazine article National Defense

Pilot-Less Combat Aircraft Not Ready for Carrier Ops

Article excerpt

Unmanned combat aircraft need to overcome significant technical and operational hurdles before they can even be considered suitable for operations aboard Navy flattops, said Rear Adm. John Chenevey, program executive officer for strike weapons and unmanned aviation.

The Navy currently is funding a research program for an unmanned combat aircraft, called UCAV-N. It would be an F-16-size air vehicle that lands and takes off from ships. The current UCAV-N is "a stretch in technology," said Chenevey during a conference hosted by the Office of Naval Research. The UCAV, he added, "is the future of tactical aviation, [but only] as an addition to manned aviation."

On a scale of zero to 10, the current technology would get a six, Chenevey said. Another challenge is to figure out the concept of operations: how the UCAV will be used, how it will fit in the air wing, he said.

The more formidable obstacle that UCAVs will encounter is the culture of Navy aviation.

The thought of having a 30,000-pound unmanned airplane landing on 300 feet on a carrier flight deck is "a tough sell," said Chenevey. "We have a Long way to go before technology will help us demonstrate that we can land this thing 999 times out of a thousand in a 3-foot box," he said. …

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