The Future Of Naval Air Combat Is Mysterious And Robotic

Illustration for article titled The Future Of Naval Air Combat Is Mysterious And Robotic

The future of unmanned combat and America's aircraft carriers remains locked in a semi-clandestine procurement tug of war under the the UCLASS (Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance & Strike) program.


Some think the Navy's first fixed-wing combat drone should be more for surveillance, while others think they should be more capable of striking targets deep inside enemy territory. We will have to wait to see what the Navy decides, but relegating unmannned combat vehicle capability to flying almost exclusively information, surveillance and reconnaissance tracks hundreds of miles from the Carrier Strike Group would be unfair to the technology's potential.

The ability for a unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) to strike strategic targets and air defense nodes at twice, to three times the un-refueled distance of a comparable manned fighter is a game changing technology and the faster we field it the better off America will be strategically.


More on UCLASS and other topics surrounding the truth about unmanned combat air vehicles will be presented in an upcoming special feature here at Foxtrot Alpha. In the meantime enjoy a glimpse of the future seen in the dramatic picture above.

Picture via Northrop Grumman

Tyler Rogoway is a defense journalist and photographer who maintains the website Foxtrot Alpha for You can reach Tyler with story ideas or direct comments regarding this or any other defense topic via the email address

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Anything that keeps pilots out of harm's way is a good thing. I wish we had had that technology during the Viet Nam war so that unmanned planes and drones could have inflicted damage on the enemy without all those pilots either killed or spending time in the Hanoi Hilton. Who could have imagined that Star Wars and Buck Rogers were in actuality, prophetic prognosticators of the future. [As an aside, the TV version of Buck Rogers had an episode where Buck was able to outfly and outfight the robots because the robotic flight was predictable while the human flight was inscrutable.]