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The Pentagon has proclaimed time and time again that it seems as though manned-unmanned teaming, collaboration between piloted planes and autonomous drones/robotic wingmen, as a key component of future warfare. Recent news has only facilitated this point of view.
As of late, the US Navy and its industry partners recently conducted several flight tests that demonstrated the ability of manned F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jets to team with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). This is one of the Navy’s steps to a manned-unmanned future.
Fedscoop.com reports that a series of four flight tests recently conducted by the F/A-18 and EA-18G Program Office (PMA-265) at Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division, California, successfully demonstrated the ability of a Block III Super Hornet to command and control three drones, according to a Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) press release.
“During the flight tests, F/A-18 pilots entered commands into a third-party tablet instructing the UAVs to perform various maneuvers used in combat missions. The tablet was connected to the Block III’s adjunct processor, which transmitted these commands to the UAVs. The UAVs successfully carried out all commands given by the pilots,” Navy representatives proclaimed. The press release did not identify what types of UAVs took part in the tests or what combat maneuvers they performed.
These new experiments act to further develop and refine technologies that could potentially be incorporated into Navy platforms, and over platforms around the world. The analysis of the data captured in these trials is crucial to the teaming of manned and unmanned vehicles.
“Future fighter pilots will be the quarterback of the skies, orchestrating commands and controlling UAVs from the integrated Block III touch-screen cockpit,” said Mark Sears, Boeing vice president and program manager of F/A-18 and EA-18G programs. “Block III Super Hornet is the bridge to the future and is a risk reducer for the Navy that is delivering on teaming, networking and interoperability now.”
“As part of a Joint All-Domain Command and Control network, teams of UAV conducting ISR missions led by the latest Super Hornets equipped with network-enabled data fusion and advanced capabilities would provide warfighters across the Joint Force with significant information advantage,” Scott Dickson, Boeing’s director for multi-domain integration, said in a press release.