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The Navy’s New Drone Superweapon Begins Tests

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The Navy’s new X-47B drone has set off on a series of trials aboard the USS Harry S. Truman.

According to Defense News, “The carrier will undertake three weeks of tests with the X-47B, both in port at Norfolk and underway along the Atlantic coast. Engineers and sailors will use a hand-held control display unit to control the aircraft moving along the carrier’s deck.”

This will be the first time that a carrier is host to an unmanned aircraft capable of mimicking the most difficult of all flight maneuvers, the aircraft carrier takeoff and landing, and the occasion marks a paradigm shift in air warfare.

 


Artist’s conception. Image credit: U.S. Navy
 

The shift is not immediately apparent yet and so not a few analysts and pundits have recently raised alarm in regard to recently apparent breakthroughs in Chinese naval capability such as carrier killer missiles and the carrier landing, all of which could certainly seem threatening. But China is working with legacy technologies. In the future, war will be fought by drones.

 


The drone being loaded on the USS Harry S. Truman. Image by U.S. Navy photo by MC3 Lyle H. Wilkie III
 

And the U.S. is a leader in drone technology. Consider, for instance, the Navy’s X-47B drone. It has range of approximately 3,000 miles, according to David Axe at Wired. This range allows U.S. carriers to remain outside of the strike envelope of virtually all of China’s weapons systems, including the carrier killer missiles, which have range of only 1,900 miles. 

What does the future hold? Smaller, more lethal drones launched from homeland bastions and able to fly around the globe at hypersonic speeds, reaching targets anywhere within minutes of launch. 

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About A. Jurek

A. Jurek is one of the editors at Blogcritics. Contact me at: a.jurek@blogcritics.org
  • Dr Dreadful

    We often hear military experts predicting that war in the future will become more and more automated, fought remotely by drones and robots, with little to no collateral damage in the form of human casualties and infrastructure.

    Which does lead one to wonder, if it gets to that stage, what the point of warfare would be at all.

  • John Lake

    Remarkable photos, remarkable piece. Ideally we might suppose the casualties that make war unpleasant will all be on the other side. Imagine, full size planes flown from remote locations. We hope the age of video games will produce drone pilots who can sense the importance of what they do from a remote location. It is of paramount importance as we see to minimize civilian death.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    IMO we’re not in the Information Age anymore – we’re in the Age of Wonders…and the drones and the cyberwar capabilities are the A-of-W version of the MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) doctrine.

    Eisenhower’s warning about the military-industrial complex has come true, and said complex seems to be perpetuating the arms race throughout the world. Fortunately for all, there seems to be a general understanding spreading among the developed world (including much of the developing world, too) that while defense capabilities are still very important, large-scale wars are too expensive and destructive to be worth it. What’s more, the larger military powers are coming to realize that cell phones and social media have enabled asymmetrical warfare to the point that the digital pen is outdueling the sword at almost every turn – witness what happened in Egypt and Libya (and the insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan), and what’s happening now in Syria. Without cell phones and social media, these wouldn’t have stood a ghost of a chance at success. Technology has advanced to the point that ten men with cell phones and AK-47’s in a city can effectively immobilize an entire infantry battalion. The time of big, lumbering armies is slowly but surely winding down.

    It is as I’ve pointed out several times: in all human history, even given America’s wars in the Middle East and the Rwandan genocide, relatively speaking, the world as a whole is more peaceful now (since the disintegration of the USSR) than ever before.

    And that’s a very, very good thing.

  • Igor

    Futile, all futile. Traditional ideas of war were finished 50 years ago. Of course that doesn’t stop the generals from marshaling their tanks and battalions and air forces and going to war again, in a sort of full-scale re-enactment of an Avalon Hill re-enactment of some WW2 battle, with fleshy soldiers and metal arms rather than cardboard cutouts and a pair of dice. It’s childish.

    Incidentally, have any of you fans of drone warfare ever flown RC models? That might disabuse you of the efficacy of drone warfare.