Aerospace giant Boeing has decided that it needs to give serious thought to
cutting pilots out of the cockpit. The company has established a new
organisation dedicated to efforts in the expanding "unmanned systems" market
and aimed at fast-tracking the development of pilotless combat aircraft.
The first focus of the Unmanned Systems group will be the US Air Force's X-45
Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle (UCAV). Once this aircraft has been proved to a
sufficient degree, the division plans on developing prototypes aimed at
gathering intelligence, area surveillance and combat reconnaissance.
At one time, the US military said it had no desire to allow unmanned aircraft
to carry lethal payloads. However, following tests last year with Predator
UAV's firing Hellfire anti-tank missiles, and the subsequent deployment and
success of the pairing in killing tanks in Afghanistan, the Pentagon has
warmed rapidly to the idea.
As well as the sexy-looking X-45, the Boeing group will look at the
feasibility of cheap, expendable UAV's that could be sent on suicidal
missions, expensive but rugged designs that could survive nearly anything,
next-generation target drones that would give trainee pilots a real challenge,
and integrating elements of UAV control and hardware into front-line ground
For the big aviation players, the unmanned concept represents a fiscal
lifeline. The finalisation of the Joint Strike Fighter model has now put an
end to any new manned fighter contracting until at least the middle of this
century. To get new pork, the corporations have to find other niches.
Based in St.Louis, the new Unmanned Systems group will be headed up by Mike
Heinz and report to both Jerry Daniels, president and chief executive officer
of Boeing Military Aircraft and Missile Systems, and George Muellner,
president, Boeing Phantom Works, the company's advanced
"Unmanned systems are the future of aerospace," Daniels said. "We intend to
lead the transformation they will bring by leveraging the best from across
Boeing. That's what Mike's organization will do."
The unmanned systems organization will oversee current Boeing projects
including the two Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle programs sponsored by the U.S.
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency - one for the U.S. Air Force, the
other for the U.S. Navy. Boeing is also pursuing an unmanned concept based on
canard rotor wing technology.
Expect to see the aircraft appearing in a Tom Clancy novel some time soon!
--- --- --- --- ---
Useless hypotheses, etc.:
consciousness, phlogiston, philosophy, vitalism, mind, free will, qualia,
analog computing, cultural relativism, GAC, Cyc, Eliza, cryonics, individual
uniqueness, ego, human values, scientific relinquishment, malevolent AI,
We move into a better future in proportion as science displaces superstition.
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