Home » News » X-47B next gen UCAS completes first tests aboard USS TRUMAN

X-47B next gen UCAS completes first tests aboard USS TRUMAN

by Mike Hoffman on December 10, 2012

The Navy released the first photos from the schedule of tests the service has planned for the X-47B Unmanned Combat Aircraft System (UCAS) aboard the USS HARRY S TRUMAN.

The photos and video released so far are pretty striking. I have to agree with Defense News’ Chris Cavas, these shots look straight out of a science fiction movie or one of the Power Point slides that defense officials show to display the Navy of 2030 or 2040.

Navy officials have just started their battery of tests as controllers tested taxiing around the flight deck of the Truman. These photo and video are from those tests. (Video after the jump.)

Mobile readers should click here for the video.

 

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{ 91 comments… read them below or add one }

Mike December 10, 2012 at 4:38 pm

So out of curiosity? How does it take the directions? At first I assumed there was some sort of camera vision installed and its programmed to act with the specific hand signals but then I noticed a guy with some sort of joystick (the guy in the all green) who seemed to be controlled the UAV. Either way really cool vid.

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David December 10, 2012 at 4:51 pm

Currently a joystick. But they are actually working on a recognition system using cameras and interpreting the standard arm waving motions

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alexD December 10, 2012 at 4:52 pm

yes, there was a guy with a joystick-like device strapped to his forearm that was controlling it. I assume he would be taking signals from the guy giving hand signals, even though that guy is facing the aircraft.

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tmb2 December 10, 2012 at 7:40 pm

That UAV looks very imposing. It took me a few seconds to remember the plane wasn't actually taking directions from the yellow shirt and someone else was controlling it :)

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LCDR Joe Byers December 11, 2012 at 9:05 am

Why not give the Yellow Shirt the Control Stick? CJ Byers

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Ricorish December 13, 2012 at 5:15 am

The Yellow Shirts crunch enough jets!! Last thing you would ever want is one of them playing flight simulator….

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PrometheusGoneWild December 11, 2012 at 9:49 am

They could get rid of the Yellow shirt. He usually directs the pilot.
The problem with that is how will everyone else in the flight deck know what the aircraft is doing?
In the video there are a few other aircraft and a few people around. In a real deployment they flight deck would be packed and there would probably be 100 people on the flight deck all performing different jobs.
The flight deck is dangerous enough without a remote controlled aircraft running you over because you thought it was going to go one way and it goes another…..

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blight_ December 11, 2012 at 9:58 am

Then it depends on who has the joystick. Chances are someone on flight deck will take charge of launches (it'll probably be /the/ yellow shirt).

And here I was thinking that they would design robots to replace the deck hands, or design systems to facilitate automated refueling/rearming.

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lemoutonzelectrique December 12, 2012 at 2:09 pm

They certainly tests procedures on top the plane itself. I figure the Yellow Guy, in action will have to control traffic for both planes and drones mixed together. Must certainly help the other pilots at following the game and realize quickly the yellow guy talks to a robot. There certainly won't be any close-by joystick once in service to see action. Since it probably will prey mostly at night, if there's a guy in the loop needed to position it before launch, I'll bet he'll look through the drone's fancy night vision long before relying on his own blindness to roam around.

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Mike December 11, 2012 at 11:46 am

I had this thought about the whole replacing the joystick guy. What I think might be going on is that the camera vision in the UAV is "learning" the hand signals while responding to the joystick signals. That way, in the future they don't need the human control and instead are able to navigate themselves around. Or it could come down to, until the technology is furthered, that for a factor of safety, while the UAV is on the deck it is controlled by a person.

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blight_ December 11, 2012 at 12:41 pm

Imperfect gesture recognition could be dangerous…

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rob December 11, 2012 at 1:27 pm

imperfect gestures could be dangerous

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Jerseyguy! December 12, 2012 at 9:45 am

Better yet. Wait till we start sending these in multiples of 15 or 20 to perform what ever capabilities we retro fit them to perfom. Like the
Will Smith Movie "Independence Day". Welcome to the future…….

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Tundratubast December 13, 2012 at 11:28 am

My guess is that they were training the computer to recognize the visual direction of the flight deck director, "the yellow shirt" who is giving the hand signals. The technician, "green flight suit" was piloting the aircraft via a joy sticking, providing the same movements to the UAV's computer, training the computer to match visual signals to a digtial response. This is my best Cliff Kleven, "Its a well known fact" of what is occuriing in this video, based on my 20 years of being an Navy Aircrewman and a plane director.

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Mark December 10, 2012 at 4:40 pm

Notice how the weather is absent of all lightning strikes? ;-)

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TJRedneck December 13, 2012 at 6:32 am

I wonder if they named it Eddie? ;)

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Musson December 10, 2012 at 4:42 pm

I wonder how the flying wing effects the ability for the craft to get airborne? Ground effect off of a carrier deck should be significant – but going off the bow might lead to a significant loss of lift.

Any thoughts?

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Mark December 10, 2012 at 5:11 pm

Not any more different then any other plane.

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EdC December 11, 2012 at 8:54 am

I wouldn't tihnk it would differ much from any other carrier based plane. They know that stuff before hand as it;'s all done with computer simulations.

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David December 11, 2012 at 3:32 pm

A blended wing body greatly increases lift.

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Andy December 13, 2012 at 3:13 pm

turning into the wind puts about 40 knots across the deck, he will get lift…

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Greg December 15, 2012 at 9:32 am

No shit, that's why you take off at full after burner, just like every other Jet on the deck. You hit ETL and your set. Dumb comment.

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whoaa December 10, 2012 at 5:32 pm

Now let's not have Iran get this one, even though I really believe they dont have the first ones. And, its freaking awesome looking.

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terry lindest December 10, 2012 at 6:04 pm

what's the point in the ground guides ,giving signal's to an empty cockpit ?

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tchump December 10, 2012 at 6:55 pm

from the video, the guide is actually giving signals to the drone's operator, who is standing behind him.

I assume the reason he's giving signals facing the drone itself is to match up drone operations as closely as possible with manned operations.

That way, the ground guide and other crew can treat the drone just like any other plane on deck, and the only guy who needs to learn anything new or different is the drone operator.

Seems like that would be the best way to minimize confusion, misunderstandings, mistakes, and loss of life and property–everybody just keeps doing what they always do, and the drone fits right into that.

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XYZ December 11, 2012 at 1:08 am

except that it does add another guy on deck that isn't normally there. Hopefully they've worked all that out but I imagine it can get hectic (I have no experience with this stuff, just conjecture)

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EdC December 11, 2012 at 10:19 am

I think the aircraft is designed to recognize hand signals and the guy with the joystick was probably there in case anything went wrong. Like instead of a turn to the left it went into full afteburner!

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Jayson December 11, 2012 at 12:18 pm

I don't think they have AB but I get your thought and think of it throttling up.

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viulenz December 10, 2012 at 6:13 pm

Hopefully iraninas won't hack and take control of this one too.

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grumpyoldman December 11, 2012 at 11:30 pm

Who says they have gained control of any of our AUV's?

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PenguinMedic December 10, 2012 at 6:30 pm

All it needs is a red eye moving back & forth…

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BlackOwl18E December 10, 2012 at 6:52 pm

I don't think it will be able to stand up to the inevitable Cylon invasion.

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crackedlenses December 10, 2012 at 7:01 pm

That's what the rail-guns, Rods from God, and XM-25 Punisher are for ;)………..

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Stealth December 10, 2012 at 7:30 pm

I bet the fighter pilots must have been pissed, I'm gonna go watch that movie STEALTH now because of this.

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Mastro December 10, 2012 at 7:48 pm

Whatever you do- DON'T watch the movie Stealth!

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Thomas L. Nielsen December 11, 2012 at 3:40 am

What do you mean "don't watch"? Two words: Jessica. Biel.

Regards & all,

Thomas L. Nielsen
Luxembourg

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Sanem December 11, 2012 at 12:29 pm

I was thinking UCAV dogfighting Su-37, but she'll do…

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UAVGeek December 11, 2012 at 5:29 pm

Watch Macross Plus

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Lance December 10, 2012 at 8:09 pm

Id feel more convinced when they land it in choppy seas if not on a icy deck.

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Tinto December 11, 2012 at 4:36 am

Willing to think, the XB will get more OK 3rs, than most jet jocks.

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PiercingArrowz December 11, 2012 at 3:42 pm

F-18s already land themselves, and have been for years.

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Chase Messer December 10, 2012 at 8:28 pm

did they actually cat launch that thing?

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Dale Matthews December 13, 2012 at 3:15 am

Yeah from a cat in the ground at PAX River.

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Noha307 December 10, 2012 at 8:29 pm

I noticed there's no plane guard…

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Dale Matthews December 13, 2012 at 3:17 am

Not needed for Flt Deck Taxi tests.

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Noha307 December 13, 2012 at 4:05 pm

Yeah, I was trying to be silly 'cause this is an unmanned bird, but I completely managed to miss that fact.

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Jay December 11, 2012 at 4:25 am

It's a Grumman bird Let's get a cat back in the fleet.
How about: Shadow Cat

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blight_ December 11, 2012 at 10:03 am

Thunder Cat!

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RobD December 11, 2012 at 12:51 pm

Ghost Cat

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MarsBar December 11, 2012 at 1:07 pm

Kit Kat!

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gonger December 11, 2012 at 4:49 pm

Iron Leopard.

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Nadnerbus December 12, 2012 at 3:27 am

Something more DOD sounding. Joint Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle Cat. JCat!

Must please the Goldwater/ Nichols mafia.

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blight_ December 12, 2012 at 9:40 am

Joint Networked Universal Common Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle?

JOINUCUCAV?

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Thomas L. Nielsen December 12, 2012 at 10:35 am

"Fast Unmanned Common Kinematically Upgradeable Performer"?

(Sorry, couldn't help myself – for what it's worth I am a great believer in the future of unmanned air vehicles).

Regards & all,

Thomas L. Nielsen
Luxembourg

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Leroy December 11, 2012 at 4:44 am

OK seriously building drones is all well and good, but what happens when someone works out a way to jam the control signals? Seriously this is a major weakness and they seem not to care?

I mean as soon as I see a load of drones heading towards me, I would start jamming the SOB's like no ones business!

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blight_ December 11, 2012 at 10:02 am

More likely than not, the drones will be programmed to bomb objectives, and maybe have some adaptive programming for self-defense or to vary their routes.

In the '80s TLAMs used TERCOM to get to their destination, but rigidly followed preprogrammed routes. With GPS there's greater flexibility in getting from point A to point B, but one of TERCOM's advantages was it could pictorally recognize the final target. With GPS you have to have some faith in the accuracy of the coords you will be bombing. Alternatively, if UCAV can recognize targets, it may be able to autonomously correct a GPS fix.

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EdC December 11, 2012 at 10:17 am

this isn't a drone. it's a pilotless aircraft. it's programmed with a pre destined flightpath. I assume it can be altered if necessary but it's not designed like our drones. Completely different animal.

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blight_ December 11, 2012 at 12:41 pm

"Drone" is a generic term for an unmanned aircraft, but they should be appropriately subdivided into "teleoperated vehicles" and "autonomous vehicles".

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STemplar December 12, 2012 at 1:15 am

Thats the trick though isnt it? You have to see them. Then the whole notion of jamming is kind of thrown out there wildly. It is possible to jam GPS signals in a local area but it requires considerable power and depending on what we r bombing 6 ' circle of error accuracy might not be needed. An oil refinery for example is place and not terribly submunition tolerant. 2000 lb bombs make pretty big pot holes in runways.

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STemplar December 12, 2012 at 1:15 am

Oil refinery is a big place.

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blight_ December 12, 2012 at 9:42 am

INS should also put you on target, and if you use image-based recognition, bombs away. Big whoop.

Then again, if you're ambitious and use visual camoflauge, such as mothballing a giant oil refinery underneath digicam and false panels to break up the profile, then build a deceptive decoy structure nearby and augment with GPS jammers, infra-red decoys and put missile batteries around the decoy…

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Dale Matthews December 13, 2012 at 3:23 am

How do you think Predator flys from US to Australia without a pilot aboard.?

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Dfens December 11, 2012 at 8:07 am

1903 — Wright Bros fly the first airplane, 45 years later in 1948 the X-1 breaks the sound barrier, 64 years later the first UAV lands on a carrier. Anyone see a problem here?

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warspony December 11, 2012 at 9:27 am

yep, in 13 years Skynet will activate and annihilate the "cancer"

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blight_ December 11, 2012 at 10:00 am

They're all aircraft milestones, but not necessarily related.

What should be more troubling is that in WW2 V1's and V2's were inertially guided, then the homing torpedoes came out by war's end, the Firebees were teleoperated by C-130's and GCS through Vietnam and by the '90s we're teleoperating UAVs by satellite.

And it takes sixty years to go from radio-controlled (by nearby mothership aircraft) torpedoes to unmanned drones landing on a carrier. And carriers are a mature technology, so…

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projob66 December 11, 2012 at 10:06 am

there is actually a little guy in the cockpit flying it called "Rocket J. Squirrel". And the guy with the antlers standing behind the cat taxi director needs no introduction…. I wonder what happens when its black and no moon and no horizon and the deck is moving more than the lens can deal…. I wonder if they have to clear the deck while the automagic FCLS trys to hit the 3 wire… First Carrier that Kamikazes itself wins a new "Battle K"..

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robertro2 December 11, 2012 at 10:15 am

great news when they fly it over IRAN and they get it what is the next move???

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doningram December 11, 2012 at 10:23 am

the drone is usually controled by an e-4 or civilian, located in some secure location, that has lots of training once it is airborne. take off and landing are mainly controled by the UAV onboard computers with an overide from the ldo onboard. this will be a great boost to the USA aircraft inventory, i saw them in action in "the stan's" they are awesom and welcome to the boots on the ground. i wonder if the UAV can be refueled inflight then we could keep it in the air until it needs reloading or maint.

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David December 11, 2012 at 3:38 pm

This is one of the first true "drones". Though I'm sure there will be an operator in the loop the operator will be more of an observer rather then an operator. The drone is made to fly the mission on its own. It isn't the typical predator that takes off and lands on it own but is controlled the rest of the time.

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Steve B December 11, 2012 at 11:36 am

I belive that UAV aerial refueling has already been demonstrated.

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Sanem December 11, 2012 at 12:37 pm

at some point the UCAV will be able to optically recognise crewmen's hand signals, think xbox connect ;) or the onboard pilot or crewman with controller in hand steers it directly

jamming is extremely hard to do, if it was easy what would stop other countries from controlling guided missiles and satellites?

the big kicker is what effect this will have on the F-35, and the question why the USN is very actively pursuing a program that directly conflicts with the F-35
why buy the F-35 when you can have a combination of F-18E/F's and UCAVs? especially in any future Pacific scenario, where the UCAVs vastly superior range and endurance over anything but a B-2 makes it the only game in town

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Dale Matthews December 13, 2012 at 3:26 am

$$$$$

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Michael December 11, 2012 at 12:43 pm

cool; fn right

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Iyaoyas December 11, 2012 at 1:02 pm
DHH December 11, 2012 at 2:24 pm

China will have one in no time. They just need to need to give Iran a few million dollars for that drone they hacked and have in storage.

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Al Carter December 11, 2012 at 3:00 pm

Can you imagine rack storage of these things? We might be able to double or triple the number of aircraft on a carrier! OK, they're scary and disturbingly revolutionary, but let's take the leap. Dump the F-35. Unmanned aircraft are the future.

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will December 11, 2012 at 3:35 pm

this is the answer to fiscal cliff requirement for spending cuts…no more pilots, flight school etc etc…lol, j/k so don't get your tailhook bent outa shape

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will December 11, 2012 at 3:38 pm

then again this could be another like patton's cardboard army in england as feint for norma….ndy for friends in china to see…produced by same guys that did the faux moon landing in 69…again j/k

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C Smeigh December 11, 2012 at 3:53 pm

It looks, sounds, and is called UCAV just like the UAV in the movie “Stealth”. Hollywood again ahead of reality. Great addition to the fleet.

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ltfunk4 December 12, 2012 at 3:09 am

Our military with ucavs is amazing similar to the french were with tanks – considering them armored horses. History shows us that the real revolution will come from the rising powers such as china not the falling incuments.

We you see our militaries fixation on preventing casualties with it's total failure to understand insurgencies its hard not to come to the conclusion that even small and middle ranked powers will shift thier strategies to directly targeting our population aiming for mass casualties as a pudent deterrent.

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MetairieMike December 12, 2012 at 9:13 am

Where did you ever get the idea that "real revolutions" in the military come only from "rising powers?" Prussia (following the defeats by Napoleon) and America (following the defeat in Vietnam)both had armies that were great – then were defeated – then reinvented themselves to become great again. It has more to do with leadership than whether a nation is a rising power or in decline.
France, for instance, has been in "decline" as a 'World Power" since just after the end of World War One; but it still has a first-class military by today's world standard, is innovative, forward thinking and continues to contributed a lot to the advance of military technology. I did a number of joint ops with the French and they were absolutely top notch, with great equipment, great leadership, and motivated soldiers/airmen. I could say the same thing about the Japanese, the ROKs, the Danes and a few others.
So 'revolutions' (military or otherwise) can come from anywhere so long as there is the will and a need to adapt.

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blight_ December 12, 2012 at 9:39 am

I don't see the connection between armored horses, tanks and UCAVs.

The French built very powerful tanks, but distributed them piecemeal to infantry units, rather than concentrating them into what we would call ACR's or armored divisions today.

If anything, knights on horseback *were* concentrated into shock elements that *were* thrown into peasant armies, but we thought the lesson of the gun era was that shock could be defeated with fire; and it could until the shock element could survive guns (tanks), and then the tank was distributed widely to kick the door in for infantry, who at the beginning of the gun era became the arm of decision.

"History shows us that the real revolution will come from the rising powers such as china not the falling incuments."

Which revolutions? There's Bolivar, but that was a literal revolution to free South America from the colonials. Or maybe the naval innovations of Drake et al against the incumbent Spainards? (Which ignores the fact that even after the loss of the Armada, Spain was still Top Dog for centuries).

Second paragraph remains on target. The problem with using the threat of civilian attack to deter a military response is that it means a terrified populace may support the /pre-emptive/ attack to minimize civilian losses, and pre-emptive attacks will be more likely to trigger wars that didn't need to be triggered in the first place.

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Sergei December 12, 2012 at 3:33 pm

We all know DT has a hard time finding things to post so time for us to help get this site back out of the gravyyard and into the light.

What about the 200 mill f-16 order being sent off to Egypt at out expense?

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T075 December 12, 2012 at 8:10 pm
Jeffrey Burroughs December 13, 2012 at 9:31 am

Another waste of money, just like the F35 program $107 million per aircraft with no engine. Probably taking the money out of the retiree healthcare fund.

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Thomas L. Nielsen December 13, 2012 at 4:03 pm

"Another waste of money, just like the F35 program" – Your reasoning (if any) behind that statement?

"Probably taking the money out of the retiree healthcare fund" – Same as above.

Regards & all,

Thomas L. Nielsen
Luxembourg

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Guest December 17, 2012 at 12:38 am

What an incredibly stupid thing to say.

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JackBlack December 13, 2012 at 4:19 pm

Ok, good lets see it land.

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jrfsenior December 13, 2012 at 5:55 pm

WOW!

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elmondohummus December 11, 2012 at 9:25 am

I'm imagining this conversation between bystanders:

One: "Is that a UFO?"
Other: "No, it's a flying robotic remote control aircraft".

The future is NOW! :D

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EJ257 December 12, 2012 at 3:00 pm

::cough::loophole::cough::

I didn't think much of it at the time but looking back at it now I do wonder why the aliens have pilots in their fighters. A race that is advance enough to travel interstellar distances you think they would have mastered UCAVs.

On the X-47B I thought they were planning on having the guy with the joystick even on normal deployment. The pilot in the remote operations room (is that what it's called?) wouldn't have the situational awareness on deck as a pilot in a cockpit would. It makes sense to have someone "local", on the deck who has a better view to have control.

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