Thursday, April 23, 2015

Manned aircraft needed for future Air Force, as Navy moves unmanned

Manned aircraft needed for future Air Force, as Navy moves unmanned: The Air Force will not follow the Navy into an all-unmanned future strike fleet, as

pilots will be needed in the cockpits of most of its combat fleet for the foreseeable future.

While the Air Force will increase its reliance on remotely piloted and possibly autonomous aircraft, there will be no replacement for a fighter pilot, Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said Wednesday.

"Having the human brain as a sensor in combat is still immensely important in our view," Welsh said at an event sponsored by Defense One in Washington, D.C.

Welsh's comments follow a statement last week from Navy Secretary Ray Mabus that the service's F-35C "should be, and almost certainly will be, the last manned strike fighter aircraft the Department of the Navy will ever buy or fly." The Navy will need fighter pilots for possible dog fighting, but unmanned aircraft will handle strike missions, Mabus said.

"Unmanned systems, particularly autonomous ones, have to be the new normal in ever-increasing areas," Mabus said April 15 at the Sea-Air-Space Exposition outside Washington.