Moderators: richierich, ua900, PanAm_DC10, hOMSaR

 
User avatar
AirlineCritic
Topic Author
Posts: 1756
Joined: Sat Mar 14, 2009 1:07 pm

Musk on fighter jets vs. drones

Mon Mar 02, 2020 2:04 pm

Thoughts?

https://www.businessinsider.com/elon-mu ... ?r=US&IR=T

Elon Musk says the US's F-35 stealth jet 'would have no chance' against a 'drone fighter plane'
 
User avatar
Dutchy
Posts: 11506
Joined: Sat Nov 03, 2007 1:25 am

Re: Musk on fighter jets vs. drones

Mon Mar 02, 2020 4:14 pm

Musk must stay with its business, big words from him. (and I do have a lot of respect for Elon Musk and his achievements in his life).
Many happy landings, greetings from The Netherlands!
 
texl1649
Posts: 1238
Joined: Thu Aug 02, 2007 5:38 am

Re: Musk on fighter jets vs. drones

Mon Mar 02, 2020 4:31 pm

Agreed, Dutch, but he’s not particularly wrong, if he defined the engagement (such as, just as an example, a group of 3 lower cost drone AI vehicles vs. an F-35 perhaps, and similar data links/competitive weaponry generations for each).

He’s been frustrated by the costs/restraints Space X has encountered contracting with the US Gov’t vs. the “majors” (aka LMT/BA). It’s unsurprising he’d look to an analysis/discussion of dramatically redefining combat aircraft costs/tactics given his track record at Tesla/Space X, particularly given the 20 year saga of F-35 development costs/criticisms.
 
DigitalSea
Posts: 198
Joined: Sun Sep 08, 2013 6:28 pm

Re: Musk on fighter jets vs. drones

Mon Mar 02, 2020 4:39 pm

He's not wrong and with where China's going, it's inevitable and we will adapt as necessary. In Top Gun 3, Tom will be the name of the fighter A.I.
 
Ozair
Posts: 5100
Joined: Mon Jan 31, 2005 8:38 am

Re: Musk on fighter jets vs. drones

Mon Mar 02, 2020 8:58 pm

I posted Elon’s article in the F-35 thread and Zaphod had some good realistic and accurate comments. Here is another article that shows Elon is likely, not for the first time, firing from the hip and likely doesn’t really understand the intricacies of fighter or even most military scenarios.

Sorry, Elon, fighter pilots will fly and fight for a long time

In a room packed full of U.S. Air Force personnel this past week, SpaceX founder Elon Musk issued a bold pronouncement: “The fighter jet era has passed. ... Locally autonomous drone warfare is where it’s at, where the future will be.” The reaction in the room was immediate — a collective pause.

News headlines around the world highlighted this pronouncement, and online debates erupted. While Musk certainly succeeded in being provocative, his forecast is less than accurate. Despite impressive gains in autonomous technology, manned fighter aircraft will continue to provide the underpinnings of the air superiority mission for decades into the future.

To put it simply, fighter aviation is one of the most demanding professions in the world. Only a small percentage of individuals can successfully master years’ worth of training and graduate to an operational fighter squadron. Even then it takes years of additional experience in a fighter cockpit to be competent. Nor does the quest stop there, with experienced fighter pilots having to train on a near-daily basis to maintain their skills.

The reason for this is simple: Qualified fighter pilots must be able to master highly aggressive, three-dimensional maneuvering at rates exceeding twice the speed of sound in a highly dynamic battlespace, operate highly sophisticated mission equipment, and face adversaries doing everything in their power to kill them. Success means doing it all over the next day. Failure generally equals death or capture.

Contrast that with the present state of artificial intelligence in a far simpler scenario. Musk’s self-driving cars operate in two dimensions, with predictable traffic laws, and understood human behavior. At the end of 2019, three Tesla cars using their “autopilot” feature crashed. One ran a red light, and the collision resulted in the death of two people. Another hit a parked firetruck with fatal results, and the third hit a police car on a highway. This is not to minimize the accomplishments of self-driving technology. However, it is prudent to point out that the potential of near-term and midterm autonomy should not be conflated with science fiction-like objectives.

...

https://www.defensenews.com/opinion/com ... long-time/

I agree with the comments made in the F-35 thread that the future of manned fighters appears pretty certain and may actually continue further than some expected through the use of loyal wingman concepts. That may allow manned fighters, and the tactical benefits that provide of being close to the battle, to overcome both the communications issues as well as the philosophical issues of fighting wars remotely.

Additionally, I always find it amusing when commentary compares a manned fighter that has been tested and certified to its flight envelope against drones that today operate with significantly more restricted flight envelopes. I don’t see significantly more capable loyal wingmen emerging either, they all appear to be reasonably safe designs that likely won’t manoeuvre to the extend current manned fighters will. That doesn’t mean more capable drones won’t happen but it does require likely close the same financial investments in a development and testing phase to get drone performance similar to what 4.5 and 5th gen aircraft have today.
 
DigitalSea
Posts: 198
Joined: Sun Sep 08, 2013 6:28 pm

Re: Musk on fighter jets vs. drones

Mon Mar 02, 2020 10:23 pm

Ozair wrote:
Additionally, I always find it amusing when commentary compares a manned fighter that has been tested and certified to its flight envelope against drones that today operate with significantly more restricted flight envelopes. I don’t see significantly more capable loyal wingmen emerging either, they all appear to be reasonably safe designs that likely won’t manoeuvre to the extend current manned fighters will. That doesn’t mean more capable drones won’t happen but it does require likely close the same financial investments in a development and testing phase to get drone performance similar to what 4.5 and 5th gen aircraft have today.


Do you think there could exist any UCAV concepts in the black world that may be just as capable or more capable than today's 5th gens (in terms of flight envelope)?
 
Reddevil556
Posts: 216
Joined: Thu Dec 27, 2018 2:09 pm

Re: Musk on fighter jets vs. drones

Tue Mar 03, 2020 12:19 am

Musk is 100% wrong. Why? Because it’s not who has the drones, rather it’s who can hack them. Imagine you launch an entire air wing worth of drone bombers only to have them hacked or jammed. It will be some guy in a basement behind a computer, but it won’t be the pilots. Hackers can render entire drone fleets useless. Pilots don’t have a signal controlling them. Unless Musk can invent an unhackable or unjammable network, he is spewing pure fluff.
Jumped out of: C130H, C130J, C17A, C212, CH47, and UH60. Bucket list: C160, A400, C2
 
Ozair
Posts: 5100
Joined: Mon Jan 31, 2005 8:38 am

Re: Musk on fighter jets vs. drones

Tue Mar 03, 2020 12:19 am

DigitalSea wrote:
Ozair wrote:
Additionally, I always find it amusing when commentary compares a manned fighter that has been tested and certified to its flight envelope against drones that today operate with significantly more restricted flight envelopes. I don’t see significantly more capable loyal wingmen emerging either, they all appear to be reasonably safe designs that likely won’t manoeuvre to the extend current manned fighters will. That doesn’t mean more capable drones won’t happen but it does require likely close the same financial investments in a development and testing phase to get drone performance similar to what 4.5 and 5th gen aircraft have today.


Do you think there could exist any UCAV concepts in the black world that may be just as capable or more capable than today's 5th gens (in terms of flight envelope)?

Within the black budget anything is possible. Do I think that there is a black budget 15G turn rate UCAV, no I don’t think so. The money all seems to be going to visible loyal wingman programs which seem to be realistic in their requirements and you would think Black money could be spent better.

I doubt it is very hard to design to 12G or 15G etc for an unmanned aircraft but you have to then test and certify that, as well as all the subsidiary systems. You also have to decide whether it is worth trying to obtain that level of agility given when we talk about drones and especially where loyal wingman being cheap enough to be an attritable resource is important. As we move into DEW is a highly agile UCAV really worth the effort? Perhaps the Black money is better spent on more efficient battery storage, higher laser efficiency or developing sci-fi energy shields…
 
JayinKitsap
Posts: 2131
Joined: Sat Nov 26, 2005 9:55 am

Re: Musk on fighter jets vs. drones

Tue Mar 03, 2020 7:25 am

We just saw the Navy go for the MQ-25 for refueling at sea. The developments prior to it was for an attack type of plane. I sense they realized that one must walk before riding a bike, just a basic drone doing a mundane task was enough of a challenge.

In instrument conditions it probably doesn't matter whether the pilot is on board or remote. But the capabilities in visual conditions are so much greater with the pilot in the plane seeing and the senses feel the plane - a huge advantage.

The NTSB has a rising interest in Tesla, its driver assist systems are not autopilots ready for prime time. That is a very simple endever compared to a fighter in a dogfight.
 
Ozair
Posts: 5100
Joined: Mon Jan 31, 2005 8:38 am

Re: Musk on fighter jets vs. drones

Tue Mar 03, 2020 10:21 pm

So General Atomics have likely sized the Musk opportunity to release the following proposal.

General Atomics shows off Defender UAV concept to protect refuelling tankers

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems unveiled a new unmanned air vehicle (UAV) concept called “Defender” that is meant to serve as an air-to-air missile platform for protecting large and slow-moving aircraft.
The Defender appears to be a variant of the company’s Predator C Avenger, a jet-turbine powered UAV intended for armed intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) that the company built in limited numbers for the US Air Force (USAF).


https://www.flightglobal.com/military-u ... 62.article

Image

This type of UCAV for A2A missions makes sense to me, it doesn’t have to be a high, or manoeuvrable aircraft but be equipped with sufficient sensors and missiles for a BVR engagement. Taking over a very necessary role that traditionally has sapped air power from pushing as many assets forward as possible is a great idea, especially as this type of platform would likely be a lot more fuel efficient than traditional fighters escorting tankers.

A bit much with the graphic though, I think the KC-46 would have stopped refuelling and starting moving away were there a threat close enough for the UCAV to start launching A2A missiles.
 
User avatar
DarkSnowyNight
Posts: 2627
Joined: Sun Jan 01, 2012 7:59 pm

Re: Musk on fighter jets vs. drones

Thu Mar 05, 2020 7:02 pm

Ozair wrote:

To put it simply, fighter aviation is one of the most demanding professions in the world. Only a small percentage of individuals can successfully master years’ worth of training and graduate to an operational fighter squadron. Even then it takes years of additional experience in a fighter cockpit to be competent. Nor does the quest stop there, with experienced fighter pilots having to train on a near-daily basis to maintain their skills.
. . .

Contrast that with the present state of artificial intelligence in a far simpler scenario. Musk’s self-driving cars operate in two dimensions, with predictable traffic laws, and understood human behavior. At the end of 2019, three Tesla cars using their “autopilot” feature crashed. One ran a red light, and the collision resulted in the death of two people. Another hit a parked firetruck with fatal results, and the third hit a police car on a highway. This is not to minimize the accomplishments of self-driving technology. However, it is prudent to point out that the potential of near-term and midterm autonomy should not be conflated with science fiction-like objectives.



This is all well and good, but it is still a very poorly constructed argument. Two things...

A. The skill sets involved are not being evenly or accurately compared. It does take a lot to be a pilot. Skill, decision making, etc, are all very important here, and currently do exceed what basic AIs can handle. But, AIs do not also have the Human Factors limitations we do. Nor or they limited to being deployed on a one for one basis,e specially given the lower fleet-wide cost of deployment with far fewer personnel. Right now, yes, you are right that we still have an edge. But that will not be the case forever. Nor is it wise to assume so.

2. It doesn't matter anyway. The engineering skill, logistics of manufacturing ability, and finally the operating talent required to rig, man and fight a Tall Ship is a tremendous skill set and not something found today. But nor is the need.

Fighters are rapidly heading in this direction. Things like BARCAPs and Recon Patrols are being built into UCAV's abilities. Ground strikes are already being handled by UCAVs. And we have not touched yet on the fact that these things can loiter for longer than a day without degrading their abilities. Humans are already no match for that. The addition of technical line skills is only a matter of time.


Ozair wrote:
A bit much with the graphic though, I think the KC-46 would have stopped refuelling and starting moving away were there a threat close enough for the UCAV to start launching A2A missiles.


Heh... No argument there. I liken these things to movie posters.


Reddevil556 wrote:
Musk is 100% wrong. Why? Because it’s not who has the drones, rather it’s who can hack them. Imagine you launch an entire air wing worth of drone bombers only to have them hacked or jammed. It will be some guy in a basement behind a computer, but it won’t be the pilots. Hackers can render entire drone fleets useless. Pilots don’t have a signal controlling them. Unless Musk can invent an unhackable or unjammable network, he is spewing pure fluff.


Apart from Slamming a Revolving Door, nothing is impossible. Nonetheless, a closed loop system is very difficult to hack. I do not know why you assume that such a construction would not be air gapped from here to gungadin. Remote operation =/= Remote access.

The risk is the same or less to having a fleet of fighter pilots decide to defect and attack their home base/carrier. Sure, it could happen, but it is a ridiculous thing to worry about.


JayinKitsap wrote:
In instrument conditions it probably doesn't matter whether the pilot is on board or remote. But the capabilities in visual conditions are so much greater with the pilot in the plane seeing and the senses feel the plane - a huge advantage.


How long can that possibly last? Human senses are fairly unreliable in a lot of situations where visibility is just fine. De-orbiting is a good example of this. But enough processing power and sensory inputs solves that.

Saying fighters are viable because pilots are good at their jobs makes sense now. But it also assumes -quite falsely- that you are against a stationary target.
"Nous ne sommes pas infectés. Il n'y a pas d'infection ici..."
 
Reddevil556
Posts: 216
Joined: Thu Dec 27, 2018 2:09 pm

Re: Musk on fighter jets vs. drones

Thu Mar 05, 2020 10:20 pm

They have been hacked before, so it still remains a credible threat especially since China and Russia are more advanced than Iran in the cyber warfare realm.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iran–U.S._RQ-170_incident
Jumped out of: C130H, C130J, C17A, C212, CH47, and UH60. Bucket list: C160, A400, C2
 
Ozair
Posts: 5100
Joined: Mon Jan 31, 2005 8:38 am

Re: Musk on fighter jets vs. drones

Thu Mar 05, 2020 10:29 pm

DarkSnowyNight wrote:

This is all well and good, but it is still a very poorly constructed argument. Two things...

A. The skill sets involved are not being evenly or accurately compared. It does take a lot to be a pilot. Skill, decision making, etc, are all very important here, and currently do exceed what basic AIs can handle. But, AIs do not also have the Human Factors limitations we do. Nor or they limited to being deployed on a one for one basis, especially given the lower fleet-wide cost of deployment with far fewer personnel. Right now, yes, you are right that we still have an edge. But that will not be the case forever. Nor is it wise to assume so.

No one is saying that AI and drones do not have a place but what is being said is that the time to replace a fighter jet with an AI controlled drone is not yet, and likely not for a decent amount of time going forward. Musk suggesting that an AI drone augmented by a remote human pilot seems the least likely to happen given distance and latency and how dynamic a WVR engagement is.

DarkSnowyNight wrote:
2. It doesn't matter anyway. The engineering skill, logistics of manufacturing ability, and finally the operating talent required to rig, man and fight a Tall Ship is a tremendous skill set and not something found today. But nor is the need.

The common link between a Tall ship and a modern ship is the people. At some point I agree the people will be removed, and the USN is talking/developing today unmanned surface combatants augmenting the manned surface fleet, but I don’t expect those to wholesale replace people on all USN vessels anytime soon.

DarkSnowyNight wrote:
Fighters are rapidly heading in this direction. Things like BARCAPs and Recon Patrols are being built into UCAV's abilities. Ground strikes are already being handled by UCAVs. And we have not touched yet on the fact that these things can loiter for longer than a day without degrading their abilities. Humans are already no match for that. The addition of technical line skills is only a matter of time.

As I outlined above, there are advantages and disadvantages at this stage. No UCAV today can manoeuvre like a fighter jet. No UCAV, other than the drawing board, is flying around with self radar guided BVR missiles. Yes the UCAVs can loiter for long periods of time and that is a significant advantage but at this point in time those UCAVS are not doing so unattended. They have a flight crew guiding them from a remote base somewhere, intelligence analysts examining their imagery etc. It will get to the point where they can operate semi-autonomously but I expect the preference for most western militaries will be around loyal wingman concepts, where directions and targeting info is provided to these assets who then go and prosecute a target, but the asset is tied to a manned platform.
 
trex8
Posts: 5542
Joined: Sat Nov 02, 2002 9:04 am

Re: Musk on fighter jets vs. drones

Mon Mar 09, 2020 1:52 am

 
ZaphodHarkonnen
Posts: 1016
Joined: Sun Jan 04, 2015 10:20 am

Re: Musk on fighter jets vs. drones

Mon Mar 09, 2020 9:46 pm

Ozair wrote:
I posted Elon’s article in the F-35 thread and Zaphod had some good realistic and accurate comments


Awwwwwww... shucks...

Here's my post from that thread.

ZaphodHarkonnen wrote:
Ozair wrote:
Not sure Elon is wrong as much as he just isn’t exactly right. I expect a drone fighter aircraft piloted by a human would have a slower reaction time in a WVR engagement compared to an aircraft flown by an actual pilot.

Elon Musk says the US's F-35 stealth jet 'would have no chance' against a 'drone fighter plane'

Tesla CEO Elon Musk suggested that Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II, the costly stealth jet considered to be pinnacle of US military aviation, “would have no chance” if pitted against a drone that is remotely piloted by a human.

At the US Air Force’s Air Warfare Symposium in Florida, Musk said there should be a competitor to the F-35 program, according to a tweet by Lee Hudson, the Pentagon editor at Aviation Week.

Musk responded in his own tweet, saying that the “competitor should be a drone fighter plane that’s remote controlled by a human, but with its manoeuvres augmented by autonomy.”

“The F-35 would have no chance against it,” he added.

...

https://www.businessinsider.com.au/elon ... ?r=US&IR=T


Musk comes from a point of view of always working in a relatively permissive environment. Simply remote flying aircraft from a proper distance isn't really scalable with the amount of demand for high speed datalinks as there already are. What we're more likely to see is the path we're already going down. Where you have a human acting more as a co-ordinator and managing multiple uncrewed aircraft. Then letting the aircraft itself do the actions in a mostly unattended way. More like a team lead or squad leader deciding what needs doing and when to do it, leaving the team members to do it.

You see this concept already with the move by many countries to explore the loyal wingman idea. Where a human will sit in a stand off position near by with direct line of sight conncections. Monitoring and ordering the uncrewed assets to go do things. You even see this already with some of the Red Flag exercises where the F-35s turn into mini-AWACS that monitor and update friendly aircraft to threats and targets. And taking action when no one else can.

So if anything Musk is late to the realization and is jumping to conclusions that those involved have already thought about and are continually re-examining.
 
frmrCapCadet
Posts: 4013
Joined: Thu May 29, 2008 8:24 pm

Re: Musk on fighter jets vs. drones

Fri Mar 13, 2020 4:24 pm

Aircraft Carriers are still projecting all of the romance of the Battle of Midway, despite that reality being long gone.

Fighter Crafts the romance of the Red Baron et cetera. But when were the last dozen 'dog fights'?

I do not have the answers these two comments imply, but I am not sure the Air Force or the Navy has all that good a handle on answers either.

ps - an edit, the defense budget may not reflect reality.
Buffet: the airline business...has eaten up capital...like..no other (business)
 
Ozair
Posts: 5100
Joined: Mon Jan 31, 2005 8:38 am

Re: Musk on fighter jets vs. drones

Fri Jun 05, 2020 2:42 am

Related to Musk’s earlier fighter drone claim as well as an offhand reference to him in the article the USAF appears to be working this avenue but potentially looking first at augmenting the pilot instead of replacing him.
Air Force to Test Fighter Drone Against Human Pilot


Air Force researchers are designing an autonomous aircraft that can take down a manned plane in air-to-air combat, with the goal of pitting the two against each other in July 2021.
Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan, head of the Pentagon’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, said the Air Force Research Laboratory team is pushing the boundaries of what the military can build, compared to the aircraft that already fill the service’s squadrons.

...

But while the Pentagon’s AI work is picking up steam, Shanahan cautioned that not everything happening with the futuristic technology is a success story. The military should adopt the lessons the self-driving car industry has learned, he said—and heed its warnings.
“There is no level four, fully autonomous vehicle out on the roads today,” he said, despite several companies investing billions of dollars in the idea. “On the other hand, that’s a decade worth of experience we should be pulling into the military because they’ve learned so much.”


https://www.airforcemag.com/air-force-t ... man-pilot/
 
johns624
Posts: 2649
Joined: Mon Jul 07, 2008 11:09 pm

Re: Musk on fighter jets vs. drones

Fri Jun 05, 2020 2:51 pm

frmrCapCadet wrote:
Aircraft Carriers are still projecting all of the romance of the Battle of Midway, despite that reality being long gone.

Fighter Crafts the romance of the Red Baron et cetera. But when were the last dozen 'dog fights'?

I do not have the answers these two comments imply, but I am not sure the Air Force or the Navy has all that good a handle on answers either.

ps - an edit, the defense budget may not reflect reality.
You can't dogfight if the other side won't come up and meet you. Iraq and Iran, among others, have had their chances.
 
User avatar
Nomadd
Posts: 347
Joined: Sat Dec 09, 2017 3:26 pm

Re: Musk on fighter jets vs. drones

Fri Jun 05, 2020 3:56 pm

You can cherry pick aspects of this situation and come up with whatever conclusion you want, but the fact is, with a high speed, low latency link, (One area that isn't assured by any means) you can potentially have all the advantages of an in cockpit pilot with none of the limitations. Apart from the possibility of the link being jammed, I'm not sure how you could really argue against the possibility.
Musk obviously wasn't talking about existing hardware, but a drone designed and built for the purpose. An F-35 class aircraft designed without all the pilot support, interfaces and limitations needed would be interesting.
AI could be mainly for loss of the link, and limited to surviving until contact was restored. I'm not a fan of letting an iPhone make engagement decisions myself.

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 12 guests

Popular Searches On Airliners.net

Top Photos of Last:   24 Hours  •  48 Hours  •  7 Days  •  30 Days  •  180 Days  •  365 Days  •  All Time

Military Aircraft Every type from fighters to helicopters from air forces around the globe

Classic Airliners Props and jets from the good old days

Flight Decks Views from inside the cockpit

Aircraft Cabins Passenger cabin shots showing seat arrangements as well as cargo aircraft interior

Cargo Aircraft Pictures of great freighter aircraft

Government Aircraft Aircraft flying government officials

Helicopters Our large helicopter section. Both military and civil versions

Blimps / Airships Everything from the Goodyear blimp to the Zeppelin

Night Photos Beautiful shots taken while the sun is below the horizon

Accidents Accident, incident and crash related photos

Air to Air Photos taken by airborne photographers of airborne aircraft

Special Paint Schemes Aircraft painted in beautiful and original liveries

Airport Overviews Airport overviews from the air or ground

Tails and Winglets Tail and Winglet closeups with beautiful airline logos