On June 26, 1794, The Battle of Fleurus erupted. This bloody fight between the French and the Austrians lasted a quick ten hours for one reason only; a tactical advantage. Constructed in 1793 by scientists Charles Coutelle and N. J. Cont?©, the French gained this advantage by utilizing the first ever documented military aircraft (History of War). Noted as L’Entrepremant, the French used this hydrogen balloon as an observation advantage. General Morlot, leader of the French army stayed aloft in the balloon the whole battle and conducted all ground operations from there.
With this advantage, he French dominated the battle with 2,000 Austrian casualties and 3,000 prisoners (Rickard). Since the first documented military aircraft, aviation has come a long way. A little more than a century passed and two brothers, Orville and Wilbur Wright fly the first successful fixed wing flight on December 17, 1903 (Smithsonian). The U. S. Army took extreme interest in the Wright brothers and in 1907, the army offered them a $25,000 contract to build a military aircraft that could meet the performance criteria in the flight trials (Smithsonian). On September 17, 1908, the trials began for he aircraft.
As Orville Wright conducted the flight with Lt. Thomas O. Selfridge also on board, the aircraft experienced a mechanical malfunction and crashed. Orville was severely injured and Selfridge died, marking the incident as the first fatality in a powered airplane (Smithsonian). Orville made a recovery and the brothers resumed the trials in June 1909. As all Army requirements were met, the Wright brothers began the first training of American military pilots in the first military fixed wing aircraft, the Wright Military Flyer in October. As wars erupted such as WWI, aircrafts or militaries across the globe erupted as well.
Aircraft technology was little over a decade old when Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated which started the First World War (Duffy). Initially used as a reconnaissance role, militaries such as France boosted their production of military warplanes more than tenfold in four years. As WWI pressed on, more militaries across the world sought to seek dominance in the sky. It wasn’t too long in the war before dogfghts were born (LIFE). Thousands of planes from dozens of armies attached weapons (originally made for vehicles) onto he tops of the aircraft’s wings and lit the sky up day and night. The world was in a new era.
Vehicular guns that were mounted on planes developed, over time into guns specifically made for war planes. Minds of these war plane designers raced with new ideas and concepts to help their military dominate. After the end of WWI, every war plane was equipped with guns and a new concept; bombs. The new era of the world that everyone was still getting used to, got a major upgrade; an upgrade that many militaries took advantage of. On December 7, 1941, the Imperial Army of the Japanese as the first to successfully conduct an aerial bombing attack on another military, also known as the bombing of Pearl Harbor (LIFE).
Because of this bombing, America was now involved in WWII. After years of battle, in 1945, the U. S. military deployed a 8-29 bomber to Hiroshima and dropped the first atomic bomb. Three days later, a second A-bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, thus ending the war between the Japanese and Americans (History). Although the Second World War was over, sprouting. Just nine years after the first atomic bomb drop, the U. S. military launched he first unmanned aerial system (UAS), the Predator Drone. Used only for surveillance and reconnaissance, these drones were preprogrammed by the U. S. ilitary to fly over enemy territory and collect data. Since the debut of UASs, technology for both unmanned and manned aerial systems has advanced much greater and faster than any engineer or scientist predicted. Manned aerial systems nowadays can carry thousands of pounds ammunition, bombs, and cargo and still easily break the sound barrier. I-JASS have the capability of doing everything a manned system is capable of but without endangering a pilot. Today, the U. S. government is debating whether or not to put more funding into the UAS research and completely replace all manned aerial systems.
While most of the American community sees this as perfect and putting the pilots out of harm’s way, there are still other risks that need to be factored. In this paper, the author will discuss the benefits and downfalls of both manned and unmanned aviation. While there is an extremely big risk of the pilot’s life when using manned aviation, it is still necessary and well worth the risk. As the concepts of UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems) were eing created, many thought this idea was too far advanced for the world’s time and age.
The concepts however, evolved over time and it was soon to be realized that an idea of a war plane conducting missions on its own wasn’t too farfetched. With the technological improvements and advancing capabilities of UAS, many wonder why there are still military pilots carrying out missions to this day. Although mainly used for Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR), UAS are fully capable of carrying out any mission a pilot carries out. Just recently, these unmanned aircraft ave been developed to strike targets with precision-guided weapons.
Started in 1988, this multi-billion dollar UAS project is expanding and reaching new heights (Trimble 2). In May 1998, an upgrade contract was awarded to General Atomics Aeronautical Systems to increase the capabilities of the already lethal Predator, the default I-JAV for the military (Trimble 4). The Predator-d’s, now larger and more capable, has evolved into the MQ-9 Reaper. The reaper went through numerous trials when first debuted and in February 2001, it successfully fired the first Hellfire missile n flight tests at Nell’s Air Force Base, Nevada.
UAS technology had matured: Non- lethal reconnaissance I-JASS had developed into heavily armed platforms for precision-guided weapons. The true testament to their lethality came in November 2002, when a Predator operated by the CIA successfully engaged and destroyed a vehicle carrying six al-Qaeda terrorists with a Hellfire-C laser guided missile in Yemen (Trimble 4). The U. S. military has developed and implemented as much I-JAV missions as manned missions. Their goal is to try to replace all pilots and at the rate they are going, it is surely possible.
IJAVs now such as the brand new X47-B, can fly over 60,000 feet and stay aloft for 24 hours while carrying 4,500 pounds of weaponry (Popular Mechanics 68). These planes can now reach supersonic speeds and carry out full operations over ten hours long. With much success however, comes failure also. As the I-JASS developed at an alarming rate, the U. S. military thought this was a great thing. Soon however, they realized that it may not be as good as suspected. As technology advances for these UASs, the money being poured into these researches research in 2000.
Just five years later, the funding Jumped to $2. billion, an increase of over 700% (Trimble 9). In the new X47 and Global Hawk programs, each aircraft is costing around $194 million compared to the newest manned aircraft, the Joint Strike Fighter OSF) which costs $89 million (Popular Mechanics 72). In the executive summary of the 2004 DOD Defense Science Board on Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, a Task Force noted that the potential of I-JASS would not be realized if unit production cost isn’t capped. The DOD has stated that if cost becomes unwarranted, then the I-JASS will lose their utility.
Along with the money, also come mishaps. I-JASS have a uch higher mishap rate than manned aircraft due to the fact that the aircraft is running solely off of a preprogrammed computer. Computers always have the possibility of crashing or being overridden. I-JASS have had countless power and propulsion failures, flight control malfunctions, and accidents on takeoff and landing due to computer failures. Just last week, a stealth U. S. drone crashed in Iran because flight controls were lost due to a malfunction (Starr). This drone is now in Iranian hands. These mishaps Just don’t occur for UASs.
The same can also be said for manned aerial systems as well. When it comes to manned aviation in the military, the biggest issue is the pilot’s life. Every year, military aircraft are lost due to warfare or crashes as well as pilots’ lives. Many ask why risk a life now if a UAS can do the same exact Job. These pilots are always in harm’s way when sent on a mission. They have a high possibility of being shot down by enemies or have a high possibility of crashing due to the complexity of the aircraft and human error. Humans aren’t perfect and will always make mistakes.
When a mistake is made in a Jet that is traveling faster than the speed of sound, it is usually catastrophic. Many believe it is not right to send humans out to do the dirty work now but the DOD believes that a robot will never trump a man’s Judgment. General William F. McKee of the Air Force once said, “Man – with his brain, his will, his soul – is not going to be replaced with mechanical miracles. ” Military pilots have one of the biggest targets painted on their backs when in warfare. There is nothing more an enemy wants to do than shoot down an aircraft belonging to another military. But when it comes to the U. S. ilitary, these pilots volunteer. They ask to become a pilot and know exactly what can happen. They go through rigorous training to prepare themselves for certain scenarios. These pilots aren’t being forced into the cockpit. They happily Jump in, excited to fly faster than the speed of sound with two tons of bombs strapped beneath their feet. These pilots love what they are doing and most of them would not give it up. They happily serve their country and will definitely die for it as well. Statistically speaking, I-JASS crash much more than manned Jets and there are much more fatalities in car crashes than jet crashes.
Humans are also much smarter than computers. When it comes to rocessing things, computers may have the upper hand but Judgment wise, humans win. Experienced fghter pilots use their Judgment all the time. Whether or not they should go into certain territory or deviate from orders a little. If there is a certain target that needs to be struck and the military sends out a UAS, it will either strike the target or abort the mission. If the target Just so happens to change, a manned fighter Jet can also change as well. Humans always have the upper hand against computers when it comes to flight.
Although the military wants to implement more nmanned and manned military aviation will continue to press on into at least 2047 (Trimble 10). By 2047, the U. S. military will decide whether or not to continue funding the UAS program. The UAS program should continue to be funded; however there should be a cap and it shouldn’t completely replace human aviation. Human aviation is necessary because computers aren’t as reliable and is too costly. These pilots are volunteering to fly and serve their country in planes that cost less than half the amount of a UAV. The U. S. military should continue to let them fly and enjoy serving their country.