back to article US Air Force says AI-controlled F-16 fighter jet has been dogfighting with humans

The US Air Force Test Pilot School and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) claim to have achieved a breakthrough in machine learning by demonstrating that AI software can fly a modified F-16 fighter jet in a dogfight against human pilots. The claims rest on the USAF and DARPA implementing machine learning in …

  1. Montreal Sean

    One step closer

    One step closer to Skynet.

    It's only one plane now, we still have a chance!

    1. Eclectic Man Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: One step closer

      They've only let us know about one plane so far....

    2. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

      Re: One step closer

      Luckily, for now, those planes won't service themselves. Nor even fuel up.

      1. DJO Silver badge

        Re: One step closer

        All they need is some vaguely humanoid shaped robots to do all that:

        https://www.theregister.com/2024/04/17/boston_dynamics_atlas_is_dead/

    3. Uncle Slacky Silver badge
      Terminator

      Re: One step closer

      Whatever happened to the "Rise of the Machines" category on El Reg? This story would be a perfect fit.

      1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

        It stopped being funny and started being reality.

    4. ITMA Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: One step closer

      The only winning move is not to play...

  2. elDog

    Oh, no. Just think about all those poor F-16 pilots that will need to find a new job!

    In addition to not needing other pilots with the take-over of drone warfare.

    Life (and death) just aren't what they used to be...

    1. Mark 85

      Re: Oh, no. Just think about all those poor F-16 pilots that will need to find a new job!

      And drone tech is moving forward at high speed judging from the wars in the middle east and Ukraine.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Oh, no. Just think about all those poor F-16 pilots that will need to find a new job!

      They still have the option of becoming F-35 pilots, no sane AI will want to pilot these...

      1. HMcG

        Re: Oh, no. Just think about all those poor F-16 pilots that will need to find a new job!

        What on earth makes you think AI's are going to be sane?

  3. Yorick Hunt Silver badge
    Angel

    Great show.

    Given that real dogfights haven't really been a thing for over a century (why would anyone want to get up close when you have dozens of stand-off weapons at your disposal?), this is little more than a marketing pitch.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Great show.

      Maverick says hold my beer.

    2. RandomIdiot

      Re: Great show.

      Since before 1924? I knew all that WW2 dog fight film was faked for propaganda.

      1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

        Re: Great show.

        Indeed.

        Plenty dogfighting since WW2 also...the Sea Harrier was doing a mighty fine job of that thing during the Falklands conflict in 1982 (actually a bit scary when you realise how long ago 1982 actually was, but certainly a lot less than the century that the OP refers to)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Great show.

          Rubbish.

          It was the US supplied uprated argon cooled Sidewinders that saved the UKs bacon.

          The Harriers were subsonic & not great dogfighters.

          1. werdsmith Silver badge

            Re: Great show.

            Dogfighting is not a supersonic activity. Aircraft travelling at supersonic speeds tend not to change direction. Supersonic performance is for getting to and getting out of the combat zone.

            Harriers used their trump card “VIFF” very effectively on the rare occasions they were involved in combat.

            1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

              Re: Great show.

              werdsmith,

              If I remember correctly, VIFFing is something that's cool for air shows - but not something the RAF or Fleet Air Arm ever used in combat - or even had in their doctrine. The problem with putting the brakes on in a dogfight is that you probably can't get that speed back again, and I'd imagine the Harrier isn't the fastest accelerating plane. But a small use of the thrust vectoring might give you a big advantage in turning.

              However the OP's post above is still stupid, and reductive. The reason Harrier did so well is a combination of factors. Almost all the Harrier's kills were shots from behind, which their older Sidewinders could already do, because it was doctrine to shoot from behind even with the better missile. Also, I'm not even sure that there were enough of the Sidewinder L's to go around anyway, so not all kills were achieved with them, and not everyone had access to them.

              But also the Argentinian planes were at the edge of their range, and didn't have fuel or time for dogfighting. Plus were mostly on bombing missions anyway. They had to fly lower because of the threat of Sea Dart - which wasn't as good as advertised - but still dangerous to anything at medium and high level. Also the British were getting raid warning from the submarines and Chile, as well as the air defence picket ships.

              Finally after the Black Buck raid on the Islands' runway - that killed any idea of forward-deploying fast jets. But also the Argentinians got worried that the RAF might try the same on the air bases in Argentina itself - which meant they withdrew some of the Mirage fighters for defence. Which made the Harrier's job a bit easier.

          2. Rich 11 Silver badge

            Re: Great show.

            The Harriers were subsonic & not great dogfighters.

            But much better at it than the Skyhawks and Super Etendards that they faced.

      2. sedregj
        Windows

        Re: Great show.

        Get a grip:

        "I knew all that WW2 dog fight film was faked for propaganda."

        You can't even froth at the mouth properly.

    3. hoola Silver badge

      Re: Great show.

      I don't believe that to be the case.

      As soon as you remove the human from the risk then the appetite for those in command to make less will thought out choices increases.

      Fighting from the safety of a concrete box is essentially a war of attrition in terms of who runs out of assets first if both sides have the same tech. Once you have finished that you are into conventional warfare however the issue is that if you have committed too much to the first stage you are royally f****d. This is the most likely outcome as manufacturers will lobby for what makes them the most money.

      The more pressing concern is that the use of drones, remote controlled or relying on AI results in decisions being made that are far more likely to result in escalation if things kick of badly.

      Equally we have seen many scenarios recently where all the military resources and tech that is available has been defeated by low-tech groups driving around in a Hilux armed with a 50 cal, RPG, Stinger or a few blocks of C4.

      Most of those groups will be able to access some form of fissionable, chemical or bio material and make a mess very easily in a large city if they feel they have nothing to lose.

      1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

        Re: Great show.

        Fighting from the safety of a concrete box is essentially a war of attrition in terms of who runs out of assets first if both sides have the same tech.

        Basically the 'cannon fodder' model as seen in WW1, except that the fodder can easily be replaced by the military-industrial complex (thus acting as a nice little earner for the manufacturers)

        1. veti Silver badge

          Re: Great show.

          No matter how much and how sophisticated hardware you can throw into a war, you'll still lose to the side that's prepared to throw in all that plus humans.

          Drones are part of the arsenal, but they haven't replaced humans. Nor will they, unless we one day reach a stage where nothing a human can do will ever influence the outcome.

          1. Greg 38

            Re: Great show.

            "No matter how much and how sophisticated hardware you can throw into a war, you'll still lose to the side that's prepared to throw in all that plus humans."

            Not true. And Poland how things went for them when Hitler invaded. Poland fielded a WW1 army with cannons and horses versus modern German tanks and artillery.

            1. veti Silver badge

              Re: Great show.

              Poland couldn't match the German hardware, so the comparison doesn't apply anyway.

              It's only in the past decade that drone technology has reached the point where some commanders are starting to dream of bloodless (on their side at least) wars. So far, it hasn't gone great.

              "Humans plus drones" beats "just drones". Ask the Ukrainians.

            2. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

              Re: Great show.

              >Not true.

              It IS true.

              Eg Russia vs Germany, late WWII. Quite literally exhausted German defence by soaking it up with dead men. Then simply marching over them.

              Eg Otto Skorzeny tells the story of a horror episode where the Russians just kept marching into a sighted-in artillery chokepoint. Each unit utterly marmalised. He'd been commanding the defence, after a few days noticed the guns got patchy, drove up to find the CO (leutnant) nissed as a pewt and having a mental breakdown. Outrage! Sent him to the lockup and took over the unit himself. To discover for himself the horror.

              As he put it, by the end of the day, each fresh unit was "wading through strawberry jam" up to their knees. The jam was their predecessors. Whom they'd watched march into the chokepoint. And joined them.

              That night, Skorzeny released the leutnant, apologised, turned the unit back over to him.

              But the Germans soon ran out of shells, and had to retreat.

              Russia in WWII actually managed to exceed the most extreme stupidities of WWI. By a long way. And routinely.

              Swarming is a valid tactic. And extremely effective. All you need is to disregard the humans as people

            3. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

              Re: Great show.

              And Poland how things went for them when Hitler invaded. Poland fielded a WW1 army with cannons and horses versus modern German tanks and artillery.

              Greg38,

              Germany also fielded a mostly WWI army against Poland. With infantry, horse-drawn artillery and mule trains for supply. The Germans invaded with 60 divisions of which I think 7 were Panzer divisions and 6 were motorised. The rest walked. Germany also had at least one cavalry brigade. They did have better aircraft though.

              The only fully mechanised army in the world at the time was the British.

              Incidentally I recently heard an old BBC interview with Ian Fleming - where he said that the reason he left officer training at Sandhurst was that he saw this mechanisation in the 30s as turning him and his fellow officers into mere motor mechanics. Actually he was thrown out for conduct unbecoming an officer having contracted gonorrhea. Who said James Bond wasn't based on real life...?

              However it doesn't matter how good your air force is, or how shiny your drones - if you want to take and hold ground, you need the poor bloody infantry to do it. Everything else is just supporting them in that role. Similarly at sea, if you want sea-control you've got to have ships. Plus the supporting arms to keep those ships alive. You can deny the sea to the enemy, with submarines, drones and/or aircraft. But if you want to do useful things, like move supply or invade with troops - you need to be able to keep ships there.

      2. DJO Silver badge

        Re: Great show.

        Unless one side has an overwhelming advantage over the other, all wars are attrition - whoever can keep the flow of material to the front line will (eventually) win.

        1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

          Re: Great show. - Aside

          Ghengis Khan, whose armies conquered most of Asia only regretted attacking the Sami, who just retreated North. Khan's armies did not know how to survive in the frozen cold wastes (and the Sami did not two how to fight a 'regular' army). Khan's armies basically died of cold or retreated. There was never a 'front line' just a trail of reindeer in the snow leading their enemies to oblivion. I'm sure Sun Tzu would have appreciated their strategy.

          1. An_Old_Dog Silver badge

            Our ML vs Their ML

            The SF book, "Hellburner" by C.J. Cherryh explored the issue of (among others), "What do you do when our ML fighter control systems are matched by their ML fighter control systems?"

            1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

              Re: Our ML vs Their ML

              An_Old_Dog,

              Upvote for Hellburner. Great book. All the "Company War" books are good - although some are more depressing than others. Looking at you 40,000 in Gehenna.

              I suspect though, that in dogfighting there are a lot of moves that are simply the best counter to another - given the aerodynamic performance of the two jets in question. And so this is something that may be done by computers as well as people.

              However the problem might be that making a superior jet, that can pull 20g and still be useable the next day, might end up being as expensive as making a 6th generation stealth jet and crewing it with 2. At which point these high-end AI drones are going to be anything but expendable. Or your loyal wingmen are basically going to be indistinguishable from missiles.

          2. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

            Re: Great show. - Aside

            Worked vs Napoleon, too.

        2. Zolko Silver badge

          Re: Great show.

          all wars are attrition

          I read somewhere that "civilians talk about strategy, military talk about logistics ". That's why the 2 wars currently ongoing already know their winners.

          1. MrReynolds2U

            Re: Great show.

            There's a few more than 2 wars going on right now:

            Wiki Link

            Although you'd be forgiven for thinking that, given how the media rarely reports on other conflicts.

        3. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

          Re: Great show.

          >Unless one side has an overwhelming advantage over the other, all wars are attrition

          A historical observation underlining that:

          Civil wars have by far the highest casualty rates.

          1. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge

            Re: Great show.

            AFAIK, the Civil War is still the bloodiest one fought by the USA.

      3. PB90210 Bronze badge

        Re: Great show.

        <Fighting from the safety of a concrete box is essentially a war of attrition in terms of who runs out of assets first>

        "We've run out of Snickers bars!!"

    4. littler_bobby_tables

      Re: Great show.

      "Over a century" is an exaggeration, as recently as Desert Storm US pilots were engaged in dogfighting as a significant element of the conflict.

      1. ChrisC Silver badge

        Re: Great show.

        Wiki even notes a dogfight taking place in 2019 between Indian and Pakistani aircraft.

    5. ChrisC Silver badge

      Re: Great show.

      "why would anyone want to get up close when you have dozens of stand-off weapons at your disposal"

      Maybe ask some Vietnam veterans about that... just because you have weapons in your arsenal doesn't always mean you'll be permitted to use them.

      Also, as low observable technology continues to spread, and the risk increases of engaging in combat with an adversary your BVR weapons struggle to lock onto, you may find that regardless of what the rules of engagement say about using such weaponry, you might still not have a choice in the matter.

    6. Mark 85

      Re: Great show.

      Given that real dogfights haven't really been a thing for over a century

      Err.... no. A century? Hardly. The original F-4 was not equipped with a gun, but the AF found out real fast in Vietnam it needed one. Been ohter wars since then where there have dog fights.

    7. FIA Silver badge

      Re: Great show.

      How is it getting up close?

      Seems like a projectile with decent piloting skills might be quite useful if your in to exploding other humans at a distance.

    8. nightflier

      Re: Great show.

      In the video they explicitly state that dogfighting is not the goal, but a learning environment.

  4. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

    This reminds me a little bit of when a US Air Force AI drone 'killed operator, attacked comms towers in simulation', but then hadn't, as it turned out.

    1. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

      It's a good cautionary tale, though: Be careful what you wish for. Or, be careful about the operating parameters.

      1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

        Your comment prompted a recollection of this fun tale, too

  5. Grunchy Silver badge

    I remember one time hearing about an electronic fly swatter, that according to rumor used Reagan “star war” technology to zap flies from mid-air using a low power laser. And then for awhile you could buy a green laser from “deal extreme” that had enough power to zap a fly.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      The green lasers that you can buy now from China can zap flies, just need the fly to stay still long enough to focus.

      1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

        I have a hammer which is functionally equivalent.

        1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

          And probably a bit less likely to take out someone's eye

          1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

            *cough*

            <swift duct taping>

            I agree.

            1. werdsmith Silver badge

              My device shaped like a short handled tennis racket with a kV grid does tend to take the skill out of it though.

  6. Badgerfruit

    Instead of retrofitting a meatbags vehicle, task AI to build its own. Missing a trick there, I'll await my cheque in the post.

    But seriously, pick 100 random people and tell me which one is a "bad guy". Then ask someone else and chances are, you'll get a different answer.

    Let's stop here and stop using this tech to line the pockets of the few and instead, further mankind as a whole.

    If we aren't going to do that, just press the big red button already cos I don't like this timeline.

    1. littler_bobby_tables

      There absolutely are MAJOR issues with autonomous weapons systems, but I kind of feel like air-to-air combat is maybe the one domain where that's actually not a concern. Not a lot of innocent civilians getting into aerial close-quarters weapons duels.

      1. Bent Metal
        Black Helicopters

        Agreed - in my view one of those major issues is that it's just a few short mental leaps for the military to consider that if the AI can dogfight, couldn't it use the aircraft's missiles as well? Then the Powers That Be could have humans out-of-the-loop in a combat air patrol.

        And then you get this again: Iran Air Flight 655 [wikipedia]

        1. veti Silver badge

          But your own example is an illustration that humans are... far from infallible.

          Maybe the AI would be better. Because less nervous.

      2. OhForF' Silver badge

        While collateral damage to civilians may not be a major concern you'll still want as close to perfect friend/foe classification. Even if all your air assets are unmanned they might be expensive - avoiding friendly fire is a priority.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Just not possible because war becomes so dirty, the friend / innocent civilian is impossible to discern.

          1. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge
            Terminator

            When in doubt, exterminate!

    2. Robert Grant

      > stop using this tech to line the pockets of the few and instead, further mankind as a whole

      How do we make dogfighting AI further mankind as a whole?

      1. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge
        Terminator

        By giving it Tsar Bomba devices to ensure full eradication of the meat-bags!

    3. GreggS

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s8-I9nRAnDk

  7. Crys

    Now that's what i call progress. More advanced killing machine. /s

    1. Benegesserict Cumbersomberbatch Silver badge

      You want advanced? Watch what happens when they reconfigure the construction of the airframes to cope with the maximum stresses they can handle, not just the maximum stresses the pilots can handle. Suddenly pulling 10Gs isn't the limit.

  8. Mike 137 Silver badge

    End game?

    Ultimately, we'll have autonomous fighters on both sides -- expensive machines destroying expensive machines. A 1966 episode of Star Trek (A taste of Armageddon) presented a more cost effective solution -- simulated battles fought entirely on computers. The only snag was that the notional casualties on both sides were obliged to report to disintegrators as soon as the battles were over.

    Unfortunately, for all the automation, war still primarily consists of human attrition one way or another until one side gives up.

    1. LybsterRoy Silver badge

      Re: End game?

      -- A 1966 episode of Star Trek --

      Possibly slightly preceded by The Fall of the Towers trilogy by Samuel R. Delany. War fought in a computer with casualties killed and flushed.

    2. hoola Silver badge

      Re: End game?

      There are some fiction books written by Sean McFate that are interesting in this context.

      High Treason, Deep Black & Shadow War and then some more factual ones.

      It is an interesting insight....

    3. John Miles

      Re: war still primarily consists of human attrition one way or another until one side gives up.?

      Star Trek also gives us a few examples of where AI warfare may lead

      Prototype (Star Trek: Voyager) (When the two planets called a truce and attempted to terminate the robots, the robots destroyed their creators out of self-preservation and continued their war)

      The Arsenal of Freedom (Star Trek: The Next Generation) - When a weapon sales AI doesn't take "no thanks" for an answer

      and The Doomsday Machine (Star Trek: The Original Series)

      1. Mike 137 Silver badge

        Re: war still primarily consists of human attrition one way or another until one side gives up.?

        "Star Trek also gives us a few examples of where AI warfare may lead"

        However there remain vast bumbers of purely human ways to initiate and wage war without the need for "AI". It's a sad fact that some war or other has been waged somewhere on this planet continuously for a very long time, mostly using old fashioned technologies such as sharp things and bullets.

    4. veti Silver badge

      Re: End game?

      Why build expensive machines to destroy expensive machines, when a score of $500 drones can do the same job for a zillionth of the cost?

      1. heyrick Silver badge

        Re: End game?

        Because it's not about waging war, it's about making money. Death, destruction, and maimed civilians/infrastructure is just collateral damage.

        1. TangoDelta72
          Mushroom

          Re: End game?

          I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Kinky Sex makes the world go 'round.

        2. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

          Re: End game?

          You're muddling the remora with the shark.

          Very different motivations, very different causality/dependency.

      2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: End game?

        veti,

        Why build expensive machines to destroy expensive machines, when a score of $500 drones can do the same job for a zillionth of the cost?

        Because they can't. Look what happened when Iran lobbed 300 mixed drones, ballistic and cruise missiles at Israel. Almost all of them were shot down by expensive fighters and expensive air defence systems.

        I guess you could argue that the SAMs shooting down drones and missiles is already computer-on-computer. But there's no AI hype to be squeezed from that.

        Also the $500 drones are incredibly low capability and quite easy to shoot down. The Shahed's that Iran, Russia and the Houthis regularly lob around are more like $70,000 a go. And they're also pretty limited. The question is, can you overwhelm better systems by having lots of them?

        This is why the Royal Navy are now rushing their anti-missile laser (Dragonfire) into front line deployment - as well as lots of countries looking at ground based laser or microwave weapons and maybe the return of ground based autocannons or multi-barreled guns for the anti-drone role.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: End game?

          With all the warning the defenders had (the drones and missiles came from Iran, some distance away from Israel), they didn't manage to shoot all of them down.

          Had Iran really wanted to escalate and not just make a token gesture, they would have been able to overwhelm the Israeli defense.

          Note also that the cost of an anti-missile missile is far above the one for a drone or even a basic missile.

          1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

            Re: End game?

            Had Iran really wanted…

            Probably the largest single barrage of ballistic missiles ever. Maybe Iran could overwhelm Israel’s defences. Maybe not. Expensive though. Obviously the drones are cheap. But long range cruise missiles cost more than SAMs. You don’t use the expensive long range ones to shoot them down, because you can’t see them at long range. Ballistic missiles ain’t cheap either.

            It was a major escalation, by the way. Changing from a proxy war, to a massive direct act of war.

  9. Zolko Silver badge

    If I understand well a computer has beaten a human in a computer simulation. All we need to do now is to convince the $BADGUYS to fight against us in a simulator, instead of cutting-off our supply-chains, or any other unpleasant real-world events, and our victory is certain. Well done DARPA !

    1. Mike 137 Silver badge

      "If I understand well a computer has beaten a human in a computer simulation"

      Actually, it seems to have been a real world flying exercise. They apparently integrated a simulator into the "AI" plane so it could learn while flying.

      1. Zolko Silver badge

        Re: "If I understand well a computer has beaten a human in a computer simulation"

        There is no info about any cameras or sensors for the AI to see the other fighters, only 3D images on a simulator screen. This looks like an AI trained on real flight data but the "dogfight" seems to happen in a computer simulation.

        1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

          Re: "If I understand well a computer has beaten a human in a computer simulation"

          As I understand it, last year was the simulator, this year was the actual plane.

  10. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    Interesting video

    Apart from the article headline and the first bit of marketing speak in the video intro, AI barely got a mention other than in passing. All the people involved talked about "machine learning", which as we all know, is a more accurate and proper description :-)

  11. Patrick R
    Pint

    "machine learning in an X-62A VISTA"

    What kind of Operating System does it use???

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6M46HvyAG2k

    1. Tomi Tank

      Re: "machine learning in an X-62A VISTA"

      first chuckle of the day

  12. heyrick Silver badge

    They made a film about this

    "Stealth" (2005ish)

    1. Ashentaine

      Re: They made a film about this

      The scariest implication of that film being not that the plane could go rogue, but that it may start downloading nu-metal songs off the Internet.

      1. Roger 11

        Re: They made a film about this

        Well, the local storage of my drone has a text file saying "I didn't do it" and a FLAC of "Learning to Fly" by Pink Floyd. That's a start. :)

  13. StrangerHereMyself Silver badge

    Inevitable

    I believe Killer Robots are inevitable and will be produced in the coming years. The argument will be that they can "Save Lives" or enable smaller countries to pack a bigger punch.

    Mind you that Killer Robots will also enable genocide since the Germans introduced the gas chambers in WWII as a "humane" measure. Not for the victims, but for their soldiers, who sustained psychic trauma from all the killings and executions. With Killer Robots you could simply say: "Kill everyone in this city, men, women, children, everyone!" and the Killer Robots would comply without mercy.

    1. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: Inevitable

      Found the solution there

  14. Herring`

    Couldn't they start with something smaller - like an Ed-209

  15. CowHorseFrog Silver badge

    How many dog fights have Israel and Iran had these last few days ?

    How many dog fights has there been over Ukraine and Russia ?

    ZERO.

    We are in a new dreadnaught age, where suddenly over night all the OLD ships are worthless, the original Dreadnaught was the start of the end of the British Empire, because suddenly its superiority became nothing because old ships were worthless.

    Missiles and drones is where its at, you cant shoot down 20 missiles or 200 drones with an F16 or F35.

    1. heyrick Silver badge

      Yes, this sort of thing was mentioned in an episode of The 3 Body Problem, that the ship commander guy wasn't too enthusiastic about the ship (especially its fuel consumption) and he said if he was in charge he'd not gave made a fancy expensive ship but would have commissioned a load of drones instead.

      Makes sense, though. Ships are big, slow, intimidating, and need lots of people to make it work. But it's about fuck all use of your enemy has a couple of hundred self piloting drones with explosives attached. We've seen (in new years light show displays) the sort of control a drone can manage. A bunch of those things weaponised could be extremely damaging if inflicted against an unsuspecting populace. Set it to home in by GPS, fly below anybody's radars, and deploy at the same time, and it'll all be over before anybody knows what "it" even is.

      Warships? Fighter jets? What use will they be? Those are things from an era when the enemy was countries. Half the time these days the enemy is an ideology with no geographic boundaries.

      1. CowHorseFrog Silver badge

        Just look at Russia's fleet in the blacksea, sure Russian air defense is crap, but this shows that fleets are completely useless if the enemy has half a decent missile system.

    2. werdsmith Silver badge

      I am confident that anti swarm defences are being researched and developed right now.

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        werdsmith,

        Anti-swarm defences have been being researched for ages. there are Already quite a lot in place. The Royal Navy's latest Type 31 doesn't even have a big main gun. It's got a 76mm and 2 x 40mm cannon for the purpose of being able to deal with boat and aerial drone swarms - as well as the higher end SeaCeptor missiles for medium range air defence. The RN have multiple sets of Phalanx CIWS (multi-barrel close-in defence) as well, which they fit to ships according to the threat level - which I assume can also go on T31. They've also announced they're going to start fitting Dragonfire lasers to the fleet as well.

    3. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      We are in a new dreadnaught age, where suddenly over night all the OLD ships are worthless

      No we're not. HMS Dreadnough made everything older obsolete, because you can't easily change the armour or turret scheme on an early 20th century warship. They'd sometimes remove a turret, to fit other stuff, or fit up-rated guns - and in World War II there was always room on deck for one more anti-aircraft cannon. But the fundamentals of the ship were done when you built it. HMS Hood had a bit of deck armour added for example, but there was never the time or budget for a full re-design, and even then you could change the deck armour or add things like torpedo bulges - you couldn't make a modern King George V class out of a WWI fast battleship.

      But look at something like the Royal Navy's type 45. It was built to have room for expansion. Which is the RN's new design philosophy. All warships must have physical room for more stuff, plus spare power generation capacity for new weapons and electronic warfare.

      They're a 20 year-old design. So the ships are undergoing a mid-life upgrade to give them better engines with more power. And sadly also to correct a problem with the original design of the powerplant - that had them breaking down too often. That's PIP.

      There's also the ballistic missile defence upgrade to the SeaViper (Aster/PAAMS) surface-to-air missiles. France and Italy have already done this for the land version of SAMP/D, which France have given one set of to Ukraine. So it already had limited ABM defences, it's shot down Iranian Houthi ballistic missiles in the Red Sea. But the missiles are also being upgraded for much faster missiles. Thihs may or may not require further upgrades to the radar - but there are already radar upgrades of some kind in the works.

      They're also replacing the short range Aster/SeaViper missiles with SeaCeptror (CAMM) - but doing it by adding another 24 VLS cells. So it's going from 48 (all now long-range) to 72 SAMs. They're also adding another 8 cell launcher for NSM (Naval Strike Missile) - which is a mid-range norwegian cruise/anti-ship missile. There was also the option to make that a 24 cell Mark 41 VLS launcher, compatible with all the US weapons - but I think that went out on cost/availabilty grounds. But could be done if they really feel the need, it just means removing the gym - the space allocated for this purpose. If we did that, it would mean you could have quad-packed SeaCeptor and so have another 48 of them - and still have 12 cells free for Tomahawk or the Storm Shadow replacement due to start arriving in the next year or two.

      Plus it's got the power for the Dragonfire laser and/or microwave anti-drone weapons. Plus other electronic warfare capabilities.

      You could even rip out most of the SAMs and fill it up with anti-ship or land strike cruise missiles and turn it into a completely different class of ship. And if it turns out that your current SAM of choice is crap - you can just update the systems to use another.

      This kind of flexibility means that you can easily operate a ship like this for 40 years, and it can be cutting edge in technology terms for its whole lifetime. As long as you keep your eye on the ball and keep the upgrades coming. It's probably the best air defence ship in the world, just because it's so tall. Meaning its radar horizon is higher, so it's much better at dealing with sea skimming missiles than any other AAW ship - even though it doesn't have the best ABM capacity (though improving quickly).

      1. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge
        Coat

        So now the only thing missing is sailors, right?

        Time to ask Boston Dynamics!

      2. CowHorseFrog Silver badge

        Spartacus: No we're not. HMS Dreadnough made everything older obsolete, because you can't easily change the armour or turret scheme on an early 20th century warship.

        cow: Exactly. Figher planes are obsolete just in a different way. 100 drones or 100 missiles against an F15 or F35 will result in the same things happening, 90 odd will get thru - its that simple.

        Spartacus: Plus it's got the power for the Dragonfire laser and/or microwave anti-drone weapons

        cow: Dragonfire cannot shoot anything down, it simply warms up the target in the sky, and you hope it fails and falls from the sky. Secondly all lasers need time to charge and cool down between uses. WHen the DragonFire is positioned on the Ukraine border shooting down 50 Iranian drones then you can pretend its perfect today .

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          CowHorseFrog,

          You have asserted that fighter planes are obsolete with literally zero evidence.

          As events at the weekend just proved, fighters can easily intercept slow-moving and cheap drones. This is one of the reasons we've been trying (horribly slowly) to get F16s to Ukraine. They don't have the kit, the mass or the training to take on the Russian air force and ground based air defence - but they may be able to gain tactical air superiority locally for short periods of time in order to be able to support their ground forces. And in the meantime they can shoot down lots of Shaheds - and protect Ukraine's cities and power infrastructure.

          But the things that a NATO strike package can do with electronic warfare and a few hundred fighter aircraft backed by tankers and intelligence and reconaissance aircraft are massively more effective than what you can do with a few hundred drones.

          It's possible that drone technology will make most aircraft obsolete. But we're not even close yet.

          ICBMs are of course extremely hard to stop (I'm not sure I'd say impossible). But they're also incredibly expensive, as are other hypersonic missiles. The great thing about a plane is that you can use it more than once. The other problem with replacing aircraft with ICBMs is that you might know you've put a conventional warhead on the end of it, but the target might not. So you might find a nuclear response being returned before your conventional warhead has even arrived.

          Finally, the fact that laser and microwave weapons are now being deployed, not just tested, suggests to me that they may be at least somewhat effective. We'll find out. But for now, they'll be part of a layered defence, which is how warships operate anyway. Most major warships have SAMs, often of different ranges, plus longer range guns and then short range self-defence cannon. The RN are now adding lasers, the US Navy are currently deploying anti-drone microwave weapons to their ships for drone defence.

          There are also a huge bunch of short range, cheaper missiles that are either being looked at to re-purpose for anti-drone work or in design. So the US are looking at designing a half-sized air-to-air missile, for short range anti-drone engagements. So aircraft can carry twice as many. The UK have been testing Martlet and Starstreak in this role, Starstreak is a man-portable SAM already being used in Ukraine in a vehicle mounted anti-drone role. Martlet is based on the same system, but is for non-armoured vehicles or bunkers. However that's also been used in Ukraine as a cheap weapon to shoot down drones and the RN already use it on helicopters in the anti-drone boat role. There's been testing done for a while now to make a naval version, that could be used against drone boat and aircraft swarms.

          Most new weapons can be countered. The secret to success in warfare is good training and having the right mix of different weapons systems available to use in combination to get what you want done.

          1. CowHorseFrog Silver badge

            spart: As events at the weekend just proved, fighters can easily intercept slow-moving and cheap drones. This is one of the reasons we've been trying (horribly slowly) to get F16s to Ukraine. T

            cow: The F16 are not dog fighting in Ukraine, they are launching the UK + FR air missiles.

            Feel free to show me a news story about a dog fight of any kind in Ukraine, because there are zero, and if you do find one, i wouldnt call that a success either because most o fthe damage on both sides is done by missiles and drones overwhelming the other side.

            spart: Most new weapons can be countered. The secret to success in warfare is good training and having the right mix of different weapons systems available to use in combination to get what you want done.

            cow: Lots of words, answering questions i never asked and in no way addressing my original statement.

            try and stay on topic.

          2. CowHorseFrog Silver badge

            spartacus: You have asserted that fighter planes are obsolete with literally zero evidence

            Cow: I give you the past 50 years.

            Basically the last real dog fights happened in the Vietnam war.

            One dog fight in Libya or Iraq shows how little effect they have on those two examples.

            spartacus: But the things that a NATO strike package can do with electronic warfare and a few hundred fighter aircraft backed by tankers and intelligence and reconaissance aircraft are massively more effective than what you can do with a few hundred drones.

            cow: Firstly fighter planes have a shitty range. THeres no way America is going to send hundreds of fighters over Russia because they dont have the range. THey cant even fly from Nato bases to Moscow and back.

            Fighters only work against enemies with basically no or joke air forces like iraq or afghanistan.

            Notice America hasnt got the balls to fly over Russia or China and ha snot done so for a long time.

      3. CowHorseFrog Silver badge

        spartacus: But look at something like the Royal Navy's type 45. It was built to have room for expansion. Which is the RN's new design philosophy. All warships must have physical room for more stuff, plus spare power generation capacity for new weapons and electronic warfare.

        Cow: Of course they plan... that doesnt mean im going to pretend everything is perfect.

        Facts are planes in the sky have been obsolete for a long time, they only work against donkey riders in places without an airforce against anyone else they are worthless. Intercontintental ballistic missiles have been unstoppable for 50 years

      4. CowHorseFrog Silver badge

        Spartacus:

        No we're not. HMS Dreadnough made everything older obsolete, because you can't easily change the armour or turret scheme on an early 20th century warship. They'd sometimes remove a turret, to fit other stuff, or fit up-rated guns - and in World War II there was always room on deck for one more anti-aircraft cannon. But the fundamentals of the ship were done when you built it. HMS Hood had a bit of deck armour added for example, but there was never the time or budget for a full re-design, and even then you could change the deck armour or add things like torpedo bulges - you couldn't make a modern King George V class out of a WWI fast battleship.

        Cow:

        Modern missile systems have made planes obsolete for different reasons.

        A F35 is never going to stop 50 missiles.

        Except for one or two dog fights which happened by chance like the TOmcats over Libya, nobody has tried to actually have an air war with dog fights for over 50 years.

        That bullsht is over.

        If America ever has a war with China or Russia, dog fights arent going to be a deciding factor, because of nukes.

        Spartacus: Plus it's got the power for the Dragonfire laser and/or microwave anti-drone weapons. Plus other electronic warfare capabilities.

        cow: YOu just verified my statement.

        The machines dont need pilots dogfighting its all missiles flying many times faster for a lot less money.

  16. nobody who matters

    <<<<<JET FIGHTER>>>>>>

    I am not the only person becoming increasingly fed up with the ignorance and poor education, coupled with a low standard of English which leads almost every media article you see nowadays to twist nomenclature round into a nonsensical order.

    It is a Jet Fighter, not a fighter jet - the jet is merely the power source that drives it. You wouldn't refer to an airliner jet, or a car motor, or a bike push. Why twist it the wrong way round for a jet fighter? It's no different from the brain dead arseholes back in the 1970s who insisted on referring to the Reliant Robin as a robin-reliant.

    As soon as I see it referred to as a 'fighter jet', I immediately know that I am dealing with someone who hasn't got much idea what they are talking about!

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      I've heard loads of RAF and USAF pilots say, "when you're flying the jet" or whatever. They do call them jets. And although I've never heard airliner jet, I have heard passenger jet plenty of times.

      I don't believe there's any rule of language here. Merely a choice of style. And style guides are not defnitive, since everyone's disagrees. Even dictionaries get updated for how people actually use the language.

      Therefore I deem your complaint rediculous, and predict that you will loose this argument.*

      *My apologies. I couldn't resist.

      1. nobody who matters

        Couldn't spell either :) - the word is spelled 'ridiculous'; no e present.

        There is a rule, or at least a whole set of them which determine in which order words should be used, and the fact that various people are illeducated and get the order wrong is not a valid justification for claiming that using the words in the wrong order is OK. The 'jet' is the engine, the source of the motive power, it is not the noun which refers to the vehicle itself, and therefore should be placed before the noun (which in this case is actually aeroplane, becuse we are talking about a jet powered fighter aeroplane, which has become shortened to simply 'fighter').

        Changes to language are good where they make the language richer, clearer and more expressive. Too many people seem unable to appreciate the difference between evolution of a language and deterioration of a language, and the current frequency of the use of the term 'fighter jet' falls firmly into the latter category.

  17. Shoki

    Just getting started

    When a dedicated aircraft with no cockpit or human support systems, and airframe stressed to twenty or twenty-five G's is produced, no manned aircraft will defeat it.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Just getting started

      When a dedicated aircraft with no cockpit or human support systems, and airframe stressed to twenty or twenty-five G's is produced, no manned aircraft will defeat it.

      But it'll cost even more than a manned jet, and probably have even more stringent maintenance requirements. Meaning nobody will be able to afford many of them.

    2. nobody who matters

      Re: Just getting started

      I think some people are perhaps over estimating the ability to produce an airframe with sufficient strength to resist extremely high G (and other) forces. Even if it were possible, they probably would not stand up to doing it many times before breaking up ;)

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Some merit

    Not sure what value there is in air to air combat drones except to the manufacturers. A lot of expensive machinery blowing itself up before the ground war? Why not prioritise autonomous air to ground and vice-versa.

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