Military drones

At the outbreak of the First World War,  Italian General Giulio Douhet wrote that when a force gains command of the air it has the ability to render an enemy harmless.  It became one of the pillars of aerial strategy. Through many conflicts past and present, that concept has continued to evolve.

We've all read accounts of the military use of drone aircraft in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Currently, the United States has approximately 300 of these unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) in operation. They have been so successful that they represent the fastest growing fleet of aircraft in the arsenal.

The Air Force is now testing a bigger, more advanced aircraft with the aim of establishing another first:  building an unmanned attack vehicle capable of landing and taking off from the crowded, pitching decks of aircraft carriers.

The Northrop Grumman X-47B is the sleek plane in question, and it has already flown from desert bases. It is now being prepared for testing on carriers.  You can see photos of the aircraft in this Smithsonian Air and Space magazine article.  Some pilots are not happy about this development, but others see the advantages.

Meanwhile the Predator and Reaper drones used by the military continue to record hours of covert video images. The material collected so far is so voluminous that the armed services cannot keep up with all the information.  The New York Times explained the situation last year in an article entitled Military Is Awash In Data From Drones.  With so much information, no one in the intelligence field is likely to be questioning the benefits of these flying robots anytime soon.

The desire to control the skies continues to push us into new territory.

Related post:
Two new planes on the frontiers of civil aviation

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