Charismatic Tesla and SpaceX chairman Elon Musk stunned the Air Force Association fighter pilots audience this week when he said the replacement of traditional pilots and fighter planes by drones was inevitable in a relatively short time. According to him, the mass of information to be processed by a pilot in increasingly short time frames, associated with the physiological constraints of the human body, make the concept of manned combat aircraft obsolete, and point to a single solution, their disappearance in favor of unmanned systems, combat drones.
And the presentation of concept "Defender" made on February 27 by the western leader in combat drones, General Atomics, which designed and manufactured the Predator and Reaper drones in particular, seems indeed to point towards such a solution. Derivative of the "Avenger" drone, unhappy competitor of Boeing model selected for MQ-25 Stingray on-board refueling drone contract from the US Navy, the Defender is presented as a combat drone specializing in air interdiction and support aircraft protection missions, such as in-flight refueling or early air warning devices, better known under the name AWACS. DARPA, for its part, is developing the Longshoot program, a device also equipped with air-to-air missiles and even a cannon, however with different objectives from the Defender concept, since it is more of an air-transported offensive weapon intended to operate in strongly defended environments in order to , precisely, eliminating these defenses to allow the piloted apparatuses to carry out their missions.
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