Could This Be America’s Most Expensive Combat Drone Ever? 

Could This Be America’s Most Expensive Combat Drone Ever? 

Tyler Durden

Fri, 08/14/2020 – 23:00

The US has spent trillions and trillions of dollars under the Trump administration to modernize the military, ahead of what could be a stealth war with either China and or Russia. The Pentagon has been upgrading the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, an all-weather stealth multirole combat aircraft, with advanced technologies, enabling it to conduct a wide range of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) missions.

The National Interest suggests all this new technology packed into the F-35, that being an advanced suite of long-range sensors and targeting systems, could allow it to become a “long-range drone.”  

The idea would be to leverage its advanced suite of long-range sensors and targeting technologies. In fact, it would not be a stretch to say that the F-35 can function as a long-range drone, aerial relay node, missile tracker or surveillance plane. – The National Interest

The F-35 costs between $94 million (F-35A) and $122 million (F-35B) per plane. The entire program is expected to cost $1.5 trillion over its 55-year lifespan. There are no figures publicly available that shed light on how much it would cost taxpayers to transform one of these stealth jets into fully a fully autonomous aircraft. 

While not much is known about the full capabilities of the F-35 potentially operating in autonomous mode, it certainly suggests these planes are double the price of the General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper ($64 million per unit). 

The National Interest lists some of the technologies embedded in the F-35 that would allow it to conduct a wide range of missions: 

Its 360-degree surround cameras, called the Distributed Aperture System, and its long-range Electro-Optical infrared targeting technologies were initially conceived as a way to inform pilots about far away enemy aircraft and provide navigational information to empower its multirole attack mission set.

Its 360-degree surround cameras, called the Distributed Aperture System, and its long-range Electro-Optical infrared targeting technologies were initially conceived as a way to inform pilots about far away enemy aircraft and provide navigational information to empower its multirole attack mission set.

While all of this is still true and quite relevant, the Pentagon has increasingly been discovering new uses for the F-35 when it comes to an ability to function as an “aerial node” performing ISR and datalink missions. With a fleet-wide data link and growing “threat library,” the F-35s can network to one another at great distances, enabling an ability to establish a continuous track on traveling threats moving from one field of view to another.

Moreover, the Pentagon recently utilized the F-35 in a host of multi-domain combat attack missions, including networking threat information from incoming air attacks with maritime, air and ground assets. Ultimately, would involve an integrated mesh of sensors and radar called Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System (IBCS). Alongside connecting with IBCS, an F-35 was also able to connect with a U-2 spy plane to form an “airborne relay” using Lockheed’s Airborne Sensor Adaptation Kit. – The National Interest 

With a stealth war looming, manned, and potentially unmanned F-35s, could be deployed onto the frontlines of the modern battlefield to combat China’s Chengdu J-20 stealth jet and Russia’s Sukhoi Su-57 stealth bomber. 

via ZeroHedge News https://ift.tt/310jbk9 Tyler Durden

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