As per 2019, almost every modern military forces in the world uses unmanned aerial system or ‘Drones’. Sometimes they are used for information gathering, spying and sometimes for combat purposes. They are very much effective, reliable and safe. Now the question comes, will these drones replace fighter jets in distant future ? Let’s find out.

A brief history of UAVs

The concept of unmanned aerial system is not a new one. The concept first came into light in 22nd August, 1849 when Austria attacked Italian city of Venice with unmanned balloons loaded with explosives. Although it is not like the present day conventional unmanned aerial system ( UAS ) as we see now, but it is quite significant in the history of UAS.

The first pilotless aircraft was developed just after WW I in 1916, but it never took flight. Shortly later, the Hewitt-Sperry Automatic Airplane (the flying bomb) made its maiden flight, demonstrating the concept of unmanned aircraft. This is used as an aerial torpedo which eventually became modern day cruise missile.

During the period between WW I and WW II radio-controlled airplane was developed by USA and UK. In 1936, the term “drone” was first coined, as the head of the US Navy’s research group used it to describe radio-controlled aerial targets.

Modern-era UAVs were first used during the August 2nd and August 4th, 1964 clash in the Tonkin Gulf between the US and North Vietnamese navies. During the Vietnam War. Although it was Israel, in 1973, who first developed UAVs with real time surveillance.

By 1987, Israel had developed proof-of-concept capabilities in tailless, stealth-based, three-dimensional thrust vectoring flight control, jet steering UAVs for the first time.

What are the kind of drones that armed forces are using ?

The military drones can be classified broadly into two categories, one is UAV that is unmanned aerial vehicle and another is UCAV, unmanned combat aerial vehicle.

UAV are only used for spying, reconnaissance and information gathering. It has no active weapon attached with it. One of the most popular of such kinds of UAV is Isreali IAI Heron. The new version of Heron is named as IAI Eitan. A medium-altitude, long endurance (MALE) UAV, the Eitan can operate at altitudes above commercial air traffic and features all-weather capability.

On the other hand UCAV can be used for both reconnaissance & information gathering and carrying an air-strike. The most famous example is US Airforce Predator C Avenger. Armed with Hellfire missile and GBU-39 SDB – 250 lb bombs it is used for airstrike by USAF.

UCAV/UVA vs Fighter Jet

Drones are mainly used for information gathering and deep penetration strikes, bombings. The drone pilots do not have any visual or other sensational feeling like conventional pilots have. But as new technology is coming out everyday, like Virtual Reality, soon the drone pilots will have the advantage of fighter jet pilots too.

Today drones are also used to assist fighter planes. Most important thing about drones is that a pilot can control it from anywhere in the world sitting inside a safe room. So, it can be sent to an enemy territory.

Apart from that the pilots can be changed while the drone is in the air. It is important because a fighter pilot can not fly an aircraft for much longer duration, where as in drone the pilot can be exchanged. So, a drone can be in the air as much longer as its propulsion system permits.

The future of UAVs

In the distant future there will be a possibility that, UAV/UCAVs will be used more and more, but it is not going to replace the fighter aircrafts right now. Because a pilot’s life is more valuable than a drone, that’s why the use of drones are increasing day by day.

On the other hand, micro UAVs which are undetectable by radar are used for many operations, even special forces used them as an extra eye above in the air during operations. So, in simple words, in distant future every country is going to use more and more unmanned aerial vehicles for military purpose and after some decades drone will be used as a primary weapon for aerial warfare due to pilots safety issues and other advantages.

Data Sources: https://www.redorbit.com/reference/the-history-of-drone-technology/

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