Elon Musk Says the Fighter Jet Is Dead


Maybe…but not the way he thinks.

By Kyle Mizokami Mar 3, 2020

Elon Musk says the manned fighter jet is dead and will be replaced by drones.

Manned fighters aren’t dead yet, and modern air combat would thrash proposed drone fighters.

Drones may not force the end of manned fighters but instead technologies such as lasers weapons.

Last week Elon Musk sat in front of an assemblage of U.S. Air Force officers and declared that the era of the fighter jet, “had passed.” Musk, interviewed by U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. John Thompson at the Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Florida, said that the future of air warfare belonged to drones and that the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter would have “no chance” against a drone fighter.

The fighter jet era has passed,” Musk said, according to CNBC. “Drone warfare is where the future will be. It’s not that I want the future to be – it’s just, this is what the future will be.”

Musk’s fighter-killer drone seems to be a remote-controlled fighter, but one whose dogfighting ability is enhanced through the use of autonomy. That’s actually an interesting point: an artificial intelligence might be able to pull together data about two aircraft in a dogfight, from airspeed to weapons loadouts, and then come up with an ideal course of action to shoot down the other aircraft.

It could possibly do this faster than a human, the same way supercomputers can calculate possible chess moves faster than a human chessmaster. While the technology doesn’t exist at this point, it’s still possible.

The problem is this ignores a fundamental difference between older fighters and fifth-generation stealth fighters such as the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. For approximately 70 years, air-to-air combat was a mid-air brawl, with planes mixing it up in the skies. The advent of the air-to-air missile was briefly thought to have ended the dogfight, but that was proved wrong during the Vietnam War, and fighter planes built to rely on missiles suffered as a result. Until very recently, dogfighting was the inevitable endgame of opposing fleets of fighter planes

The introduction of stealth in the 1980s marked a major change in aerial warfare. Stealth enabled aircraft to stay off enemy radars while at the same time observing the enemy. The U.S. Air Force quickly learned that this bought time for any stealth fighter pilot. In an engagement with non-stealthy enemy jets, stealth gave a fighter pilot time to set up an ambush the enemy couldn’t anticipate.

The F-22 and F-35 fighters are designed to be assassins, not brawlers. The twofighters are designed to detect enemy aircraft first and then set up a series of ambushes designed to whittle the enemy force down. Typically this will involve fixing the position of enemy forces by fusing together sensor data from different sources, including nearby AWACs-type radar planes and the fighter’s own radar.

Next, F-22 and F-35 pilots will use the fighter’s speed and agility to gain a superior position over the enemy. Finally, the fighters execute the ambush, launching AMRAAM medium-range air-to-air missiles at targets that don’t even know they are there. Both jets would shoot down Musk’s proposed drone fighter before it entered dogfighting range.

Musk could be right about the age of manned fighter jets coming to a close—but it won’t be because of drones. Advances in counter-stealth technology erodes a fighter jet’s advantage and a proficient laser weapon system would change aerial warfare drastically.

Lasers have several advantages over traditional guns and missiles. A laser weapon is powered by a fighter’s onboard electrical system, theoretically giving it an unlimited number of shots. Lasers travel at the speed of light and can inflict damage from miles away, depending on the strength of the beam. Lasers can’t be dodged or diverted away from their targets, and they’re much easier to aim than guns. The effect of lasers on air warfare, coupled with a reduction in the effectiveness of stealth, could be so profound aerial warfare simply becomes too dangerous for human beings.

Elon Musk might be right about the future of fighter pilots, but wrong about why robots will take their place. It won’t be because they’re inherently better—it’ll be to save the pilot’s life.

Source: Popular Mechanics “Elon Musk Says the Fighter Jet Is Dead”

Note: This is Popular Mechanics’ article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.


Will Flying Cars Help the US Beat China? The Air Force Hopes So


By Patrick Tucker

February 25, 2020

Service officials say giving American manufacturers first-mover advantage is just as important as the military benefits of vertical-lift buses.

The U.S. Air Force wants flying cars. But more than that, it wants to give U.S. manufacturers a head start in a hot future market.

On Tuesday, service officials released a request for proposals for the Agility Prime program, which seeks a highly modular vertical-lift aircraft that could play a variety of roles. The service dubs them ORBs, for organic resupply buses.

Given their flexibility, an ORB could act as an organic resupply bus for disaster relief teams, an operational readiness bus for improved aircraft availability, and an open requirements bus for a growing diversity of missions. ORBs could enable distributed logistics, sustainment, and maneuver, with particular utility in medical evacuation, firefighting, civil and military disaster relief, installation and border security, search and rescue, and humanitarian operations,” the request said.

Will Roper, the service’s assistant secretary for acquisition, said last week that that program is much broader than just building a flying bus. He’s looking to create the circumstances by which the industry can take off in the United States before it swims to China.

Roper made his remarks to a handful of Pentagon reporters, but he could have been speaking to an international crowd of policy-makers and Fortune 500 CEOs in Davos or Munich. Helping to launch a flying car market in the United States is “equally” as important as acquiring them for the Air Force, he said.

DOD provides about “20 percent of the [research and development] funding in this country,” he said. “Twenty percent is not going to compete with China long-term, with a nationalized industrial base that can pick national winners.”

A January report from data analytics company Govini supports that view. Govini found that while the U.S. government and U.S. businesses are spending more on research and development than China, the pace of China’s investment is surpassing that of the United States.

Among the tech winners that China has been able to poach from the United States is the consumer drone market. Roper described it as a cautionary tale for what could happen with flying cars. “The Pentagon didn’t take a proactive stance on it and now most of that supply chain has moved to China. If we had realized that commercial trend and shown that the Pentagon is willing to pay a higher price point for a trusted supply chain drone,” the drone market would be different, and the U.S. military would be the direct beneficiary.

We probably could have kept part of the market here and not have the security issues we do now when someone wants to use a foreign-made drone at an air force or service event.”

Agility Prime is saying, ‘we’re not going to let that happen again and we’re going to be part of the global tech ecosystem.’”

The Air Force has created a venture arm, Air Force Ventures, to persuade the venture capital community to invest in projects with military relevance. Roper said that partnering with the big-money houses of Silicon Valley has already helped to bring $400 million in private investment into companies working on defense problems.

The Air Force has also introduced processes meant to get more money to companies that aren’t traditional defense contractors. In the beginning phase, there’s AFWERX, which the Air Force created in 2017 as a seed investor. AFWERX is making investments of roughly $50,000 in small companies as part of the Small Business Innovation Research, or SBIR, program. Companies that make it to phase II of the SBIR program could get $1 million. Finally, the Air Force is looking to match the investment of private venture capitalists for bigger bets.

That’s a big departure from the way defense contracting happens traditionally, with a known defense contractor snagging a big multi-year contract and then working it until it’s canceled. “We’re not going to get a new defense prime. It collapses every year through mergers and acquisitions. Trying to recreate the 20th century industrial base is a losing strategy,” Roper said.

Early-stage investments in technology that could have dual military and civilian use, Roper said, is the only way the United States is going to stay competitive with China. But the military has a lot of other assets it can bring to bear on tech innovation that the private sector can’t, such as testing ranges for experimental aircraft.

The acquisitions program for Agility Prime would feature a “challenge-based acquisition plan. We’ll have different durations of flight and payloads that have to be carried. And if you pass the hurdle, you will move further down the wickets of getting safety certified and moving onto a procurement contract. We’re working with our operators right now on what missions” that might entail, he said.

Roper hopes that certifying companies to produce flying cars for the Air Force will go a long way to convincing other federal authorities to give their stamp of approval. “The companies that are able to make it to that point are able to go to domestic certifiers and say, ‘You should trust that I am able to fly commercially,’” he said.

Peter W. Singer, a strategist at New America, said, “Pentagon leaders are putting far more thinking into supply chains than they were in the past, in both already established programs of record as well as what might be the programs 20 years from now. So I am supportive of this kind of thinking. A challenge, though, is in areas where the consumer side might take off, pun intended. The Pentagon’s buying power might be enough to aid a startup at the early stage, which is obviously valuable. But the long term prospects of a firm selling into a mostly civilian market are going to be decided outside the E-Ring.”

Paul Scharre, a senior fellow and the director of the Technology and National Security Program at the Center for a New American Security, said, “I think it’s good that DoD is thinking about supply chain security and how commercial markets evolve. Keeping a demand signal in the marketplace for trusted suppliers is important for shaping how an industry evolves.”

Stephen Rodriguez, a senior advisor at the Atlantic Council, said “China came to dominate the commercial drone market not only by investing heavily out of their federal coffers but also, and probably more importantly, coordinating their industrial policy with commercial technology developers. This enables Beijing to clearly see what technology they need to buy or build and what technology wasn’t important. We still wrestle with this paradigm. Whether we have a ‘trusted market’ or not, Washington still needs to understand what technologies are truly game-changing on an ongoing basis, and then building programs around that policy.”

Source: Defense One “Will Flying Cars Help the US Beat China? The Air Force Hopes So”

Note: This is Defense One’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.


US Officials ground Drones fearing Chinese Espionage


By Sean –

Jan 22, 2020

Following Huawei being caught in the crossfires of the US-China trade disputes, drones have now become another area that is facing scrutiny by the US Government. Allegedly, Drones that are manufactured or belong to Chinese brands could potentially be used to spy in the US, according to Government officials.

Drones have been increasing in popularity in the US and it is not just limited to cinematography or plain entertainment. They can be highly useful in real world scenarios as well. The best example being the volcano eruption in Hawaii back in May 2018, where a drone was used by US scientists to save a man from the lava by asking him to follow the drone to make it out of a jungle.

A drone from DJI, a renowned brand in unmanned drones and videography equipments

Examples such as these are indicative of the wide range of application and usefulness unmanned drones bring to the table. However, what about “espionage?” is the question the US Government is asking. With the increasing rivalry between the US and the east, namely China, the western nation is scrutinizing every avenue that the Chinese have a foothold in. One of these is the commercially available drones that are widely sold in the US.

DJI or Da Jiang Innovations Science and Technology Company is one of the market leaders in videography equipment and unmanned drones. Its offerings are used both for entertainment and to access areas for scientific research as well. But the company isn’t alone as even more Chinese drone manufacturers are seeking to enter the US market in the near future. These drones are also seeing an increase in adoption in various Government departments and have become a cause for worry for David Bernhardt, the Head of a Federal agency.

DJI Mavic Pro OcuSync

According to Bernhardt, these drones are currently under evaluation and review, which is an effort being made to deem their safety for being used in the nation. Furthermore, during this process, all drones made in China are grounded, as reported by the BBC network. Notably, crucial areas like drones used in fire fighting and to help rescue people are still allowed to fly.

Chinese analysts see US policies that hamper the operations of companies from China as a form of protectionism. In other words, the US is actively against foreign MNCs gaining a large market share within its nation. However, despite all of these allegations and friction, the US and Chinese leaders are well on their way to sign a trade deal to recuperate the ailing relations between the two.

Source: GISMOCHINA “US Officials ground Drones fearing Chinese Espionage”

Note: This is GISMOCHINA’s report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


Report on 537 Anti-Drone Systems Shows How Wild the Market Has Become


From jamming rifles to ground installations that fire nets, a new report lays out the expansive Wild West of anti-drone tech.

by Matthew Gault

Dec 14 2019, 2:55am

Drones are everywhere. Military drones buzz war zones dropping missiles; surveillance drones hover above neighborhoods, looking for anything out of place; even now, commercial drones hide in holiday wrapping, waiting for excited enthusiasts to fly them in a park.

As the market for drones has grown, so too has the market for tools to take them down. There’s jamming rifles, spoofing software, and hundreds of other solutions for downing a drone. But what to buy the budding enthusiast?

This week, the Center for the Study of the The Drone at Bard College published a research paper on counter-drone technology that includes a list of 537 counter-drone systems displaying jaw-dropping diversity, from hand-held guns that detect a drone’s radio-frequency and blast it with microwaves to ground installations that listen for drones and fire a net.

According to the report, which covers the legal framework for these tools as well as their effectiveness, not all drone downers are created equal, however. Jamming a drone might work great on the playground, but could get you arrested at the airport. And more advanced drones are immune to older counter-measures, the report found.

People need to be aware of the products that are out there and also be aware of the significant challenges in the use of those products,” Arthur Holland Michel, founder of the Center for the Study of the Drone and author of its report, said over the phone. “This is an immature and dynamic industry. There’s a lot of room for growth.”

Michel said there’s no one method is better for downing a drone than any other. “Jamming is the most common and seems to have some level of effectiveness,” he said. “The caveat, and it’s a big caveat, is that jamming systems are not going to be effective [against] drones that do not have a communication or navigation link.”

And just because one method is effective, that doesn’t mean you’ll want to use it. “There’s a complex matrix when it comes to effectiveness that takes into consideration costs, and the environment, and safety,” Michel said. “You may have a system that is extremely effective, but it’s either too expensive or too dangerous to use in a particular environment.”

Michel offered an example of a jamming device that is effective in a 25 km radius. “If you install that in an airport, you’re probably going to disrupt a lot of legitimate communications and cause a lot of headaches,” he said.

The report illustrates how the field of anti-drone tech is an arms race. Companies make counter-drone technology, and drone makers create methods to circumvent it. Michel said some manufacturers are programming autonomous drones to fly in unpredictable patterns, and designing stealth technology that makes drones harder to spot.

There are also advances in commercial drone technology intended, somewhat ironically, to make drones safer,” he said. “This will also have the effect of making these drones harder to counter.”

For example, Michel said, a big problem with commercial drones is that the signal between the controller and the drone can weaken, causing the drone to fly away on its own. Making that signal more robust against interference also makes it harder to take down the drone.

Michel’s report is a list of various counter-drones technologies but it doesn’t make recommendations for what to buy. The report is academic research, not a Sears catalog for the cyberpunk dystopia. Ultimately, what it highlights is that

drones, counter-drones, and counter-counter-drones (they exist) are the Wild West. “As the drone technology gets harder to shoot down, the counter drone technology gets more advanced and more capable that in turn will drive further advances in drone technology itself,” Michel said. “This feedback loop will speed up in the years ahead.”

Source: vice.com “Report on 537 Anti-Drone Systems Shows How Wild the Market Has Become”

Note: This is vice.com’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.


Chinese drones are doing amazing things


In addition to helping to restore Notre Dame Cathedral, Made in China drones are also helping to save lives and aiding in many industries

By DM Chan

The Chinese-made drones are an “incredible story of modern technology,” said Benoit Guillot, program director of the French drone company Artelia.

At the AirWorks conference in Los Angeles, Guillot recalled how his team used three drones to capture footage of the 850-year-old Notre Dame Cathedral after the devastating fire this April.

The event is an annual gathering of technology experts and policymakers initiated by Chinese drone maker SZ DJI Technology Co. Ltd. to drive the commercial drone industry forward, China Daily reported.

Guillot’s team used Phantom 4, DJI M210 and Mavic Pro thermal, all manufactured by DJI, to map the church’s outside and inside vault and the cathedral’s 3D shell.

They also mapped the ground damage and rubble when its roof was in danger of collapsing, which saved photographers from taking risks. Their work will help investigators and architects determine the extent of the damage before undertaking reconstruction.

Those drones perform well and work accurately in every situation,” Guillot told Xinhua News Agency. “They are all in one package, and precise and accurate.”

Andre Finot, Notre Dame’s communication director, said he was blown away by the technology. “It was totally surprising to see them flying so quickly and hovering at this location.

I realized that it was not just a simple gadget for TV production. It can also be used to save a building like Notre Dame and also save lives,” Finot said.

The Notre Dame rescue was just one of many stories recounted at the three-day event, the report said.

The annual conference sponsored by DJI drew about 700 attendees and offered 60 educational workshops spanning five core industries — agriculture, construction, energy, infrastructure and public safety.

We are engaging in a dialogue with a number of leaders in the industry, public safety, government, commercial businesses, and energy transportation companies to have a complete discussion of what the market is today and what it’s going to be tomorrow,” said Mario Rebello, DJI’s country manager for North America.

The drone market is turning into an ecosystem in which Shenzhen-based DJI is taking the center stage. According to Skylogic Research, a drone analysis company, the Chinese drone manufacturer holds more than 70 percent of the worldwide civil drone market share, the report said.

Like Google’s Android to app developers, DJI drones are becoming a platform where hundreds of startups and end users with their specific demands apply drone technology to their own industries.

They are getting value and now they’re helping businesses reduce their costs and actually saving people’s lives,” said Rebello.

FLIR Systems, a thermal imaging manufacturer based in Oregon, is a partner of DJI. FLIR launched at the conference its first multi-gas detector built for unmanned aerial systems, which is compatible with the DJI M210 and can help first responders to locate and identify chemical gas hazards, the report said.

DJI is looking for the best technology at the most affordable price, so we put our payloads on those most popular airframes,” said Chris Bainter, FLIR’s global business development director.

At the conference, the Los Angeles Fire Department also showcased how DJI drones were used to conduct aerial mapping for wildfire response and for swift water rescues, hazmat operations and urban search and rescue missions.

The drone gives customers a tool and then they are developing customized solutions that are software-based or at times they are adding more hardware to our drone,” said Rebello.

Along with the Chinese drone maker’s rapid expansion, misgivings over data security also loomed. Earlier, some US senators launched a bill that may stop the federal government from buying drones from China.

It came after the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency warned in May that the Chinese-made drones contain components that collect operation and customer data for intelligence use.

DJI then submitted a letter to the Senate denying speculation about the company’s data security practices. According to the letter, DJI drones do not share flight logs, photos or videos, and do not automatically send flight data to China or anywhere else.

Rebello said that one announcement would be far from enough to avert misinformation and dispel security concerns, while emphasizing the willingness of DJI to build trust with its customers.

We’ve got to show them that there is no security vulnerability. So what we’ve done with a number of federal agencies is we’ve worked with them,” Rebello said.

They tell us what they need, we develop the solution and then they have a third party, a security agency or security expert, come in to review the software code and the hardware and make sure what we said is true.”

Source: Asia Times “Chinese drones are doing amazing things”

Note: This is Asia Times’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


China Displays Its High-altitude Fast Reconnaissance Drone like SR-71


WZ-8 regarded as rival to US SR-71. Photo from CCTV footage.

China displays its advanced new weapons at its National Day military parade yesterday.

Defenseworld.net says in its report “New Dagger Shaped High-altitude Reconnaissance Drone Debuts at China’s National Day Parade” that according to Wu Jian, editor of Defense Weekly under Shanghai-based Xinmin Evening News, the drone can effectively gather intelligence in real time in a controllable way.

It says that Wu is of the opinion that a satellite can conduct reconnaissance only when it is above the target so that the enemy may be alerted of the drone’s intention to guide missile to attack the target.

Mil.huanqiu.com, on the other hand says in its report “Annalyses of Equipment: They are the weightiest stars of this massive military parade” that according to Taiwan media, WZ-8 flies at supersonic speed and that it matches US SR-71 in functions and design.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on defenseworld.net and mil.huanqiu.com’s reports, full text can respectively be viewed at https://www.defenseworld.net/news/25594/New_Dagger_Shaped_High_altitude_Reconnaissance_Drone_Debuts_at_China___s_National_Day_Parade#.XZPrpW5uKvt and https://mil.huanqiu.com/article/7Qq0K2E50Tm.


China’s FL-1 MALE UAV performs maiden flight


The Fei Long-1 medium-altitude long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle made its public debut in November 2018. Source: IHS Markit/Kelvin Wong

Kelvin Wong, Singapore – Jane’s International Defence Review

22 January 2019

Zhong Tian Guide Control Technology Company (ZT Guide), a Xi’an-based manufacturer of electronic and industrial equipment, announced on 20 January that it has successfully completed the maiden flight of its Fei Long-1 (Flying Dragon-1 or FL-1) medium-altitude long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle (MALE UAV).

The prototype FL-1 – which was first unveiled at the Airshow China 2018 exhibition in Zhuhai and called the ‘Large Payload Long Endurance Universal Unmanned Transportation Platform’ – was launched from Pucheng Neifu Airport near Xi’an following 18 months of research and development (R&D) work by ZT Guide’s Zhong Tian Fei Long subsidiary, the company said in its statement.

According to official specifications the FL-1 has a maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of 3,200 kg with a payload capacity of 1,400 kg inclusive of fuel. Two hardpoints can be mounted under each wing, with each hardpoint capable of carrying up to 250 kg of stores.

The FL-1 bears a strong physical resemblance to the 3,300 kg-class Cai Hong-5 (Rainbow-5 or CH-5) MALE UAVs manufactured by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC). It has an aerodynamically shaped fuselage that measures about 10 m long and features a bulged nose section and retractable tricycle undercarriage, mid-mounted wings that are approximately 20 m in span, and a V-shaped tail assembly incorporating a pair of fins and rudders.

Both air vehicles are also equipped with a ventral electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) turret, although the FL-1 features pronounced wing root fairings, which offer some visual distinction from the CH-5.

The air vehicle is powered by a rear-mounted heavy fuel engine of an undisclosed type with a dorsal intake. This engine drives a three-bladed pusher propeller, which enables the vehicle to cruise at speeds of up to 240 km/h at altitudes of 16,404–19,685 ft and attain an operating ceiling of 26,246 ft.

Source: Jane’s 360 “China’s FL-1 MALE UAV performs maiden flight”

Note: This is Jane’s 360’s report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.