Air Combat Without Fighter Pilots?

DOD’s new unmanned aircraft system strategy paper (DR, 08/12/05) contains a surprise—the US may be flying unmanned “counterair” missions as early as 2020. The study contains a graph (p. 74) showing UASes starting to do the work of F-15s, F-16s, and F-14s in the 2020-25 period. Unmanned systems would complement F/A-22s and F/A-18E/Fs in the 2025-30 period. Unmanned air combat was thought to be much further out than that.