A new study from the Center for a New American Security suggests the military should be more forceful in developing robotic and autonomous technology for combat operations. In addition, the Air Force should embrace these tools to supplement intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance and high-risk missions, such as defeating air defenses. “Robotics on the Battlefield—Part I: Range, Persistence, and Daring,” looks at key technologies and how they could be better developed for use across the military services to further efficiency, build survivable capabilities, and save lives. “Some parts of the military continue to resist the expansion of uninhabited systems into traditional combat roles,” states the study. Strong leadership from the Defense Department will be required in the future to overcome these obstacles. The study argues that the winner of the “robotics revolution” will not be the first to develop technology, but the one who figures out how to utilize it best. Specifically, for the Air Force, the study urges the development of multi-aircraft control technology that allows a single operator to control several remotely piloted aircraft, the development of high altitude long endurance air vehicles to act as a “resilient airborne layer” for communications and navigation to counter attacks on space systems, and develop low cost RPAs for high risk missions such as suppression of enemy air defenses.
The F-35 Joint Program Office has officially announced plans to issue multiple sole-source contracts to Pratt & Whitney to upgrade the fighter’s F135 engine—a widely expected move after Pentagon officials indicated they would do so earlier this year instead of developing an entirely new engine.