Our boy Bryant Jordan will run a story tomorrow morning on Military.com to commemorate the Air Force's 63rd birthday and ask the above question: More than six decades after the establishment of the USAF, are we near the last birthday where the service will celebrate human pilots?
[The]specter of obsolescence is beginning to haunt some of the most tech-savvy men and women in America – Air Force pilots – as the service looks toward an unmanned air fleet capable of any and every kind of combat and support role, from close air support to cargo and refueling; a fleet “smart” enough to work together, even “swarming” to carry out tactical and strategic missions.But according to Jordan, who is a long-time reporter on the Air Force beat, doubts remain whether computers can take on the mission of humans in today's complex battlefield.
Just when this sci-fi drone swarm becomes a reality is anyone’s guess. But according to a former career fighter pilot who also worked on UAV programs, it could be a while before the Air Force has autonomous aircraft capable of performing tactical missions in which targets are moving and friendlies are in the area.And the questions aren't just technological, Jordan finds, there's a moral/ethical question too.
“It’s going to be a phased or stair-step evolution” to this kind of capability, former Air Force Maj. Robert “Rocky” Kendall told Military.com. “If you say, okay, we’re going to have an … unmanned combat air vehicle go out and do a tactical mission -- that’s a lot.”
“Then you have the ultimate thing that someone likes to throw out so they can watch someone squirm – the moral issue of a machine killing a human” based on an autonomous “decision.”Be sure to see the entire story tomorrow on Military.com...and happy birthday United States Air Force!
“The machine will make the call because it’s out there by itself. It’s not going to send over a ‘Mother, may I?’ message,” he said. “Otherwise, why go through all the [bother] of building the avionics so it can go do that if it going to have to stop and ask.”