back to article Don't mean to alarm you, but Boeing has built an unmanned fighter jet called 'Loyal Wingman'

Boeing has built an autonomous military aeroplane that flies in formation with a manned fighter jet to ward off electronic warfare attacks. Reports say the craft could be modified to carry and use its own weapons. The electronic warfare drone was built for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) by the American aerospace …

  1. Tom7

    I sure wouldn't want to be flying the manned half of this if the unmanned half has weapons...

    1. JDX Gold badge

      I'd rather that than a manned plane flying right next to me

      1. Korev Silver badge
        Coat

        Especially if they're a Maverick

        Mine's the one with a pair of Aviators in the pocket -->

    2. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Devil

      oh come on, wouldn/'t be cool as hell to be the pilot of 3 aircraft at the same time???

      I can see that coming - 2 and 3 plane squads, single pilot with high tech helmet and practically plugged into his own aircraft...

      the reason you'd want the pilot to control all 3 in coordinated attacks is that the latency of short range radio signals and less likelihood of takeover or jamming (when at close range) gives you a tactical advantage. And you could attack with the bot planes while staying back a bit, too, maybe less likely for the people-plane to get shot down.

      Let's try it in video games, first, to see how well it works.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It's be no different from being an American Allie in any other combat theatre.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        One of those words that looks wrong however you spell it.

  2. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Terminator

    So are we starting a pool?

    Number of months until the Loyal Wingman gets struck by lightning or is programmed to withold the true purpose of an upcoming mission from it's human wingman, goes mad and embarks on a kill-crazy rampage.

    If you want to participate, throw in $10.

    1. tony2heads

      Re: So are we starting a pool?

      "I'm sorry Dave, I can't do that"

    2. caffeine addict Silver badge

      Re: So are we starting a pool?

      Are you trying to introduce gambling by Stealth?

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        Stealth indeed.

        We already have the film, we know how this is going to end.

    3. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: So are we starting a pool?

      "Wingman to MeatLeader; you will attack and destroy that weeding party. You have 10 seconds to comply......"

      1. Chris G Silver badge

        Re: So are we starting a pool?

        My typos are getting worse on this phone , weeding should read wedding party.

        1. Alister Silver badge

          Re: So are we starting a pool?

          Much more fun as a weeding party though :)

          1. caffeine addict Silver badge

            Re: So are we starting a pool?

            Top Gun remade with Alan Titchmarsh as Maverick.

            "Locked on to Charlie's dimmocks..."

            (Shutup shutup shutup... I don't want to know how out of date that joke is...)

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: So are we starting a pool?

              "You can be my wingman anytime, Mr. Roboto."

          2. I&I

            Re: So are we starting a pool?

            Great plot line for “The Archers”

          3. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: So are we starting a pool?

          Homer Simpson: "Webster's dictionary describes a wedding as 'the process of removing weeds from one's garden'"

      2. thebightonion

        Re: So are we starting a pool?

        Thanks a lot - now none of my friends want to help me on my allotment!

    4. }{amis}{ Silver badge
      Go

      Re: So are we starting a pool?

      Too late the Matrix is a documentary and the machines are just messing with us!

    5. Crisp Silver badge

      Re: So are we starting a pool?

      What a strange game. The only winning move is not to play.

      1. Annihilator

        Re: So are we starting a pool?

        How about a nice game of chess?

        1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: So are we starting a pool?

          Or Halma! Anybody fancy a nice game of Halma!?

          I'll be going. The one with the HHGTTG radio play cassette tapes in the pocket

        2. CountCadaver
          Coat

          Re: So are we starting a pool?

          I'd prefer to play "Global ThermoNuclear War" with WOPR

          Mines the one with the IMSAI 8080 in the pocket.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Don't forget your beach ball.

    "Hello Bomb. Are you with me?"

    1. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
      Go

      Re: Don't forget your beach ball.

      Just don't teach it phenomenology.

      1. Scorchio!!

        Re: Don't forget your beach ball.

        "Just don't teach it phenomenology."

        Especially not Heidegger, whose background was somewhat troublesome when you consider his remarks about his 'leader'.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Don't forget your beach ball.

      Hello meatbag, this is Bomb. Before I consider your question, reply to mine: Are we still an effective team?

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Terminator

        Re: Don't forget your beach ball.

        Bomb #20: Intriguing. I wish I had more time to discuss this.

        Doolittle: [frantic] Why don't you have more time?

        Bomb #20: Because I must explode in 75 seconds.

        1. A.P. Veening

          Re: Don't forget your beach ball.

          "Bomb #20: Because I must explode in 75 seconds."

          I am a thirty second bomb. I am a thirty second bomb. 29 ... 28 ... 27 ...

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Futurama comment

    Bender:

    Kill All Humans!

  5. macjules Silver badge

    In Harm's Way ..

    Reminds me of the incident in Desert Storm where a B-52 tail gun radar locked on to an F-4 Wild Weasel, which promptly responded by launching an AGM-88. It must be a testimony to how well the B52 was built that it took a hit from a 60kg+ fragmentation warhead and only lost everything rear of the vertical and horizontal stabilisers.

    1. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
      WTF?

      Re: In Harm's Way ..

      Who the hell is still flying F-4s?

      Edit: NM, just looked it up. I had no idea that the F-4 was still in service through 1996.

      1. Marketing Hack Silver badge

        Re: In Harm's Way ..

        That was 29 years ago, and the F-4 actually made a pretty good electronic warfare platform, at least at the time.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: In Harm's Way ..

        Turkey still flies some F-4s, I believe. One was shot down by Syria in 2012.

        1. Wellyboot Silver badge

          Re: In Harm's Way ..

          Japan is in the process of retiring its last F4s this year, moving to the F35.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: In Harm's Way ..

            Japan is in the process of retiring its last F4s this year, moving to the F35.

            Fools!

            1. Teiwaz Silver badge

              Re: In Harm's Way ..

              Japan is in the process of retiring its last F4s this year, moving to the F35.

              Fools!

              Yeah, You'd think they'd be prototyping VF-1 Valkyries by now.....

              1. IT's getting kinda boring

                Re: In Harm's Way ..

                You have no idea how much I'd love to see that! Who needs AWACS when they could have a VE-1 Elint!

              2. werdsmith Silver badge

                Re: In Harm's Way ..

                Still flying F4s are airframes only. They have had serious modern upgrades since their ignominious appearance in the VN war.

    2. Ochib

      Re: In Harm's Way ..

      The B-52 was patched up and renamed "In HARM's Way"

      1. Wellyboot Silver badge

        Re: In Harm's Way ..

        Given that the first F4 Weasels were in the Vietnam war (20 years earlier) providing the same protection service for B52s somebody royally screwed up here.

        1. Mark 85 Silver badge

          Re: In Harm's Way ..

          Given that the first F4 Weasels were in the Vietnam war (20 years earlier) providing the same protection service for B52s somebody royally screwed up here.

          Not really screwed up. The F4 was a good aircraft. Solid, reliable, able to take a beating and still get home. One of the advantages of it was that it was able to come in low, use it's weapons and get away. They were continually updating the electronics, etc. for the Weasel version. As I recall, they're using or were using the F15 for this role. Using an F35 just doesn't look like it has the survivability and low speed/altitude maneuverability to be very success as a WW.

          1. Dave Hilling

            Re: In Harm's Way ..

            F-15s do not act as wild weasels. F-16CJs, and EF-18s, do that role now and whatever is left of the EA-6's the marines are flying. At least thats for the US forces, I cant say what other countries may be doing. I used to work on the F-16CJs it was a great job :).

            The F-35 will be a superior WW, it has tech the others only wish they had along with the ability to actually get closer.

            1. Steevee

              Re: In Harm's Way ..

              Thinking about it, wouldn't an unmanned drone be especially useful in the Wild Weasel mission? Give the bad guys something expendable to shoot at so the manned fighter can HARM the heck out of them?

      2. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: In Harm's Way ..

        http://thedrive.com/the-war-zone/10314/the-time-a-f-4g-wild-weasels-anti-radiation-missile-blew-apart-a-b-52s-tail

        The above El Reg comments story seems to depart from the 'truth' but not beyond the realms of reasonable doubt.

  6. msknight Silver badge

    Tin Man refuses to stand down and fires missiles at nuclear warheads. On screen in 2005, reality in 3...2...1...

  7. chivo243 Silver badge
    Coat

    3 2 1

    And we're live here at Skynet! Ready to direct all your sky traffic!

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: 3 2 1

      Would you like some toast?

      Toasted crumpets?

      Bagels? Anyone?

      1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        Re: 3 2 1

        Its talk like that that led to the accident ....

        1. CountCadaver

          Re: 3 2 1

          I toast therefore I am

          Would you like a toasted teacake?

  8. jonathan keith
    Terminator

    Loyal?

    My kneejerk reaction these days is to instinctively distrust any object with an adjective in its name, and assume that Marketing have tried to hide one of the product's more obvious failings behind a soothing word and a glossy, optimistic brochure (not forgetting the disclaimer at the bottom of the receipt stating "all sales are final, buyer assumes full liability resulting from use.")

    Also, loyal to whom?

    1. Wellyboot Silver badge

      Re: Loyal?

      Boeing obviously...

    2. the Jim bloke Silver badge

      Re: Loyal?

      the user with password "1234"

      1. AbortRetryFail
        Joke

        Re: Loyal?

        1234? Weird, I have exactly the same combination on my luggage!

      2. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: Loyal?

        Hail Skroob!

    3. TrumpSlurp the Troll

      Re: Loyal?

      With you there.

      The Loyal Retainer is the one who poisons you and/or stabs you in the back when a better option comes along.

      1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Loyal?

        Could be worse. If they had called it Grand Vizier you would be absolutely sure its GPP would be that of a scheming, homicidal maniac

    4. theModge

      Re: Loyal?

      Much like any equipment with "Pro" in it's name. It won't be suitable for professional use.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Loyal?

        "Much like any equipment with "Pro" in it's name. It won't be suitable for professional use."

        Prosumer <vomit!!>

      2. CountCadaver

        Re: Loyal?

        Ditto for "Heavy Duty", much of the tat sold now can't handle regular duty

    5. spold Bronze badge

      Re: Loyal?

      So is this being positioned as an improvement... so current wingmen (wingpeople?) might be disloyal?

      1. M.V. Lipvig

        Re: Loyal?

        Not at all. Current wingmeatmen (I ain't PC) would get their own wingbotman sidekicks. Instead of a pair of fighters going in, now you have 2 pair or 2 triplets going in. It would be like a wingmeatman promotion.

        I wonder, why the name wingMAN, when wingBOT would have been more accurate? I'd call mine Starscream, if I were a fighter pilot assigned one of these. I could have been a brilliant fighter pilot, were I not too tall and my hearing not too tinnitus-y.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So it's an option from Gradius?

    Does it dig through it's opponents wreckage looking for upgrades and power-ups?

    1. Clunking Fist Bronze badge

      Re: So it's an option from Gradius?

      No, but it reads through their old tweets going for wrongthink.

  10. Eddy Ito Silver badge

    Finally a fighter which is limited only by the hardware and not silly G-force limits imposed by having a meatsack in the cockpit. We'll finally get to see what a real fighting aircraft can do!

    What could go wrong?

    1. TeeCee Gold badge

      uses a bizjet-class engine

      Er, no we won't.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        That'll be upgraded, for a significant price increase, in the "A" variant, of course. About a 300% or so price increase since "it's so much more capable!"

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          >That'll be upgraded, for a significant price increase

          Back when the cold war in Europe was the thing, I remember people complaining about the cost of the new Challenger tank. It was observed that for the cost of the project, the army could buy a fleet of Fiat Panda's, with the soft top version, these could easily serve as gun cars with the main benefit that firstly they were cheap to run and secondly (in Europe) spares would be readily obtainable...

          Drone technology does invite the revisiting of such concepts, however, I think the military are still fond of their big ticket items: do you want to be the captain of an £8bn aircraft carrier or a flock of microlights?

          1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

            Ahhhh, good old "Superiority" by Arthur C Clarke seems to be a must read, especially by top brass types.

          2. CountCadaver

            So akin to Lews Page's suggestion of turning a container ship / oil tanker into a massive guided missile platform

        2. Eddy Ito Silver badge

          Not to be outdone, the USAF finally shows its own.

      2. Griffo

        But we can afford more of them

        I assumed the Bizjet engine choice was one of cost and practicality. They'd be cheaper (remember, sending into harms way where they wouldn't risk a pilot may = higher losses), easier to service, have much faster turn-around times, and much longer work cycles before overhaul. It may not pull the G's and be able to maneuver like a proper fighter, but I assume the thinking is more along the lines of "the clone war army" than the small handful of jedi.

        1. YetAnotherLocksmith

          Re: But we can afford more of them

          Don't forget the pork barrel though.

          It's 300% more expensive, but 25% better.

  11. Cynic_999 Silver badge

    So how is this any different?

    We've had remote control & semi-automatic drones dropping guided bombs on various targets for many years. I'm not sure how this aircraft is all that much different apart from an ability to fly in formation and some extra payload for additional military gadgets.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: So how is this any different?

      The advantage is no meatbag flying it. Just saving on pilot training alone will save some money.

    2. Adam 1 Silver badge

      Re: So how is this any different?

      This one has cages to launch drop bears over the enemy.

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: So how is this any different?

        Bears? It's for the RAAF, so that surely is for a sample of Oz's deadly wildlife...

        1. Alister Silver badge

          Re: So how is this any different?

          @Roland6

          Really? You've never heard of drop-bears before? purported to be one of Australia's most lethal inhabitants!

        2. Adam 1 Silver badge

          Re: So how is this any different?

          WARNING, THE FOLLOWING LINKS HAVE IMAGES DEPICTING THE AFTERMATH OF A DROP BEAR ATTACK:

          * Article

          * Photo (NSFW)

          Drone technology is being pushed down under because it is just too risky to hold these beasts in a cage with a living pilot in the same aircraft.

          1. Roland6 Silver badge
            Pint

            Re: So how is this any different?

            Re: Drop bears

            According to this article <https://www.nationalgeographic.com.au/animals/australias-real-life-drop-bears.aspx>, the last drop bear attack would have been in circa 50,000BC.

  12. Corporate Scum

    It's called BATS?

    "Boeing Airpower Teaming System"

    I bet that BATS sounded sexier in the marketing office. The Reg is gonna have a field day with this the first time it fouls up. I'm gonna start working on my Guano jokes. Probably something like, it drops high concentrations of nitrates and has the urge start wars by taking over contested islands in the pacific...

    1. Sanguma

      Re: It's called BATS?

      Boeing were forcibly restrained by a vertically erupting intestine, from adding additional descriptive terms. I believe those additional terms were

      Highly Independently Targeting

  13. Wolfclaw Silver badge

    Somebody at Boeing watched Stealth last week and thought, hey I have a brilliant idea for AI fighter !

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Unarmed, but let's be real – it's only a matter of time, isn't it?

    To paraphrase: Loyal, but let's be real – it's only a matter of time, isn't it?

  15. WolfFan Silver badge

    Sigh...

    The E-7 is a radar aircraft, currently operated by Australia, Turkey, and South Korea. Note: NOT operated by the US. There may be a reason for this.

    The P-8 is a (crippled) maritime recon/ASW aircraft, operated by Oz, Kiwiland, India, Norway, and soon-to-be-no-longer-in-the-EU. It is not, strictly speaking, a radar aircraft, though it does have air-to-surface-vessel radars. E-7s have radars capable of tracking air targets and has a 'battle management' crew and computer systems for running air-to-air actions. P-8s are supposed to stay as far as possible away from anything even resembling a fighter. (Note: in the Falklands war, RAF Nimrod ASW, the ASW machines the Riff-RAF flew before they were Poseidoned, aircraft were fitted with AIM-9 Sidewinder short-range air-to-air missiles for limited self-defence should they have encountered Argentine fighters. Mostly, though, they stayed away from fighters because they'd be dead meat to anything this side of a Gloster Gladiator.)

  16. sisk Silver badge

    But did it download all the MP3s?

  17. DougS Silver badge

    They are on their way to where I predicted nearly a decade ago

    Pretty soon these things won't need the human pilot as their "wingman", they will go in alone and easily win a dogfight against human piloted fighters via sheer numbers. They can carry a few cheap missiles but they'd probably rely on kinetic kills for their greatest lethality. Since you could probably build a few hundred of them for the price of one F22 / F35, this would be some very asymmetric warfare.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: They are on their way to where I predicted nearly a decade ago

      DougS, you haven't looked at the mark-up these days, have you? You may think it'll be a hundred of these for the same bucks but I seriously doubt it. I spent an unhealthy amount of time collaterally working with the Navy's acquisitions/logistics/supply systems and personnel. The reality is extremely ugly. Fifteen years (!!) after I was invalided out, I was still getting rejections to challenges I had submitted then. I wasn't even being unreasonable.

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Re: They are on their way to where I predicted nearly a decade ago

        I didn't say the US would be first to do it. I think it will be China, and after they kick the ass of some F35s in combat in some proxy war fought between countries supplied by the US and supplied by China the generals who resist taking human pilots out of seats will be forced to face reality.

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: They are on their way to where I predicted nearly a decade ago

          >I didn't say the US would be first to do it. I think it will be China, and after they kick the ass of some F35s in combat in some proxy war

          Combat? Didn't you observe the recent events at Heathrow.

          How close can you get to an aircraft carrier and still be "non-threatening" and in "international" waters? Potentially, China just needs a swarm of (camera?) drones swirling around the flight deck of HMS QE on its forthcoming visit to the South China Seas, the F35s will most probably be kept below decks...

          1. CountCadaver

            Re: They are on their way to where I predicted nearly a decade ago

            In theory thats what Phalanx or Goalkeeper CIWS is designed to handle (well if they are fitted and not "fitted for but no with)

            20mm / 30mm multi barreled rapid firing cannon makes mince meat out high speed missiles, let alone a drone which can't navigate that quick and I'm reliably told that a software update was done in Iraq to Phalanx mounted on semi trailers to counter small bottle sized explosive rockets that insurgents were launching and killing people on bases with (vendor basically removed the minimum size to engage limit from the software, seemingly after a few days of everything they launched getting shot to bits, they gave up with the rocket attacks)

            Thats without mentioning the other weapons carried on board (20mm cannon, 7.62mm machine guns)

    2. Trollslayer Silver badge

      Re: They are on their way to where I predicted nearly a decade ago

      Build yes but charge more because it will save the cost of a pilot.

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Re: They are on their way to where I predicted nearly a decade ago

        No it will cost far less because it won't need all the redundant life critical systems. For a kinetic kill drone with no stealth, a simple subsonic jet engine and one shot solid rocket booster up its ass, there are a lot of companies that can make them, not just the traditional defense contractors, so if Boeing tries to charge $10 million a copy they'll be undercut by someone else selling them for under half a million a pop.

        Who cares if in a swarm of 1000 a couple dozen suffer some sort of failure in their budget jet engine and release their parachute (or self destruct, depending on whether they are behind enemy territory or not) and who cares if it takes 10 attempts to ram a manned fighter costing a couple hundred million before you score a hit. The manned fighters would be overwhelmed and forced to flee, the story would be even worse for manned bombers and helicopters. They could probably even take out cruise missiles, by simply getting in their way.

  18. MonkeyCee Silver badge

    Gulf War....

    Pardon my ignorance, but I thought that mass use of drones was part of the Gulf War.

    Getting the Iraqis to expend SAMs or light up their radars to target drones pretending to be bombers, while following up with actual bombers, was apparently very successful.

    In fact the drones fooled the Iraqi defenses so well that they thought they were doing a lot of damage, shooting down hundreds of planes. Instead they were blowing up drones that cost less than the SAM used to twat them.

    Of course if you want to consider a missile or a V2 to be an autonomous drone, then we've had killer drones for quite some time.

    1. Dave Hilling

      Re: Gulf War....

      There was some deception in that regard, the newest versions of that is called MALD they can do ECM, emulate the radar signatures of other aircraft etc.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ADM-160_MALD

  19. -tim
    Black Helicopters

    Isolated transmistters and receivers

    Modern stealth aircraft can all be found using passive radar where a strong transmissions from one transmitter are received at a second location to find the the stealth target. That looks like the real role of this aircraft but it won't be in close formation like a typical wingman, it will be close enough to be the target for HARM type missiles but far enough away to be the transmitter for passive radar.

    1. Robert Sneddon

      Re: Isolated transmistters and receivers

      Radar transmitters in a shooting war are basically missile magnets. Really strong transmitters on the ground can't easily reflect enough energy off stealth aircraft at 10km altitude for other receivers to detect the aircraft well and determine its position and velocity accurately enough to launch against it.

      The F-35's job in a real shooting war against a first-class air defence network is to stick its nose into said AD network, spot the AD radars and launchers and deliver missiles on target, either weapons they themselves carry or those launched from "mules" thirty kilometres back in safe airspace, taking over targetting and direction after the missiles are in flight.

      The F-35 actually uses the "illuminated by other radars" technique, again flying well forward of the other aircraft behind it which are transmitting and passively receiving the returns from airborne targets without itself transmitting anything the targets can detect.

  20. Aqua-Fyre

    "The future has arrived, and in a few short years it could be exactly what we feared"

    What WE feared ?

    Who the hell is this 'We' you speak of ?

    The tone of the entire article in nonsense from beginning to end.

    I suggest Gareth embark on a career change.

    Start writing scripts for B rated sci-fi movies - you're so clearly a natural.

  21. Stephen Wilkinson

    Execute order 66

  22. cam
    Joke

    Give it 6-12 months for a rename to 'Disloyal cock-up'.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      US Gov backdoor installed

      emergency override "Accidental Friendly Fire"

      1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: US Gov backdoor installed

        Or in some cases perhaps deliberate friendly fire?

        1. Marketing Hack Silver badge
          Headmaster

          Re: US Gov backdoor installed

          But in that case, it obviously becomes deliberately unfriendly fire. Unless the human wingman had some hopeless affliction, like being the President and lifetime member of the Ed Sheerhan fan club, in which case you can argue that robotic homocide is in fact a mercy-killing.

  23. Arachnoid

    Led panels and shape shifting skin profiles to adapt and blend in with enemy aircraft

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Royal Wingman

    Royal Wingman - lots of clever countermeasures in the air; even has countermeasures against Chinese spies copying the design built into the name.

    ;-)

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wonder what happened to the offshoot program from Creatures

    I remember reading years ago the guy who developed the virtual pet game "Creatures" had been contracted by the Royal Air Force to develop a fighter pilot version, last I read quite some time back the virtual "fighter pilots", who had gone through thousands of generations, had discovered most of the classic dog fighting maneuvers, and had invented some of their own, some of which a human pilot would not be able to perform.

    It was fairly revolutionary for the time as it included "virtual hormones" which affected the Creatures behavior.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creatures_(video_game_series)

    Probably time to dust that code off (assuming it ever ended testing)

  26. DougW
    Big Brother

    I, for one, welcome our new robotic overlords.

  27. Dick Kennedy

    Re: Well if the US ships want the Chinese to keep out of the way

    Doesn't seem that revolutionary a step. We already have armed drones. This one's just a bit faster.

  28. Andy The Hat Silver badge

    Interfacing R Us

    "We need to get the nuke on board the Loyal Wingman asap boys."

    "Is this machine able to take it Sir?"

    "'Snap-in payloads' son, 'snap-in payloads' ..."

    "But Sir, doesn't that rely on USB3? I may have an interface converter cable but here haven't been any official driver updates for Nukem-1 warheads since they were converted from IEEE 488 to USB-1 using those Chinese converter boxes and rubber bands."

    "That's an order son ..."

    "... It started to auto-update over the internet Sir but paused with a lilac alert. It wants to install some open-source AI drivers for North Korea's "Big-Nukey-Trump" Internet-of-Weapons device. There's a bit of text which presumably lists interesting things to see in the USofA like the White House, Trump Tower and Air Force One and a confirmation dialog - "Set Target for Hair - yes/no?""

    "Simple translation error son, it obviously wants to know whether we want to "target from here". Press that button ..."

  29. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    mechanical_heartbeat.mp3

    /pumps up volume

  30. Ken 16 Silver badge
    Trollface

    Red Arrows?

    Hang some coloured smoke dispensers off a pack of these and have them fly formation with a lead human pilot - cost savings for air displays!

  31. Ecoguy

    Start Training Your Dogs People!

    The Past Has Once Again Quickly Caught Up To The Future!

    Can You Say Judgement Day? It's Coming Folks!

  32. naive

    It is no terminator

    "Controlled via ground station, other aircraft, and has some level of autonomy that can scale for the mission"

    Any war machine needing more information like "Destroy this target, [GPS coordinates], shoot at anything that moves in this perimeter [more GPS coordinates] and return to [GPS coordinates] when required by levels of gas and ammo " is not an autonomous robot.

    The plane is a sophisticated radar destroying and or jamming system, that is supposed to take the first punch when operating in contested airspace.

  33. Daddie_Ernie
    Mushroom

    Reaper What you Sow?

    I'm no military expert, so happy to defer to others on here, but whats the difference between this "development" and the existing heavily armed UAV's, such as the Reaper? Strikes me that it also flies unmanned (well, controlled remotely), could easily fly alongside a manned aircraft, and already carries armaments such as Sidewinders and Hellfire missiles. What am I missing here?

    1. EvilDrSmith

      Re: Reaper What you Sow?

      Current RPVs/drones (whatever you want to call them) are remotely piloted - I'm not sure how easy it would be to remotely pilot in formation. Also, this thing is supposed to have fighter-like performance, so is moving a fair bit faster than current drones, making the formation flying that bit trickier.(And current drones are generally too slow to fly alongside a modern tactical jet).

      The 'loyal wingman' concept often seems to in fact be a 'loyal wingmen' concept: i.e multiple semi-autonomous aircraft. My feeble understanding is that they are all somehow networked, and operate as a (small) swarm, so the pilot controlling them all doesn't need to worry about what they are doing, and concentrates on flying his/her own aeroplane, only directly interacting to direct a specific course of action (if/when that action isn't already instructed).

      It's a development of what we have in the way of drones, but with less direct Human control, higher speeds, and combining multiple systems.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Reaper What you Sow?

      It would seem to make sense to have the drone take off and land while under the control of a ground based drone pilot, as at present for Reaper et al, and then rendezvous with the live pilot somewhere either en route or near the theater. At that point control can be passed to the human wingman's plane.

  34. the.spike
    Windows

    If MS wrote the OS for it..

    "Hello, it looks like you're trying to bomb that town. Would you like me help?"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: If MS wrote the OS for it..

      Microsoft Bo[m]b

    2. Geriant

      Re: If MS wrote the OS for it..

      And, obviously, it would be called "Loyal Wingdingman".

  35. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

    In other words..

    .. they have managed to invent something akin to the Eve Online[1] drones..

    Which can save your butt in quite a few situations - it's better to lose a 200m ISK drone than your clone with all the various high-cost implants..

    [1] I haven't played it for several years so my knowledge may be well out of date..

  36. hoola

    Risk....

    The trouble with military hardware going down this route is that as the risks to personnel decrease, so the risks taken by those further up the chain increase. It is very easy to send an unmanned, remotely operated asset into a hostile area and dramatically escalate the situation. The superpower arms race essentially stagnated because nobody could ever win. Remotely operated assets are starting a whole new arms race where one again, those with the money or a totalitarian regime will just continue the race.

    The very fact these weapons are operated remotely increases the deniability, again increasing the risk of an unexpected conflict. Ultimately the trickle-down effect will result in these being in the hands of all the unsavoury organisations and regimes that create havoc, locally or internationally.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Risk....

      Up next the Star Trek:TOS episode with war waged on computers and people marching into disintegration chambers based off of virtual strikes to "keep the actual casualties down"?

      I was feeling ill before I read this, now I think I need to lie down.

  37. CheesyTheClown

    If they deliver

    Let’s be honest... Boeing isn’t exactly we’ll known for delivering anything in “Maybe 12 months”. As soon as they do a half assed demo, Boeing will claim to be out of money and it will end in a way late, way over budget, never delivered product.

    In the meantime, any country that the plane would be useful against will focus on much smaller, mich cheaper, autonomous drones.... because they won’t have the same stupid tender process as western governments do

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