Elon Musk’s statement about fighter jets becoming obsolete surprised many people worldwide. You might also have tapped this article’s link out of curiosity about the future of fighter jets in warfare. And here we are to solve this mystery once and for all!
The straightforward answer to this intriguing question is a simple No. Fighter jets aren’t going to be a thing of the past, at least in the near future.
There has indeed been a significant advancement in aircraft technology, but fighter jets are still relevant. The main reason is that a fighter jet’s primary focus has always been piloting and gun control, both of which are manual operations.
So the thought that manual control is unnecessary and that drones can completely replace fighter jets sounds bizarre.
And perhaps this is the reason that an F-35 pilot rebutted Musk’s statement about the end of the fighter jet era. He rightly stated that while he agreed with Musk that the future is drone warfare, the world is still a lifetime away from it.
The idea of a completely autonomous air force is still a fantasy. Let’s read how and why?
Are Fighter Jets Becoming Obsolete?
Flying a fighter jet with precision demands utmost perfection in the art of flying. It requires
timely prediction about the next move of the enemy fighter jet, decision power and precise
controls. This level of mastery is not possible for a completely automated plane. Hence fighter
jets are not becoming obsolete, at least in the foreseeable future.
Fighter jet pilots spend years training to attain the skills we mentioned above. That is why fighter piloting is one of the most demanding professions in the world. And as much as demanding it is, it’s challenging to master. After years of training, very few candidates successfully become operational fighter pilots.
With this proficiency in the cockpit, the fighter pilots carry out incredibly aggressive manoeuvres during battles. They operate in three dimensions at speeds greater than multiple times the speed of sound in a dynamically changing battle space. Also, they need to be able to perform advanced technological tasks and deal with their opponent.
So, even if technology might be getting more advanced, at the end of the day, it still needs a man to control and operate it.
Are Manned Pilots Needed to Operate Drones?
Understandably, drones have played a vital part in many wars. But let’s not forget that until now, the drones have been piloted by a human at a close distance as their increased autonomy certainly necessitates a human command.
So, they are human pilots who fly semi-autonomous sensor arrays from an airborne or ground-based fighter control centre in a fighter mission.
It establishes that manned pilots are still in demand for drones, which may be termed the new fighter jets. The only difference is that in them, the pilots operate from a distance and program them to hit the target.
So, in the near future, it is likely that a large number of automated drones will accompany such pilots.
At this point, you might wonder why drones are replacing fighter jets. They have multiple benefits and play a vital role in defeating enemies, helping suffering humanity in times of crisis and covering the calamities humans cannot reach. Let’s discuss the significant benefits before moving to the ultimate question, ‘Does all this mean that fighter jets are losing their significance day by day?’
Drones have several benefits; a few of them are:
- They can be easily deployed with minimum experience on the part of the controller
- They can quickly and effortlessly navigate as they fly low
- They are relatively secure options to use in catastrophes and wars as they demand distant human control
- They can be programmed to operate precisely
- They can track dangerous animals and birds with humans controlling them from a safe distance
- They also contribute heavily to the management and establishment of infrastructure
Why are Fighter Jets Becoming Obsolete?
Now, before this question gets you confused with the sudden change in our opinion about the fighter jets becoming obsolete, let us make this clear that the term “obsolete” here means ‘without pilot’ rather than its usual meaning of ‘being useless’.
We hope that you have now got a clear picture that the fighter jets themselves are not becoming obsolete; instead, the role of pilots is modified, and they operate from a distance now. It must need a completely different set of skills.
Reasons for being Obsolete:
The following scenarios appear to be the possible reasons for fighter jets to be ‘obsolete’:
- During the II World War, there was a severe shortage of radar and missile defence; therefore, the air war was fought mainly by planes and bombs. As a direct consequence of this, the weapons arrived first.
- Radar and missile weapons advanced in the 1960s to the point where they could render most aircraft obsolete.
- As a direct result of China’s purchase of Russian missile technology, China successfully brought down three United States U2 spy planes flying over the nation at the moment.
In sum, technological advancement has brought significant changes in warfare. This progress has changed the role of pilots in fighter jets (today’s drones). Today, pilots operate remotely and employ their weapons to attack their enemies. The concept that fighter jets today are on their way out is wrong. They have changed their form and are automatized in many of their functions. However, it doesn’t mean that they are ‘killing robots’ and operating on their own.
That is why Musk’s statement created disbelief among the air forces worldwide. The fighter jets and the pilots are still there to defend the skies, and the technological art required to operate a fighter jet is known to fighter jet pilots alone!