Little Buddy wingman drones

Discuss the Traveller RPG and its many settings
phavoc
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Little Buddy wingman drones

Postby phavoc » Wed Feb 27, 2019 8:41 pm

Coming soon to a battlefield near you!

Boeing is working on creating smaller drone-type craft to be force multipliers for regular fighters. The article states that they aren't meant to engage in combat, but to provide recon and surveillance capabilities. I could see them easily having armaments added, even Sidewinders and AMRAAM's to give them some air-to-air capabilities.

The article says they would be for governments that can't field as many pilots or primary aircraft, though that seems a bit odd. No price tag was given.

For Traveller it would make an interesting addition to regular fighters, or even bombers, who would have their own escort drones running intelligent software for pilot/gunners. Same could be applied to regular star ships looking for their own escorts.

https://techcrunch.com/2019/02/26/boein ... yptr=yahoo
Old School
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Re: Little Buddy wingman drones

Postby Old School » Wed Feb 27, 2019 9:50 pm

I don’t understand the concept. Drones as recon and to deliver small payloads are well established technologies. Delivering large payloads is available. But what exactly does an unarmed, AI controlled wingman do? The only thing I can think of is a disposable platform for active radar. It can activate radar without the pilot’s fear of announcing his craft’s location, and can acquire and track targets beyond where the pilot has the fighter’s radar focused. Of course, it can’t do anything with this information unless the fighter frees up to take a shot. Many of the traditional roles of the wingman this craft either can’t perform due to lack of armament, or have already been made obsolete by sensor technology. Of course, the target market for this is probably buying previous generation fighters and still needs “blind spot” coverage provided by a wingman, but An AI system to fight with 20th century tactics?

I also see the AI required to run this craft well as being beyond the budget of anyone who can’t field a second plane.

I admit that I know much less than 1% about air to air combat as compared to the people who desgned this, but I don’t get it. I’d love to see a real analysis of how it is supposed to perform.
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Re: Little Buddy wingman drones

Postby Moppy » Thu Feb 28, 2019 5:07 am

The defense sites have more detail. It's basically a prototype unmanned fighter.

https://www.defensenews.com/digital-sho ... man-drone/
Boeing officials say this will be a sufficient number to test the loyal wingman concept, which may see a manned platform operate in conjunction with between four and six vehicles in operational service.

The Airpower Teaming System is a semi-autonomous multi-mission system, capable of carrying (unspecified) weapons and able to be controlled from either a ground control station or from the platform it is escorting. Boeing director of Phantom Works International Shane Arnott said that no modifications to the manned platform would be required to control the wingmen escorts.

According to Boeing data, the aircraft is 38 feet long and will have a range of 2,000 nautical miles. It will be capable of ‘fighter-like’ performance and fitted with on-board sensors to enable it to perform intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and electronic warfare roles.
I suspect the target market is people with lots of cash and a small high quality airforce that needs additional airframes or missile rails.
Reynard
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Re: Little Buddy wingman drones

Postby Reynard » Thu Feb 28, 2019 12:09 pm

This sounds like EDI from the movie Stealth. What could possibly go wrong?
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Re: Little Buddy wingman drones

Postby Moppy » Thu Feb 28, 2019 3:10 pm

Reynard wrote:
Thu Feb 28, 2019 12:09 pm
This sounds like EDI from the movie Stealth. What could possibly go wrong?
It's been at sea for over 10 years. On the ground they still need data cables (see the problems the Russians had in Syria with their robo-tank).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protector_USV
The Protector was deployed by the Republic of Singapore Navy together with its Endurance class landing platform dock ships to the North Persian Gulf for peacekeeping operations in 2005, where it performed surveillance and reconnaissance, as well as force protection duties for more than eight hours at a time.

Based on a 9-metre (30-foot) rigid-hulled inflatable boat ... the Protector offers enhanced surveillance, identification and interception capabilities. It is equipped with a Mini-Typhoon stabilized weapon system, a TOPLITE electro-optic surveillance and targeting system with day and night targeting capabilities through the use of forward looking infrared, charge-coupled devices and laser rangefinders, as well as a public address system.
AI is mis-named. It's not an "intelligence" as such. If they were called "semi-autonomous" instead of "artificially intelligent" people would get a lot less upset. This kind of machine learning computer program isn't going to be to becoming self-aware: though they will destroy more jobs than they create.
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Re: Little Buddy wingman drones

Postby phavoc » Thu Feb 28, 2019 3:29 pm

There are a number of reasons for these sorts of platforms - even for nations like the US. According to Air Force Magazine:

"​The Air Force closed out Fiscal 2016 short a total of 1,211 fighter pilots, which amounted to a $12 billion capital loss, the service’s manpower chief said on Wednesday. “It should be noted that the cost to train a fifth generation fighter pilot to prepare him or her for their first operational squadron is approximately $11 million,” Lt. Gen. Gina Grosso told the House Armed Services personnel subcommittee. Grosso said the Air Force does not have a problem recruiting new aviators, but it struggles to retain mid-career pilots who have grown weary of the high operational tempo and repeated deployments over the last 26 years. Not to mention commercial airlines are “actively recruiting the world-class experience of our rated airmen because the Air Force pilots are highly attractive with diverse experience and quality aviation training,” said Grosso, who noted the “annual hiring levels are expected to continue for the next 10 to 15 years.” In an effort to address the problem, the Air Force intends to expand undergraduate pilot training to the “maximum capacity” of 1,400 pilots per year. The service also has reduced additional duties and administrative work, allowing pilots to focus primarily on flying. Last year, Congress authorized a $35,000 a year aviation bonus—the first increase in 18 years."

Today's aircraft require much more training to fly and operate than older aircraft. In WW2 the US was turning out a pilot in 7-8 months. So if you have an F-35 deployed with a pair of these drones, you can replace the drones faster and cheaper than your main platform. Another advantage is that if you task your drones with being your primary EW platform, you free up the space and tonnage on your aircraft for more AA and AS weapons. Of course, the downside is if you lose your EW protection you become more of a target yourself.

Though I think one of the bigger benefits is the fact that with unmanned drones you can lose them and not have the level of public pressure you get when you lose a pilot behind enemy lines. This is especially an issue when a nation isn't formally at war with someone else.
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Re: Little Buddy wingman drones

Postby Moppy » Thu Feb 28, 2019 4:19 pm

So this may have changed but I doubt it.

The USAF is institutionally very hostile towards pilotless air-to-air. They were offered it years ago and the generals straight out said no. Today they have large numbers of drones but almost exclusively for ground support - recon of ground targets, and ground attack. It is noticable that this system is being funded and tested by a non-US airforce. Again times may have changed but I can't see the USAF being happy with flying this alongside a jet.
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Re: Little Buddy wingman drones

Postby Condottiere » Sat Mar 09, 2019 4:43 pm

They say that the Fighter Mafia is running the place.

Anyway, part of the ecosystem for the Lightning Toothless was the capability to control and communicate with accompanying drones, though I've always had the suspicion this would need a two man aircraft so as not to distract the pilot.
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Re: Little Buddy wingman drones

Postby Reynard » Sat Mar 09, 2019 11:11 pm

Considering drones need a remote operator, such fighters would need a dedicated RO just to control the drones. Normal two seaters make the second position for sensor operation which is useful for the Traveller rules concerning the Multiple task rule. Are you gaining enough advantage from drones to lose an SO?

Just how fast are airborne or space borne drones in Traveller compared to comparative air and space craft? Would they be able to maintain pace and maneuverability as 'wingmen'? I have to assume they are built using either the Vehicle Handbook or, for a space vehicle, Highguard then adding a drone brain or an autonomous computer with the virtual crew rules.
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Re: Little Buddy wingman drones

Postby phavoc » Mon Mar 11, 2019 4:45 pm

I don't recall if this was previously uploaded, but the Navy also is working on drone designs (both surface and subsurface) - https://www.yahoo.com/news/come-robot-s ... 00861.html

I don't see this fortelling the end of manned units. But we'll probably see a bigger mix of the two in the coming decades. Plus it's a lot easier to tell a taxpayer that you lost a drone (even an expensive one) than telling some parents you lost their children (or children you lost their parents). More nations are getting sensitive to military losses (yay!) and aren't so callous. Still stupid at times, but at least less callous. +1 for the common sailor/airman/marine/soldier.
phavoc
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Re: Little Buddy wingman drones

Postby phavoc » Mon Mar 11, 2019 4:52 pm

And another article about drones, this time Army drones controlled by soldiers on the battlefield rather than halfway around the world - https://news.yahoo.com/how-a-secretive- ... 00657.html
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Re: Little Buddy wingman drones

Postby Reynard » Mon Mar 11, 2019 7:55 pm

I sometimes wonder if remote warfare sanitizes war making it more palatable for the citizens to be more warlike and treat it as little more than a reality show. People will find it hard to imagine those bombs and bullets are aiming at civilian human targets to achieve objectives when military assets are safely out of reach.
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Re: Little Buddy wingman drones

Postby phavoc » Mon Mar 11, 2019 8:10 pm

Reynard wrote:
Mon Mar 11, 2019 7:55 pm
I sometimes wonder if remote warfare sanitizes war making it more palatable for the citizens to be more warlike and treat it as little more than a reality show. People will find it hard to imagine those bombs and bullets are aiming at civilian human targets to achieve objectives when military assets are safely out of reach.
Similar to the Star Trek episode "A Taste of Armageddon", where two planets had been at war for a long time and in order to escape the "horrors of war" conduct their wargames via computers and expect people to voluntarily disintegrate themselves when they are classed as casualties.

I guess it depends on how the drones end up getting used, and how future skirmishes and wars are fought. It's certainly on option for wealthy nations that can afford them, but everyone else might just have to "die" for realz.
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Re: Little Buddy wingman drones

Postby Reynard » Mon Mar 11, 2019 10:13 pm

War is about taking and denying. A soldierless remote war is great for soldiers who rather not die and still have the option to destroy the other side's assets which always seems to include civilian resources and civilians themselves. What does it do to a person when their weapons let you fight like viewing a video game in a very safe room with coffee and donuts? Sanitizing and desensitizing war doesn't make it less attractive. Worst yet when you reach the stage when autonomous weapons replace piloted drones.
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Re: Little Buddy wingman drones

Postby phavoc » Mon Mar 11, 2019 10:48 pm

Agreed. If you don't feel the pain of war you are more likely to support it. Seeing the Vietnam war in your living room every night certainly helped bring the view of war back home to the people in the US who supported it. Seeing the horror of it made some (not all) less supportive of it.

But, as a former soldier, I'm all for gadgets and things that are more likely to have me survive and my gadget blown up.
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Re: Little Buddy wingman drones

Postby Condottiere » Tue Mar 12, 2019 12:10 am

It's the main complaint against Obama's expanded use of assassination by drone.

The reboot of Robocop deals more directly with the issue; what they want is a human in the kill chain, though triggering it by remote control makes it two steps removed.
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Re: Little Buddy wingman drones

Postby Linwood » Wed Mar 13, 2019 12:18 am

If I remember correctly there are some news reports out there concerning the psychological toll Predator drone pilots have been experiencing. A lot of it had to do with the sudden transition from remotely directing a combat mission in a dark enclosed room to walking outside minutes later and driving back to your home and family. The length and pace of the missions may have played a role too.

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