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Also, evolving target drones into widely deployable combat drones makes sense because they already have the ability to launch and recover without the need for a runway. This is an especially relevant capability when it comes to fighting a foe with strong anti-access/area-denial capabilities, and when doing so in a large theatre of operations—like, say, the Pacific.
Runways throughout a region are all mapped by potential foes, leaving them vulnerable to attack, especially by ballistic missiles. But launch points for these types of low-end unmanned combat aircraft would be much harder to detect and predict, and could very well be set up far forward of traditional runway-based aircraft and drones.
Austere - Long-range - Weapon - System - Enemy
Austere basing of such a potent long-range weapon system would leave the enemy much more vulnerable to attack and would make preempting airstrikes against air power capabilities much tougher proposition. Basically, these things could be deployed anywhere with only a small infrastructure commitment. In doing so, this would complicate the enemy’s war plans drastically.
This lower-end unmanned strike option will leverage rapidly-producible composite structures and off-the-shelf components, making replenishment of these drones far easier than replacing manned fighter- or attack aircraft, which can take years from the time of ordering long-lead materials to seeing a finished product roll off a production line. This could help hedge against the USAF's deep commitment to a finite number of tactical aircraft, which cannot be easily replaced during wartime. Also, because these systems are not meant to last 40 years and fly thousands of hours, they can be built cheaper, upgraded far more easily, and adapted to new roles far more rapidly than their much more elaborate and expensive counterparts.
Attributes - Combat - Air - Vehicles - Feature
I laid out these oft-unspoken attributes of unmanned combat air vehicles, and many more, in my recent feature The Alarming Case of the USAF’s Mysterious Missing Unmanned Combat...
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