Drones vs. Pilots

Robert Farley thinks I’m holding onto the past in my defense of piloted fighter planes, and he’s probably right:

The question isn’t really one of the relevance of air superiority, orthe likelihood of war with China. Rather, we’re talking about theimminent reality that drones (with human controllers) will, in theforeseeable future, be better able to handle air superiority missionsthan aircraft with human pilots.

He goes on to explain why, before adding this:

Finally, I’m singularly unconvinced by the notion that we need tomaintain industrial and training capacity into the indefinite futurefor weapon systems that we’ve identified as obsolete.

Right or wrong, though, that’s where I disagree. I just don’t believe that piloted planes will ever become obsolete, because I don’t believe that, all things considered, remote technologies will ever be superior to human presence on the battlefield. There are just too many contingencies for which human capabilities, most of them intangible and intuitive, will remain superior.

This Nick Floyd post
from the Interpreter gives a good sense of why. And even though it deals with ground forces, I think the same can be said for air power.

In ways that will probably never be paralleled in ground combat, air warfare lends itself to remote assets. But to remove the human element from the actual battlespace entirely strikes me as the same sort of technological euphoria that drove RMA. Air warfare will have to adapt to the presence, perhaps even the massive presence posited by Farley, of unmanned drones. And that means rethinking manned combat aircraft. But to abandon air warfare to drones, in my mind, would be shortsighted.

More World Politics Review