Radio-controlled flying toys have shot down Maverick, Goose and the whole Top Gun culture

Drones make up a third of the Air Force and the bulk of the future of air war

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For almost 70 years U.S. military strategy has been built around super-sophisticated aircraft flown by Top Guns who were able to control the rockets they rode due to a rare mix of highly-developed skills:

  • The ability to calculate force in three dimensions the way pro outfielders do in two dimensions;
  • The fine motor control, aggression and lightning reflexes of world-class boxers;
  • Egos so large and impermeable that – if it weren't for their physical skills and need to commute to work at mach 2 with their hair on fire – would have forced them to become software-industry CEOs instead of pilots.

If the aircraft carriers that transport, feed, fuel, protect and launch them into the danger zone weren't themselves an unprecedented engineering achievement, cutting-edge American fighters and the productively repressed maniacs who fly them would be the ultimate expression of military power and achievement of the 20th century.

21st Century belongs to drones

A Congressional Research Service report published earlier this month revealed that the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) rather than human-piloted aircraft has increased so quickly drones now make up fully 30 percent of all Air Force planes.

The Dept. of Defense spent $284 million on UAVs during the year-2000 budget cycle; it spent $3.3 billion – more than 40 times as much – on drones in 2010.

The argument against drones was always that they gave pilots and military or political decision-makers too little information and too little capability to do much good.

In the era of the Hellfire-firing Predators and Global Hawks, both of which can fly around a target for hours, watching it with long-range cameras, chemical detectors, ground-penetrating radar, cell-phone signal interceptors and whatever other surveillance systems they need for an aerial stakeout.

Photo Credit: 

Reuters.com

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