Hunter vs. Faithful Wing: The drone race is just beginning


"Orlan", "Orion", "Altius", "Okhotnik" - the domestic media have recently been full of reports about Russia's breakthrough in creating its own unmanned aircraft. And, yes, it really is. We finally have quite competitive reconnaissance and strike UAVs, which are not inferior, and in some parameters even surpass their foreign counterparts. It seems that we managed to jump on the step of the last car of the rapidly sweeping train? Alas, the real "drone race" is still ahead.


Let's ask ourselves a question, what is the most valuable thing in combat aviation? An airplane that can cost tens or hundreds of millions of dollars? No, the most valuable is the one who can control it, performing the tasks assigned by the military command, that is, its pilot. Not everyone who wants to become a combat pilot is given, and the process of his training is a long and expensive business. A new fighter can be built quickly enough, but it is not possible to replace a dead pilot. Even in peacetime, rotation takes place regularly, pilots retire on a well-deserved retirement, and therefore constantly have to prepare a worthy change for them.

Any defense ministry is faced with the primary task of retaining the cadre of its air force. And today, the main trend is to provide the pilot with an artificial intelligence (AI) controlled UAV. The piloted drone must repeat all its maneuvers after the leading aircraft and carry out attacks on the same targets. In addition, such a UAV, created by stealthtechnology and controlled by AI, must be the first to break into the enemy's air defense zone and from there give target designation to the leading fighter, who will open fire from a safe distance. At the same time, the drone itself must be able to "hit back" by firing missiles from planes and working on ground targets.

The result should be a very effective tandem of two aircraft controlled by humans and artificial intelligence. This is a very promising area, which is now being pursued by all advanced countries. So, the other day the Australian division of the American corporation Boeing successfully tested the UAV Loyal Wingman - "Faithful Wing". Work on this device began in 2019. Its task is to provide fire support to the leading manned aircraft, as well as jamming. The Australian-American UAV will be controlled by artificial intelligence and operate in a semi-autonomous mode. It is believed that one aircraft will be able to simultaneously control and interact with 16 Faithful Wingmen.


For us, against whom such weapons are being developed, these are not very good news... However, Russia has already prepared its own answer - this is the super-heavy shock S-70 "Okhotnik". It was developed using stealth technology according to the "flying wing" scheme and will be armed with missiles, guided and unguided bombs. Initially, this UAV was created to interact with the fifth generation Su-57 fighter. The dimensions of the "Okhotnik" will make it possible to place the most modern avionics on it, to act in conjunction with the aircraft against ground and air targets. This means that our country is keeping pace with the times. And that's not all. Another promising domestic strike UAV "Thunder" is somewhat less well-known. It is being developed by the same Kronshtasht company as by Okhotnik. From its official press release, the main purpose of this attack aircraft follows:


The Thunder drone is used as a "slave" in the forward echelon of mixed manned-unmanned strike aviation groups. This will save the lives of the pilots while crossing the air defense zone. This UAV can be armed with air-to-surface missiles and guided aerial bombs with a caliber of 100 to 500 kg.

Our "Thunder" is an analogue of the American XQ-58 Valkyrie UAV manufactured by Kratos Defense & Security Solutions. With a takeoff weight of 7 tons and a payload of 500 kg, the Russian unmanned attack aircraft will be able to interact as a slave not only with the stealthy Su-57, but also with the Su-35 multipurpose super-maneuverable fighter. It turns out that by launching all these UAVs in series, Russia will catch up with the United States, Israel and other technological leaders in one giant leap, from which it was forced to lag behind in the "dashing 90s" and "noughties?"

Alas, everything is a little more complicated than we would like. Everything is like in a fairy tale: the further, the worse. The elements of AI in the control of unmanned aircraft are the present day, but the near future belongs to full-fledged artificial intelligence, which controls the strike UAVs and not only them. The United States has been actively working in this direction for several years now. In 2019, the Pentagon launched a project called Alpha Dog Fight, where it pitted humans and AI in aerial combat. The American company Heron Systems with a staff of only 30 people has developed a self-learning computer program that in 2020, in five virtual F-16 fights out of five, defeated an experienced pilot-instructor dry.

To be honest, this is a little scary. Under the control of AI, the fighter could perform such maneuvers that a person simply could not stand. As a result, his F-16 went into a more advantageous position for attack and destroyed the enemy. At the same time, the program continued to learn from its own and others' mistakes. If this becomes a trend, a country with such technologies will have a significant advantage over its opponents. Today UAVs, tomorrow - unmanned aircraft, unmanned tanks, unmanned ships, unmanned submarines, and the day after tomorrow, what are walking cyborgs shooting people from plasma guns? First assigned to him enemies, and then the AI ​​itself will decide who is his enemy? Somewhere we have already seen something similar ...
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  1. 123 Online 123
    123 (123) 6 March 2021 15: 19
    +3
    Under the control of AI, the fighter could perform such maneuvers that a person simply could not stand. As a result, his F-16 went into a more advantageous position for attack and destroyed the enemy.

    And some fans of the creation of the overseas twilight genius argue that super-maneuverability is not important, they say, the main thing is invisibility. smile
    1. THRONE Offline THRONE
      THRONE (Andrii Shevchyk) 6 March 2021 15: 26
      -3
      In the RedFlag 17 exercise, the F-35 + F-22 stealth aircraft defeated the 4th generation aircraft with a score of 146-7, or 1 to 20. The 4th generation aircraft were able to impose combat only at close range.
      If we take the best Russian fighter Su-35 with IRBIS-E radar, then it has a SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) resolution) of only 3 meters, which corresponds to the level of the F-15 APG-70 radar from the 80s.
      1. 123 Online 123
        123 (123) 6 March 2021 15: 42
        +2
        In the RedFlag 17 exercise, the F-35 + F-22 stealth aircraft defeated the 4th generation aircraft with a score of 146-7, or 1 to 20. The 4th generation aircraft were able to impose combat only at close range.

        And as I understand it, at close range, as it is customary to say, "kicked ... well, in general, the back side"?
        They have already tried to compare the F-35 with the F-16
        https://rg.ru/2015/07/01/f35-site.html

        And the F-16 itself with Russian fighters.
        https://rg.ru/2015/09/02/istrebiteli.html

        Judging by the article, the emergence of unmanned fighters is not far off. And what are they going to oppose them? Just keep your distance and try not to get noticed?
        So they talk not only about unmanned fighters, but also the photon radar.
        https://polit.info/507118-noveishii-fotonnyi-radar-rf-bez-problem-zasechet-amerikanskie-stels-samolety?utm_source=warfiles.ru

        I suppose the bet on inconspicuousness has no perspective.
      2. mark1 Offline mark1
        mark1 6 March 2021 16: 17
        +1
        The trouble is not even that you are lying (brashete) but that. that you yourself believe it.
    2. Cyril Offline Cyril
      Cyril (Kirill) 7 March 2021 08: 59
      -2
      And some fans of the creation of the overseas twilight genius argue that super-maneuverability is not important, they say, the main thing is invisibility.

      Everything would be easier if you tried to delve into the topic and think with your own head.

      The answer to the question why in these tests so much attention is paid to maneuverability is very simple:
      AI controlled the fighter could perform such maneuvers that a person simply could not stand.

      Any maneuver of an aircraft is accompanied by overloads for the aircraft itself and its pilot. We read:

      Trained pilots in anti-G suits can carry overloads from −3 ... −2 g to +12 g [4]. Usually, with a positive overload of 7-8 g, the eyes “darken”, vision disappears, and the person gradually loses consciousness due to the outflow of blood from the head. The resistance to negative, upward-directed overloads is significantly lower.

      The maximum operational overload for the F-35 and F-22 is 8-9 g - this is exactly the threshold beyond which the pilot begins to lose his sight and "pass out". An overload of 10-11 g can only withstand (and even then for a short time) only a specially trained test pilot or a member of the aerobatic team. Such pilots are specially trained in order to squeeze all the possibilities out of the car (and at the same time out of themselves).

      The level of physical endurance of combat pilots, who conduct real combat operations, is lower. Therefore, close air combat with active maneuvering and high G-forces exceeding 9 g is an exception at the level of statistical error. This is also evidenced by the statistics of air battles:

      in the period from 1965 to 1969, according to the CSBA, 65% of the aircraft were shot down by cannon and machine gun fire, then from 1990 to 2002 due to the accuracy of the pilots in air battles, only 5% of enemy combat vehicles were shot down. The rest was done by rockets.

      Besides:

      These maneuvers require highly skilled pilot and must be performed at relatively low speeds, up to about 500 km / h, due to the strength limitations of the airframe, therefore, in real combat conditions, their application with highly likely to lead to defeat in battle.

      In other words, super-maneuverability with overloads of 10-12 g, which the Su-35 or Su-57 can withstand, is an excessive thing for modern air combat. For both technical and biological reasons.

      The AI-driven drone has no "leather meat bag" limitations. He can maneuver even with overloads of 30 g.

      Therefore, yes, for manned aircraft it is much more important to hit the enemy from a long or medium distance - and this requires stealth, not super-maneuverability.
  2. Dmitry S. Offline Dmitry S.
    Dmitry S. (Dmitry Sanin) 6 March 2021 15: 44
    +2
    The follower of the leader became the leader of the follower, the orders of the follower became a directive. If the control unit is brought down, then who or what will be responsible? What will the swarm of synthetic assassins do?

    Question into the void.
    1. mark1 Offline mark1
      mark1 6 March 2021 16: 12
      0
      why synthetic?
    2. Marzhecki Offline Marzhecki
      Marzhecki (Sergei) 7 March 2021 08: 15
      0
      Quote: Dmitry S.
      The follower of the leader became the leader of the follower, the orders of the follower became a directive. If the control unit is brought down, then who or what will be responsible? What will the swarm of synthetic assassins do?

      If you read the article to the end, you will find out that the decisions will be made by the killers themselves with the help of their AI.
  3. Sergey Latyshev Offline Sergey Latyshev
    Sergey Latyshev (Serge) 6 March 2021 16: 38
    +2
    What a nightmare...
    haha.
    Nobody played chtoli in avisimulators, where it is very difficult to defeat a computer on high difficulty ???
    That's the whole virtual battle. Known for 20 years.
    Adaptation to the well-known virtual classrooms, and then to UAV control, is a matter of time and wishful thinking. Everyone has.

    But if you can build a super-sophisticated UAV in a year, and the enemy is 1, then no AI will help you. And if 100, but simple, an engine with a processor, then a skiff in general.

    Therefore, everyone dreams of POE - cheap, cheerful, a lot, but a developed industry is needed ...
  4. Binder Offline Binder
    Binder (Miron) 6 March 2021 19: 55
    -5
    Everything is as usual - the new Russian technology is still only at the development stage, while its numerous foreign counterparts have been successfully performing combat missions on the battlefields for a long time, and Mr. Marzhetsky is already in a hurry to announce Russia's breakthrough in creating its own unmanned aircraft. True, then the author is still lamenting and even frightened by the success of Western developers in creating AI. Well, these fears are not in vain, while in Russia they are trying to reach the level of the United States and Israel 20 years ago, the specialists there also do not sit idle and are successfully moving forward. Unmanned tanks, ships and submarines are already a reality, so cyborgs are somehow not yet in demand, but if necessary, they will also make cyborgs. good
    1. Marzhecki Offline Marzhecki
      Marzhecki (Sergei) 7 March 2021 08: 16
      +3
      Quote: Bindyuzhnik
      Well, these fears are not in vain, while in Russia they are trying to reach the level of the United States and Israel 20 years ago, the specialists there also do not sit idle and are successfully moving forward. Unmanned tanks, ships and submarines are already a reality, so cyborgs are somehow not yet in demand, but if necessary, they will also make cyborgs.

      There are also enough programmers in Russia. Russians harness for a long time, but they drive fast.
      I have already said that in the end Israel with its show-offs will have to move on the UAV market.
      Russia will make its drones as simple, reliable and inexpensive as the Kalash.
      1. Binder Offline Binder
        Binder (Miron) 8 March 2021 23: 11
        -3
        Quote: Marzhetsky
        Russia will make its drones as simple, reliable and inexpensive as the Kalash.

        Uv. Mr. Marzhetsky, as a person who had a chance to shoot plenty of "Kalash", M-16, M-4, Galil, TAR-21 and other models of automatic weapons, I can tell you with confidence - "Kalash" in comparison with many foreign counterparts roughly like a humpbacked Zaporozhets next to a Mercedes. But in one thing you are undoubtedly right - "Zaporozhets" is much cheaper, though this is its only advantage ...
        So if Russian drones are of a similar quality, then Israeli manufacturers are not threatened with bankruptcy. tongue
  5. Dmitry S. Offline Dmitry S.
    Dmitry S. (Dmitry Sanin) 7 March 2021 09: 01
    +1
    Quote: Marzhetsky
    Quote: Dmitry S.
    The follower of the leader became the leader of the follower, the orders of the follower became a directive. If the control unit is brought down, then who or what will be responsible? What will the swarm of synthetic assassins do?

    If you read the article to the end, you will find out that the decisions will be made by the killers themselves with the help of their AI.

    The question is, the status of AI is not legally defined. Accordingly, there is no one to be held responsible for his actions.
    I will give a funny example: Google repeatedly "retrained" and on the query "president" the meaning of the word "in Russian and English, an AI-based search engine answered:" Putin "- in the states they gritted their teeth, but choked and ate. Nobody took responsibility for the actions of the AI. And what will happen in a combat situation, what and who will be responsible? If a drone without markings and identification marks attacked someone - it is wild and furious, or maybe kind, but someone disturbed its nest, in which its children pump their AI?
  6. Michael1950 Offline Michael1950
    Michael1950 (Michael) 8 March 2021 09: 45
    0
    Quote: 123
    Under the control of AI, the fighter could perform such maneuvers that a person simply could not stand. As a result, his F-16 went into a more advantageous position for attack and destroyed the enemy.

    And some fans of the creation of the overseas twilight genius argue that super-maneuverability is not important, they say, the main thing is invisibility. smile

    - So, after all, it is about high maneuverability, and not about super-maneuverability, Mr. "teapot" - so until now, "sofa hamsters" have not learned to distinguish one from the other? laughing
    Maneuverability - (with the help of which the aircraft escapes, for example, from enemy missiles, or in dogfight on cannons it enters the tail of the enemy) - the ability of an aircraft with maximum overload (and speed) to move its center of mass in space. It is ensured by the minimum specific wing loading at the maximum thrust-to-weight ratio and operational overload.
    Super maneuverability - the ability of the aircraft to change its angular velocity relative to the center of mass around one, two, or three axes using a controlled thrust vector, while the overload is usually no more than 4 units.
  7. MAP Offline MAP
    MAP (Alexey Zigalov) 13 March 2021 11: 09
    0
    Sergey, thanks for the article, but the analysis is not accurate. There are not enough pilots, but any war is won by the reproduction of weapons. World War II - one plant a month made 30-40 pieces. aircraft or tanks. Now one plane or helicopter in one and a half two months. For example, we have 2 helicopters, while the Americans and NATO have 000, which will be in Ukraine within a month. UAV aircraft specified takeoff 15 tons, useful 000 kg. The beginning of the last century.

    Second. You, Sergey, are greatly mistaken for horizontal flight, bend, barrel, slide, etc. not artificial intelligence is a common formula and a self-learning computer can master all aerobatics very quickly (several years). Autopilot is not artificial intelligence.

    Third. A short-range air-to-air missile flies with an overload of 40-60g, this is the same UAV. Air defense systems work with objects flying no more than 25g.

    Fourth, this is war, and they of the autonomously flying combat complex themselves must decide on the attack. Friend or foe systems and technical vision provide such an opportunity.

    Fifth, you have the wrong tactics for using the UAV.

    On the sixth, we were twenty years late and the war had already begun ... We did not have time to jump on the bandwagon and will pay with the lives of soldiers.