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Flight-Sim Fighter Planes

Why expose fighter pilots to battle?
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Fighter jets today are capable of maneuvers that would kill the pilot (generally from excessive G-forces). Even for less-nimble combat aircraft, when one is shot down, the crew is generally lost with the aircraft. Even when crew members survive being shot down, they are subject to capture by the enemy, potentially to be used as hostages, for propaganda, or to be tortured for information.

Instead, why not outfit the aircraft with a camera for each window or so, and feed the live video from each camera to a corresponding screen in a flight simulator at a safe location? Other aircraft response data would also be fed back to the simulator from the plane. The pilot and crew would man the simulator, which would generate the control signals that would be sent to the actual aircraft. Then fighter jets could be used to their full potential and the loss of one, while significant, would still be less costly than the loss of the plane plus crew.

I recognize potential problems with communications, but an autopilot computer with GPS navigation could safely return any plane that loses contact with the simulator. And encryption would have to be unassailable, since it would be a real bad day if the enemy could take over all the friendly planes. And of course troop transport aircraft would still have to carry live troops. Or maybe cost would be too high, since I guess you'd need a simulator for each airborne plane. But these don't seem to be immediately fatal problems. I wonder why I've never heard of this being tried.

I do know, though, that I won't fly if they start doing this with commercial passenger jets. I want the pilot's butt on the line if I'm flying with him.

beauxeault, Jul 05 2000

(??) UCAV X-45 http://www.boeing.com/phantom/ucav.html
Boeing is testing this now. [Freefall, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 05 2004]

[link]






       Problem you'd have there is transmission delay, a time lag between 'I see this, I move the control, the plane reacts'. And if you dump enough noise into the air, it'll overrun even frequency jumping,..   

       <eeps! at finishing an annotation and finding a radically different .5Bakery format...>
StarChaser, Jul 06 2000
  

       I'm not sure that I'm happy with the idea of making warfare less hazardous for the combatants. To my mind, the danger of having your captured pilots paraded on TV by your enemies combined with your own news coverage of concerned mothers has become more of a deterrent to warfare than having a vast stockpile of nukes. Sorry for being a weedy liberal (uh-oh! I said the bad word) on this one.
DrBob, Jul 06 2000
  

       I'm sure I read something in the newspaper yesterday about this sort of thing. The US are testing pilot-less planes for use in combat situations. At the moment pilotless planes *are* in use, taking pictures over enemy lines, but they cannot carry munitions because of some international agreement or other. As an aside, why not do the same sort of thing for motor racing? A lot less dangerous for the participants, but it would kind of reduce the whole thing to a video game.
wibble, Jul 10 2000
  

       You know the way flight sim games simulate computer-controlled enemy aircraft? Why not just set the fighter jets with a really, really smart AI system?
jdigital, Sep 17 2000
  

       The main problem would be the delay. I know there is wireless internet connection, 128kb/s, but this is still too slow even if they started using radio links there would still be a 1ms-1s+ delay. However, if this delay can be overcome then it could be a really good idea.
Geezer, May 16 2001
  

       I think you'll find these are called cruise missles. They fly a mach 2 and can be -reprogrammed in-flight. Actual manualy controled flight would be impossible as the time lag as discussed earlier.   

       There are also new designs for a £50 remote controlled spy plane - basically, it's a toy model aircraft with a miniture camera on it. They can be issued to soldiers, who turn em on, start the engine and throw them into the air. they can then fly them around, scouting the terrain ahead for the enemy and can even use them to direct artiliary fire. If the plane gets shot down - who cares? They just throw another.   

       these models could easily be adapted to include a small explosive charge. (A small amount of Plastic Explosive will do a lot of damage to a vehicle.
CasaLoco, Jun 14 2001
  

       "Unmanned Aerial Vehicles," they're called in general. Cruise missiles on one hand, surveillance drones on the other; perhaps eventually we'll have unmanned fighter planes as well. It's certainly a well-discussed concept -- nothing new here.
egnor, Jun 14 2001
  

       Hey, guess what? This is being done. Anyone heard of the Predator? It's an unmanned aerial vehicle which is actually being used to drop bombs on Afghanistan. It's propellor-driven and not nearly as fast and maneuverable as a fighter, but it's also $4 million instead of $18 million each. BAKED!!! (but still a good idea)   

       [update] There's also the jet-powered Global Hawk and at least one other craft...
magnificat, Oct 31 2001
  

       I've seen some really good AI i n flight simulators and other gaming, and I've delved into AI programming myself. Now technically if you can fly a plane in a realistic flight simulator you can fly one in real life. Given that, if an AI can fly a plane in a flight simulator too, then why can't similar AI fly a plane in real life? Shouldn't the airforce be recruiting programmers from video game backgrounds to develop their UAV's? An AI that can fly a plane in a full-physics flight simulator is expressed in a few hundred lines of code and a small behaviour data table, such that ten-twenty such AIs can be operating giving a game player a sky full of realistic opponents and not serious bog down a modern computer. All that would be necessary is additional systems to interpret the surrounding world and feed the information necessary to the AI. A human supervisor could of course have a high level control over the AI, which brings us back to the remote controlling described by beauxeault...
venomx, Feb 02 2003
  

       I want a really good aerobatic simulator that models a modern competitive-aerobatics aircraft like a Sukhoi, Yak or Extra. Extra points if it can do gyro-precession maneuvers like the lomcevak with realism. Flight Unlimited claims to be one but it is old and fairly horrid.
bristolz, Feb 02 2003
  

       Something gives me the feeling that the military has technology a bit more advanced than the typical cell phone modem...   

       I think they pilot the global hawk with a satellite...(instead of direct radio... then it'd be limited to the horizon or whatever).   

       Problem with AI is that you'd have to put an expensive computer into each aircraft.   

       And yeah, they've already put hellfire missiles on the predators.
Crazy Bastard, Feb 02 2003
  

       You people aren't taking this far enough:   

       If the aircraft/battle can be simulated, controlled and modelled in a computer with great accuracy..... why not just RUN THE WHOLE WAR in a computer simluation! This saves the trouble of having to declare a real war in the first place and keeps lives out of risk.   

       This idea only sounds silly if you think that lining up on battle fields and killing each other is a good way to resolve political differences.   

       Seriously, we should take a close look at how lobsters (that's right, lobsters) solve their territory disputes: They posture and they pose -- they show off and they "battle" but without inflicting mortal damage. Many animals take battle up to the logical point of seeing who will win and then settle it from there.   

       In fact, let's allow the simlutation run quickly to, say, the year 3500. Once we know who eventually conquers the world, we can just let them rule now and get on with inventing really cool 1/2bakery ideas and new flavours of icecream, etc.   

       [Yes, I am loopy.]
not_only_but_also, Nov 25 2003
  

       Sim planes without a human pilot could pull Gs beyond human tolerance so they would be more maneuverable in a battle. Also the plane's design would be completely different without "windows", canopies or cockpits with all the required life support,ejection seat, instrumentation and visibility requirements for a pilot. There would be multiple cameras to send visuals back to Sim pilots on ground. The flight sim may even be a spherical pod of images completely surrounding the crew, not the usual POV.
wombat, Nov 25 2003
  

       not_only_but_also: Star Trek: A Taste of Armageddon I believe.
supercat, Nov 25 2003
  

       (Dr Bob) Is the bad word 'Weedy' or 'Liberal'?
weedy, Nov 25 2003
  

       Get all the politicians who want to go to war, give them all a gun each, last politician standing wins the war.
Micky Dread, Nov 25 2003
  

       Anybody heard of the latest UCAVs (Unmanned Combat Air/Aerial Vehicles) that the USA is testing, X-45 and so on? ABout 1/3 the size of a F 16, some even carrier ready, and making them bigger, will fight the future wars for sure, still some time time before they are ready, big deal about target recognition, and safe control... We´ll see what happens.   

       Nevermind, see link above, 1 image > 1000 words!!
Wallace, Dec 03 2003
  

       Wow, have we come a long way in 14 years.
DIYMatt, Jan 03 2014
  
      
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