autonomous, intelligent military aircraft
jet fighters are now entirely computer controlled. These unmanned planes
have fully autonomous capability from the moment they take off, to the
moment they land. A combination of strong AI, swarming behaviour and
hypersonic technology is employed to create near-instantaneous effects throughout the battlespace.*
of network-centric warfare and the increasing complexity of enemy types,
movements and environmental factors has led to major advances in target
recognition technology and collision avoidance systems. This allows
whole squadrons of pilotless planes to synchronise, attack from multiple
vectors and regroup in seconds. Further autonomy is provided by auto
air refueling, self-repair and other systems.
emergence of AI, personnel costs have shifted from operations, maintenance
and training, to design and development. Machines can perform repairs
in-flight (including the use of "self-healing" nanotechnology
composites) while routine ground maintenance requires little or no human
labour, being done mostly by robots. New tactics and information can
simply be programmed into the aircraft, or they can "learn"
from others in the swarm.
hypersonic engines, inhuman reaction times and improved weaponry, these
craft would run rings around human pilots of earlier decades. Following
the retirement of the F-35 Lightning II, manned fighter planes are now
Unmanned probe to 2060 Chiron
2060 Chiron is a minor planet found in the outer Solar System.* Discovered in 1977, it became the first in a new class of objects known as centaurs - small bodies orbiting between Saturn and Uranus - and named after the race of half-man/half-horses from Greek mythology, in recognition of their dual comet/asteroid nature.
2060 Chiron has a radius of around 145 miles (233 km) and a parabolic orbit going from just inside the orbit of Saturn (8.5 AU) to just outside the orbit of Uranus (19 AU). With an orbital period of 51 years, it reaches perihelion in 2047.* As part of the recent exploration of the Kuiper Belt,* an unmanned robotic probe has been sent to intercept it, arriving this year.
The mission returns critical data about Chiron's size, shape, polar obliquity, atmosphere, surface morphology, surface composition, internal structure, surface activity (including the nature of Chiron's outbursts), and its origin. NASA had been planning for such a mission as far back as 1994.*