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They were meant as a stopgap measure to counter the threat of an ever-growing fleet of Soviet attack submarines. The entire fleet was retired when larger destroyers were introduced, permitting the use of manned helicopters to launch the same kind of torpedo, and the use of more powerful rocket-assisted torpedo systems.
If UAVs could be used for reconnaissance by the army and the air force, it was obvious that they could also be used for active combat missions, at least in principle. The objective was to study an attack system to perform the dangerous "suppression of enemy air defenses SEAD " mission, or in other words to destroy enemy anti-aircraft gun and SAM sites.
The results were good enough to permit follow-on development, resulting in the " BGMB ", which featured an extended nose to accommodate an infrared imaging system some sources[ who?
The BGMC could be used for reconnaissance or strike missions by swapping out nose modules and other elements.
The concept proved to be a little too far ahead of its time. The test squadron was disbanded in and its roughly 60 UAVs were put into storage.
However, in the summer of a UAV "airshow" of sorts was conducted, in which a Firebee was displayed carrying two Hellfire anti-armor missiles, as well as a pod for dispensing remote battlefield sensors; apparently Northrop Grumman was running the idea up a flagpole to see if anyone would salute.
UAV advocates claim the Air Force abandoned UAVs for strike missions because of inclination of "hotshot flyboys" to keep the mission for themselves, but in fact the concept has always suffered from "command and control" problems, such as the vulnerability of communications links to jamming and spoofing, and the need to hit specific targets and not accidentally kill civilians or friendly troops.
While at the same time, US designers were wondering if dog-fights between robot planes were just around the corner.
These UAVs were test flown to evaluate their maneuvering characteristics, which were deemed good. The F4s were equipped with both the infrared homing Sidewinder and radar-guided Sparrow air-to-air missiles.
The F4s were vectored towards the interception and the air-to-air battle was on. No restrictions were placed on the F4 pilots, the air battle was to be a "no holds barred contest",  with the very real possibility of a Phantom being rammed by a UAV as it maneuvered during the dogfight.
The Firebee was banking into degree maneuvers, and making degree reversal turns within 12 seconds. The Phantoms were unable to maintain track on the UAV, but fired their air-to-air missiles anyway, receiving no hits.
In the late s, the concept of using UAVs for performing actual combat, was revived in the form of various designs generally designated as "uninhabited combat air vehicles". One of the initial concepts was to develop a UCAV on a fast track for "air occupation".
The idea was to use unpiloted aircraft to fly continuous patrols over hostile territory, with some of the aircraft fitted with sophisticated sensors to identify enemy activities and target them, and other aircraft following up with attacks.
Lockheed Martin suggested rebuilding old F A fighters as UAVs, fitting them with a wide wing to provide additional fuel, and also permit carriage of six or more air-to-surface weapons to provide the air-occupation strike element. The modified FAs would have had endurance of 8 hours over a target area, and three sets of them could maintain hour coverage.
They promised to be cheaper than manned aircraft, with a lower purchase cost and much lower operating costs, since operators could be given much of their training through simulations. UCAVs would also be smaller and stealthier than manned aircraft, and could perform High-G maneuvers impossible with piloted aircraft, allowing them to dodge missiles and enemy fighters.
Indeed, since the Navy found themselves increasingly committed to the use of expensive cruise missiles to perform punitive strikes and other limited military operations, UCAVs offered a potentially cheaper alternative, a "reusable cruise missile". One UCAV could carry a number of smart GPS-guided munitions and hit multiple targets on a single sortie, and then return home to be used again.
Even with a high combat attrition rate, the cost would be less than that of a barrage of cruise missiles. Lockheed Martin performed studies that envisioned a number of different naval UCAV configurations, including "short takeoff and landing STOVL " aircraft that could be operated off of aircraft carriers, or "vertical attitude takeoff and landing VTOL " or "pogo" aircraft that could be operated off destroyers and other surface combat ships, or even submarines.
The payload limitations can be addressed with lighter materials and RATO-boosted takeoff, and modern digital flight control systems can address the landing issue. The submarine launch concept was even more speculative, since recovery was a problem. Weapons were carried internally to improve stealth and consisted of 45 kilogram pound and kilogram pound small smart bombs, now under development.
Top speed would be in the high subsonic range, and ceiling would be about The UCAVs would be equipped with fairly simple radar or electro-optical sensors to give the operators imagery of the target. Long-range sensing would be provided by other platforms in air or space.
A shaft-driven lift fan would exhaust through the nosewheel door for vertical landings, while the nose sensor array would pivot forward to expose the intakes for the lift fan. Moveable wingtips and control surfaces along the sawtooth rear edge of the UCAV would eliminate the need for vertical stabilizers.
Another Lockheed-Martin UCAV concept envisioned a diamond-shaped tailless flying wing, with an engine buried down the centerline, and conformal weapons bays flanking the engine. For greater stealth, the UCAV would flip onto its featureless back and fly upside-down.CADRE Papers CADRE Papers are occasional publications sponsored by the Airpower Research Institute of Air University’s College of learning best practices from Joint Unmanned Combat Air Systems and UAV programs.
2. Charge Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency with. The Joint Unmanned Combat Air System (J-UCAS) programme began being managed by DARPA, but was handed over to a joint US Navy and Air Force office in October The two principle systems being developed under the first phase of the programme, the Spiral 0 phase, are the Boeing X and the Northrop Grumman X The more challenging scenario comes when there is an unexpected “pop-up” threat such an S surface-to-air missile battery that might be encountered by an autonomous unmanned combat air.
It wasn’t that long ago some in Europe were talking about having an unmanned combat air capability ready for service by The British and French have had a joint future unmanned combat air.
The XB is an unmanned combat air system carrier (UCAS) is being developed by Northrop Grumman for the US Navy (USN). The strike fighter size unmanned aircraft is currently in its demonstration phase. The history of unmanned combat aerial vehicles is closely tied to the general history of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
UCAV origins Cold War era – During the s the US Navy installed thousands of QH US Joint Unmanned Combat Air System (J-UCAS).