The Future, Unmanned

By Jason Sherman / May 14, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Pentagon's top officer today offered this prediction: the Joint Strike Fighter will be the last manned fighter the Defense Department builds.

Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that recent U.S. military experience with unmanned aerial vehicles is influencing new thinking about what types of aircraft the Defense Department will build in the future -- a debate that played a role in the decision to review the requirement for a new bomber as well as to cap the F-22 program at 187 aircraft, he said.

We're in a real time of transition here in terms of the future of aviation. And the whole issue of what is going to be manned and what is going to be unmanned, what is going to be stealthy, what isn't.... From a warfighting perspective, I think this is at the heart of what we need to look at, whether it is fighters or bombers, quite frankly. That's been the essence of the discussion.

He added:

I think we're at the beginning of this change. There are those who see JSF as the last manned fighter or fighter/bomber or jet. And I'm one who is inclined to believe that. I don't know if its exactly right. But this all speaks to the change that goes out, obviously decades, including how much unmanned we're going to have and how it is going to be resourced.