I didn't realize how close we were, to committing to a pilotless fighter jet. Seems it's coming down the pipe fairly soon.
Unmanned Combat Air Vehicles (UCAV) will make today's piloted planes seem like flying bricks by comparison, with advantages too long to list here. For starters though, no pilot means a lighter, smaller, and cheaper aircraft. Large canopies, pilot displays, and environmental control systems will disappear.
"The UCAV offers new design freedoms that can be exploited to produce a smaller, simpler aircraft, about half the size of a conventional fighter aircraft," according to the Federation of American Scientists. It would weigh only about one-third to one-fourth as much as a manned plane. Costs will also be slashed. Boeing's X-45 UCAV will probably be a third the price of the forthcoming manned F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, according to the defense policy website GlobalSecurity.org.