In the dogfights of tomorrow, every pilot will command their own wing of drones. Or so goes Col Michael Pietrucha's vision of the future. In the latest issue of the USAF's Air and Space Power Journal, Col Pietrucha argues his case for a new class of small, lightweight drone.
In Pietrucha's future, a human pilot will take to the sky with a number of semi-autonomous drones. These drones will be able to fulfill a number of different support roles, from air-to-air combat, to functioning as flying missile magazines. Each human pilot will thus functionally represent a full strike force of aircraft.
The drones, Pietrucha explains, will also be constructed to be highly modular. Not only payload, but the drones' actual airframes will be adjustable. The drones will be programmed with a number of basic swarming techniques — to be triggered at the flick of the human wing commander's finger.
Pietrucha envisions these wingmen to be functional and in operation by the 2020s. And with the USAF already developing drones similar to that which he suggests, Pietrucha's force-multiplying drone wingman might just be a lot closer to reality than any of us know.