The future of airpower is not either manned or unmanned, but both. The balance between these two will be based on a deep appreciation for how best to use an expanding array of manned aerial systems, unmanned vehicles and air-delivered/air-breathing weapons in a future high-end air campaign. This new balance could reassert the dominance of airpower in high-end warfare, which has been challenged by advances in anti-access/area-denial capabilities. While it is tempting to pursue a future based on highly sophisticated and expensive unmanned wingmen, this is not the best approach. Not only is such a strategy likely to be unaffordable, but it depends on advances in AI, autonomy, machine learning and networking that are likely only attainable decades from now. Emphasis should be given to exploiting the virtues of expendable UASs that will provide manned platforms with additional ISR and strike capabilities beyond those available with precision weapons. I have written more on this subject here.
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