Lockheed Explores Unmanned F-35 Concept
Pilots have heard for
awhile that it's only a matter of time before computers completely
replace humans at the controls of the most advanced aircraft... and
Lockheed Martin appears to be taking that concept to a new level,
with word the Bethesda, MD-based manufacturer is looking into an
unmanned version of its upcoming F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike
In a briefing Tuesday, Lockheed VP Frank Murno acknowledged the
idea has been in the works for two years... and while he provided
few specifics on the program, Murno did say such a plane could be
built as a hybrid -- manned by a pilot for some missions, and
operated remotely for others.
The Washington Post reports by announcing the program, Lockheed
is signaling a move toward producing drone aircraft, after years of
maintaining unmanned planes diminish the need for more expensive
manned fighters... thus allowing its rivals to get a head start in
the UAV market.
"When you think about unmanned combat systems, I think about
Boeing," said GlobalSecurity.org executive director John E.
While acknowledging an unmanned F-35 variant would give Lockheed
a truly unique entry into the UAV market, many analysts still
believe the manufacturer has a tough road ahead in that market.
"Lockheed is playing catch-up and acknowledging that unmanned
vehicles is a trend that is not going to go away," said analyst
Loren B. Thompson Jr., who also consults for Lockheed. "It's going
to be hard to penetrate a market where competitors are already
As Aero-News reported,
Lockheed also recently unveiled its P-175 "Polecat" high altitude,
unmanned aerial demonstrator -- an aircraft that could one day
rival the successful General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Predator
series -- in another step towards asserting its presence in the
unmanned aircraft market.
Like the Polecat, the unmanned F-35 is being developed at
Lockheed's famed "Skunk Works" facility in California.