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Drones taking over fighter jets in air-to-air combat? Russia says ‘yes’ as it ‘downs’ Ukrainian Su-27

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Drones taking over fighter jets in air-to-air combat? Russia says 'yes' as it 'downs' Ukrainian Su-27

Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk earlier predicted that future of wars would be carried out by UAVs and not fighter jets. 'The fighter jet era has passed. Drone warfare is where the future will be. It’s not that I want the future to be – it’s just, this is what the future will be,' he said

Sandeep Sharma Last Updated:March 30, 2023 17:29:03 IST Drones taking over fighter jets in air-to-air combat? Russia says 'yes' as it 'downs' Ukrainian Su-27

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New Delhi: A close watch on the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war and the recent Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict show that modern warfare drones can be an effective alternate to the fighter jets, considering them being more maneuverable and far less expensive.

Days ago, it was reported that a Ukrainian pilot — Aviation squadron commander Major Denis Kirilyuk — was killed on the night of March 27 after a Su-27 fighter jet was shot down by an Iranian Shahed 136 (Geran-2) drone of the Russian armed forces. While officially confirming the news, the 831st Tactical Aviation Brigade of the Armed Forces of Ukraine did not share details on how the Ukrainian pilot was shot down.

This was not the first such incident, as a similar one was reportedly last year, when a MiG-29 pilot belonging to Ukraine began a dogfight to shoot down a swarm of Stakhed 136 kamikaze drones. While the pilot reportedly managed to shoot down all of the drones, it proved to be fatal as debris from the drone hit the fighter jet hard and brought it to the ground. During that time, the pilot managed to eject and stay alive, reports said.

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Back in 2020, drone strikes by Azerbaijan provided a huge advantage to the country in targeting Armenian and Nagorno-Karabakh soldiers and destroying tanks, artillery and air defense systems during the 44-day war, The Washington Post reported, which stated in a November 2020 report that the war “offered the clearest evidence yet of how battlefields are being transformed by unmanned attack drones rolling off assembly lines around the world.”

Advantages of UAVs

The modern warfare drones cater to a variety of demands compared to the fighter planes, especially by saving pilots’ lives.

A report in Financial Express states that drone are not just maneuverable since they are not subject to overloading constraints, but also far less expensive than airplanes.

Unlike fighter jets, to fly a drone, there is no need for the extensive and costly pilot training. Moreover, these warfare drone can be easily deployed at places where it would be impracticable to endanger a pilot or an expensive aircraft, the report said.

Taking a lesson from its ongoing war against Russia, a government official in Kyiv on Wednesday claimed that Ukraine’s armed forces now own thousands of attack UAVs with a flight range of over 3,000 km. Called the Ukrainian swarm, the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) has been named after Mathias Rust — a peace activist who landed a Cessna on the red square in Moscow in 1987.

Oleksiy Danilov, Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, shared the news on Twitter along with the photograph of Cessna on the red square in Moscow.

Also Read: Ukraine strikes Russia with history: Kyiv claims it has 3000-km flight range UAVs, named ‘Mathias Rust’

Experts view

Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk predicted in 2020 that future of wars would be carried out by UAVs and not fighter jets.

“The fighter jet era has passed. Drone warfare is where the future will be. It’s not that I want the future to be – it’s just, this is what the future will be,” Musk said during a conversation with US Air Force Lt. Gen. John Thompson at the Air Warfare Symposium, CNBC reported.

Back then, Musk also suggested that US armed forces’ one of the most expensive weapons — Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fighter jet — should have a competitor. “The competitor should be a drone fighter plane that’s remote-controlled by a human, but with its maneuvers augmented by autonomy. The F-35 would have no chance against it,” he tweeted.

Not just that, Musk, during his conversation with Thompson, even warned that the United States will be at risk of falling behind if the country does not prioritise innovation. “This is not something that was a risk in times past but is a risk now. I have zero doubt that if the United States doesn’t seek innovation in space it will be second in space,” Musk said.

(With inputs from agencies)

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