“Look Ma — No Hands!”

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An F-18 lands without human help aboard the Ike / Navy photo by Albert Jones

Hate to feature two aircraft-carriers photos in the same day — it might go to the Navy’s head — but this second one warrants it. On July 2, an airplane landed on a flattop with no human involvement (except a pilot aboard for safety):

The test, conducted on USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69), means the Navy is one step closer to demonstrating the first carrier-based recoveries and launches of an autonomous, low-observable relevant unmanned aircraft. “What we saw here today is cutting edge technology for integrating digital control of autonomous carrier aircraft operations, and most importantly, the capability to automatically land an unmanned air system aboard an aircraft carrier,” said Capt. Jaime Engdahl, Navy Unmanned Combat Air System Carrier Demonstration Program Manager. “Successfully landing and launching a surrogate aircraft allows us to look forward to demonstrating that a tailless, strike-fighter-sized unmanned system can operate safely in the carrier environment.”

Looks like they just might be heeding Battleland’s Thomas P.M. Barnett’s call earlier this year for “mother ships launching waves of cheap drones. That would actually be more frightening and intimidating,” he said, than the costly manned fighters currently being flown off carriers.