The autonomous warbird

It was considered a stunning turn in warfare when a remotely controlled aircraft on a reconnaissance flight over Afghanistan spotted a Taliban convoy and fired a jury-rigged Hellfire missile, striking and destroying the target.

The headline-grabbing flight in late 2001 — though rudimentary and under remote human control — marked the first search-and-destroy mission by a flying drone, and it propelled robotic warfare from the pages of science fiction to the battlefield.

Now, behind a barb-wired fence and double security doors in Palmdale, Northrop Grumman Corp. engineers are building what could become the ultimate flying robot: a jet fighter controlled by a computer. It would take off from an aircraft carrier, drop a bomb on an enemy target and then land back on the carrier, all autonomously.

Source:  Los Angeles Times

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