The Death of ‘Top Gun’

AP Photo
The Associated Press

From Fawn Johnson writing at National Journal:

The days of the Navy fighter pilot are almost over—or at least they should be.

That’s the opinion of Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “We think that the Navy should be looking at drones to replace manned aircraft. I believe that the F-35 is the last manned fighter aircraft,” he told National Journal. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said the same during a speech in April: “The F-35 should be, and almost certainly will be, the last manned strike-fighter aircraft the Department of the Navy will ever buy or fly.”

Compared with manned aircraft, drones offer many advantages, but none greater than this: Drone pilots can, for example, fly a mission in Syria from a base in Nevada and be home with their families after. Fighter pilots face far greater hazards, and sometimes don’t come home at all.

There is, of course, an extensive moral debate raging about how, why, when, or even whether the U.S. should carry out drone strikes, but even if the nation’s defense shepherds decide they want drones to replace manned aircraft entirely, there’s another hurdle to clear: a massive military-industrial complex that struggles to keep pace with changing technology.

Read the rest of the story at National Journal.