The US Air Force has drafted a 25-year plan for developing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Military experts say that in future, UAVs will be frontline aerial assault vehicles, carrying air-to-air and air-to-surface guided missiles, smart bombs, cluster bombs, and other sub-munitions with new-generation guidance systems. We may even see futuristic weapons systems installed on UAVs. Apart from ongoing work to adapt available weaponry for use on unmanned craft, scientists are also developing new, specialised and highly secret weapons for UAVs.
A wide range of available guided weapons makes it possible for UAVs to carry out missions by themselves or accompanied by fighter aircraft or bombers. Developers are looking for ways to make guided weapons smaller, so that UAVs can be more heavily armed.
During the NATO aerial campaign over Serbia, UAVs were employed only for reconnaissance purposes. It was in Afghanistan that the US used a strike UAV called the Predator for the first time, which has detected and destroyed militant troop formations, insurgent bases and bunkers, as well as sites for launching unguided missiles. Directed-energy weapons are soon likely to be added to the traditional arsenal of weapons and electronic countermeasures already mounted on UAVs, making some of them capable of assisting in civilian law-and-order situations as well.
The USAF document lays out a strategy for the project, and lists the necessary technologies for this new field of aviation. However, two can play at a game. The global spread of UAV technologies has encouraged a number of do-it-yourself projects. So the possibility cannot be ruled out that terrorists could also use these weapons of the future as some sort of kamikaze robots.