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Hypersonic attack drones traveling at five-times the speed of sound, new stealthy drones engineered for strike missions deep into heavily defended enemy territory and drones operated from the cockpit of 5th-generation fighters - are all part of a fast-emerging Air Force vision for the drones of the future, spanning all the way into the 2040s and beyond.

The fundamental strategy is to widen the weapons envelope, expand sensor range and apertures, increase firing distances and - perhaps of greatest importance - conduct effective war operations against advanced enemy fighter jets, missiles and air defenses. It almost goes without saying that much of this strategic thinking, as is quite often discussed, involves a massive Pentagon pivot toward “great-power” warfare preparation.

“Moving forward, we need more capable drones that can function in high-threat scenarios and operate with increased survivability. Stealth needs to be a part of this," Ret. Lt. Gen. David Deptula, Dean of the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, told Warrior Maven.

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Category: Science