U.S. military unmanned aircraft for the past decade have carried out reconnaissance and strike missions in “friendly,” or permissive, skies.
The drone age began as the nation fought in lands without modern air defense systems, which could easily shoot down a slow-moving Predator.
Those days are winding down, and a new era of conflict with peer or near-peer competitors may be around the corner. So too are at least two new unmanned aircraft in development that could be stealthy enough to evade enemy radars, deliver payloads and glean intelligence behind enemy lines.
One is a top secret Air Force program, the RQ-180. The public knows little about the aircraft other than what was revealed in an Aviation Week story published in 2013.