Bombers Drop Pilots

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Unmanned Combat Plane Tested...

The military moved a step closer to taking pilots out of the action with the successful test of a new drone bomber. Under remote control, Boeing's X-45 Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) dropped a dummy bomb to within inches of a target truck on the desert at Edwards Air Force Base in California. The pilot was 80 miles away when he pickled the bomb. "It's absolutely a huge step forward for us," Boeing's Rob Horton told the Associated Press. "It shows the capability of an unmanned airplane to carry weapons." There's nothing new about drones packing heat. Armed versions of reconnaissance unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have been used in Afghanistan. Boeing claims the X-45 is the first drone built for the purpose of dropping bombs and sees a bright future for the tailless, stealthy-looking jet. Boeing hopes to build hundreds and the military has already said the drones have a role in performing extraordinarily dangerous missions such as taking out missile and radar sites to clear a path for manned fighters and bombers. Such security doesn't come cheap, however. Each X-45 will cost between $10 million and $15 million, but it's not clear if that includes all the stuff (and people) on the ground needed to make them work.