Many nations have adopted one or another form of UAV for surveillance and communication, and a number of them wield drones that can actually fight. Be it using air-to-ground missiles, laser-guided bombs or even experimental air-to-air capability, most of today’s aerial missions can be performed by drones, prompting a question, how long manned military jets will last before becoming a historical curiosity.
Not all combat drones are created equal, though. Some of them are just enhanced versions of surveillance UAVs, while others were built to be almost as capable as the most advanced jet fighters. Some have stealth capabilities and can carry an impressive array of weapons, others were designed to be as cheap and as mass-producible as possible.
The criteria to compare them are the same, though. We want to select the most effective, the most capable and the most combat-ready of them all, therefore paying attention to the performance, endurance, armament and the current status of the program.
If it is still in development and no prototypes were built – it is out of this list. If its capabilities are not published, there is nothing to talk about. Technology demonstrators are allowed as long as they are combat-capable, that is, you can fly them to war, not only in laboratory conditions. Operational history, of course, is a plus.
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