The United States Air Force is now looking for a F-22 Raptor replacement. It must be in service by 2030 and, for the first time ever, they want to be able to deploy these combat fighters unmanned and remotely controlled.
While the USAF wants to use actual pilots too, they are clear that they want Unmanned Air Vehicle capabilities in their 6th Generation air combat fighter. It seems like they have finally realized that they may not need Maverick and Iceman anymore.
The romantic in me hates this idea. But I don't see any reason why they should risk pilots' lives by actually putting them in the plane. Not when they can be miles away, using exactly the same skills while having access to the same information and feedback that they have inside the cockpit. Especially when the remote pilots would be able to make maneuvers that are impossible now because of the extreme, life-threatening G forces that they generate. Not to talk about taking out the psychological stress of actual combat in the air.
But then again, why make the planes with a cockpit when they can save millions by taking out sophisticated instrumentation and life support systems? They can go unmanned all the way and get over with it. It's the most logical option.
No companies except Boeing—see the image above—have presented models of these theoretical 6th Generation fighters yet. [FEDBizzOpps—Thanks Karl!]