Drones Vs. Fighter Jets – The Important Role Power TVS Diodes Play
The debate rages on regarding which direction the US military should take, between more advanced fighters and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), to stay ahead of air warfare and defend her skies. There are many factors involved as well as different stakeholder interests.
As a manufacturer of transient voltage suppressor (TVS) diodes used to protect electrical systems from power surges in both manned and unmanned aircraft, MDE Semiconductor, Inc. is interested in whatever shifts are happening in the industry. Our MAX40 (40000 watt) and 30KP (30000 watt) series of power TVS diodes offer protection against transient overvoltages with fast response times – less than 1.0 ps.
Here is what we have discovered after analyzing the various viewpoints for and against fighter jets and unmanned aircraft.
UAVs and Fighter Jets Compared
The case for UAVs
UAVs are less expensive than fighter jets. For example, one Predator costs between $3 million to $4 million compared to the around $160 million for one F-35A.
With pilots operating them remotely, UAVs are a defense against the loss of their valuable lives. When one UAV falls, another can be sent to replace it. Compare that to the risky and resource-intensive mission of rescuing downed pilots.
UAVs are excellent for reconnaissance. Most fighter jets would need refueling for missions beyond 3-4 hours while the Predator, for instance, can operate longer than 30 h. Besides, it is not ideal for pilots to fly non-stop for longer than 10 h in such a tight space. Switchovers between remote UAV pilots are possible and afford them much needed breaks.
Properly designed, UAVs can overcome one of the limitations pilots of fighter jets face, G Forces. There are UAVs that can accelerate to 20G, a force that would instantly kill a flying pilot. Plus, a range of sizes are being built, some as tiny as insects that are perfect for spying, and others as large as manned aircraft to fool the enemy and draw their fire. Modularity in their design will allow UAVs to carry various payloads for different applications.
Current limitations of UAVs
On the downside, since communication between remote planes and the pilots controlling them relies on satellite linking and internet connectivity, the possibility of jamming these links is detrimental to their operation. Fighter jets are also not excluded from this threat in the age of electronic warfare.
UAVs are still currently limited in their operation in contested airspaces and are typically called upon only when the threat levels from enemy aircraft are close to zero.
The aforementioned issues are enough to keep R&D institutions busy for the next few years.
Why fighters are not going anywhere
For one, sensors do not remove the need for a human’s observation, intuitiveness, and critical thinking skills. UAVs offer their remote pilots only a limited line of sight through well-placed and controllable cameras, more than sufficient to respond to slow-moving targets like a truck on the ground. However, the fast pace of air warfare is no match for these systems. The current technology is not at the stage that enables UAVs to dogfight successfully. Fighters are still required for air to air combat.
Technology is capricious. Glitches in video feeds and delays in transmission between UAVs and ground control station will not do for situations where an incorrect split-second decision could lead to devastating losses. Data from Air Force mishap highlight the difficulty aircraft have flying when minor mechanical faults develop.
Trust and the human element are major issues. Quite a few retired and current fighter jet pilots agree that lessons passed on through the years through storytelling is what makes the airforce what it is today. And that trying to replace that tradition with analyzing a technical fault or programming mistake takes away from the team spirit the military depends on. On the other side of the coin, some quarters are raising questions about the ethics and implications on humanity for remote pilots to make life and death decisions several miles away without being physically present to take in the fullest picture of the environment they are attacking.
Each generation of fighters has stories to tell about the glitches they experienced with the bird of their time, and many of these experiences have led to the continuous improvement of the next generation of military aircraft.
A Solution That Is Not One or The Other, But Together
Going forward, the US Airforce as part of its Next Generation Air Dominance program (NGAD), is exploring different combinations of fighter platforms and the advanced technologies that will support them. Such a mixture would see manned and unmanned crafts operating together on a mission with advanced network connectivity. In doing so, the force can take advantage of both the strengths of UAVs and manned aircraft while reducing their disadvantages as far as possible.
There is also a keen interest in fully autonomous unmanned aircraft that fly and act on received information without human intervention. An example is the XQ-58A Valkyrie designed to fly autonomously alongside manned fighters. It completed its first test flight in March 2019 at the Yuma Proving Grounds in Arizona.
Depending on who you speak to, the concept has been termed the “Loyal Wingman” or “Mosaic Warfare” whereby UAVs and autonomous jets accompany manned fighter jets into combat, whether to scout ahead, absorb enemy fire, fire at targets, or act as an electronic jamming device.
The more exciting promise of this future concept lies in the potential ability for the manned fighter jet to act as a central control station in which the pilot can command the assigned “drones” to perform tasks. This, however, is no small feat which will require many hours of training and technology development.
Regardless of which direction is taken, the future of air defense will depend on advanced aircraft electronics and computing systems. And the protection of these systems is where MDE Semiconductor, Inc. excels. We manufacture a series of TVS diodes, mission-critical power TVS diodes that help keep military aircraft in the air.
Thanks To Technology, Military Aircraft Have Come a Long Way
Gone are the days of cockpit instruments with round dials and aircraft without GPS or flight management systems. Then, pilots had to navigate, shoot missiles, continuously evaluate all the instruments one by one and look for problems. Which meant a lot of head-turning.
Driven by the pressure of wartime needs, rivalry and national pride, modern aircraft now boasts multifunctional, “head-up” flight displays, warning systems, highly integrated avionics, precision weaponry, advanced electronic scanning array radar, supersonic cruising, and much more.
The following three critical technological advancements will see the coming of age of both manned and unmanned aircraft:
Artificial Intelligence for autonomous systems
The loyal wingman concept previously mentioned would rely on AI systems that allow autonomous aircraft to learn from and respond to the actions of the pilot. The benefit would be recommendations for a course of action after data processing.
Advanced networking systems for reliable communication
Unbroken links between networked aircrafts, together with leveraging the power of satellite technology for easy navigation is necessary for success. The reliance on these types of communication means that resistance to electronic jammers remains a priority. Any future designs must be resilient.
Advanced sensing capabilities and software performance
As more autonomy is desired, the software architecture to calculate and interpret data from sensors would be as robust as possible, whether the aircraft is built from scratch or an old fighter is adapted.
MDE Semiconductor, Inc. Manufactures MAX40 and 30KP Series of Power TVS Diodes
How does the world’s advanced aircraft attack and defeat successfully in battle? They have fully integrated devices to protect their sensitive electronic systems against transient overvoltages. Power TVS diodes are a fast response device, going into avalanche breakdown in as quick as a few picoseconds after a strike. A TVS diode clamps the transient voltage and routes the associated excess current to the ground, protecting the load.
MDE Semiconductor, Inc. is a leader in the design and manufacture of mission-critical TVS diodes and surge protection systems. Our company continues to innovate solutions as demand for the future needs on the battlefield increases. We product a MAX40 and 30 KP series of TVS diodes with low capacitance which are excellent for military applications.
Our company is focused on partnering with manufacturing and technology companies who are involved in ensuring the reliability and performance of our nation’s military exploits. Whether your needs include a power TVS diodes for small spaces, or greater flexibility, our years of experience allows us to produce solutions to address the challenges of real-world design while continuing to be low-cost and focused on delivering on time.
Visit our website https://mdesemiconductor.com/ to learn more about our products, and you can call us at 800-831-4881 if you have any questions.