While the idea of an autonomous flying military bot is far from new, the US Navy has taken a first step toward "developing an unmanned combat aircraft that some advocates say could compete with Lockheed Martin's F-35 joint strike fighter." Northrop Grumman was awarded a $636 million contract to design, build, and fly an Unmanned Combat Air System "that would operate from the decks of the Navy's giant nuclear-powered aircraft carriers," and if things goes as planned, we could see the gunners join our forces "within 10 to 15 years." And considering that we're already deploying land-based mechanical soldiers to fire our weapons, we'd say the full-fledged robotic army is certainly closing in.

[Image courtesy of DefenseTech, thanks Jason]

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Navy gears up for unmanned combat aircraft