The US Air Force plans to deploy a good number of low-cost, unmanned single-use combat aircraft. They will be sent on missions that are too dangerous for manned planes.
The US Department of Defense representatives have they said that one of the technologies in which they will invest most in 2020 will be that of "Low-cost disposable aircraft": low cost suicide bombers.
It is a strategic choice that comes downstream of some important expense rationalizations that will also affect other fighters. For example, a marked reduction in production costs of the expensive and controversial F-35A Joint Strike Fighter (you know?) and the B-21 bombers (each of which even cost 640 million dollars)
Low cost suicide bombers: dirty work at a fair price
Unmanned single-use air vehicles will cost much less instead. The Air Force is currently funding the development of theXQ-58A Valkyrie, a versatile unmanned aircraft with a load capacity of 272 kg and a dignified range of 2800 km.
By removing all the life support system for the pilot (no humans are needed) and the complex instruments (nobody looks at them) the cost of these low cost aircraft (which have a flight autonomy of about 12000 hours) drops to just 3 million dollars.
Not bad, if you think an F-35 costs 89 million dollars.
Here XQ-58A Valkyrie in a video:
A "expendable" and unmanned fighter can do a lot of things: it can act as a "guide dog" to armed drones, for example. Or it can act as bait to flush out targets to shoot down, it can fight on its own, or it can sidetrack enemy radars, or even block their communications.
The Air Force trusts that the new "suicide bombers" robotic and economic help the agency save tens of millions of dollars without losing sight of its needs.