Elon Musk has suggested Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II fighter jets, which are a key part of the Morrison government’s $200 billion investment in defence, would “have no chance” against an autonomous drone in the battlefield.
“The fighter jet era has passed,” Mr Musk said at the US Air Force’s Air Warfare Symposium in Florida.
“Drone warfare is where the future will be. It’s not that I want the future to be this – it’s just, this is what the future will be.”
Musk has taken aim at the F-35 fleets used by the US, Australia and UK. (AP)
Mr Musk suggested the US and its allies would need to start work on a competitor to the F-35 or risk falling behind other countries.
“The competitor should be a drone fighter plane that’s remote-controlled by a human, but with its manoeuvres augmented by autonomy,” he said.
“The F-35 would have no chance against it.”
The comments come as Australia’s F-35A Lightning II capability has taken a step forward with the opening of the Australian and United Kingdom (UK) F-35 Reprogramming Laboratory.
Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II fighter jet (Getty)
The Reprogramming Laboratory produces Mission Data Files (MDFs for Australian and UK F-35s) which compiles information about the operating environment and assets in an area, before being loaded onto the aircraft pre-flight using a portable hard drive,” she said last week.
“Combined with the aircraft’s advance sensor suite, this provides the pilot with a clearer battlespace picture.”
Both countries are co-funding and supporting the capability under a 50/50 funding arrangement. Australia has committed to 72 F-35A aircraft for three operational squadrons at RAAF Base Williamtown and RAAF Base Tindal, and a training squadron at RAAF Base Williamtown.
The first F-35A aircraft was accepted into Australian service in 2018 and all 72 aircraft are expected to be fully operational by 2023.