TEL AVIV — Unmanned aerial systems (UAS) have already superseded patrol and reconnaissance aircraft and are rendering gunships obsolete. But until they engage enemies in the air, it’s premature to speak about the end of manned platforms, according to a former Israel Air Force commander.

“The [unmanned] air-to-air mission is not a fantasy but part of the future,” said retired Maj. Gen. Eitan Ben-Eliahu at a Nov. 26 unmanned vehicles conference and air exhibition in Rishon Lezion, south of Tel Aviv.

In an address devoted to UAS trends and their prospects for replacing manned platforms, Ben-Eliahu said leading air forces are phasing out costly fixed-wing and rotary aircraft for a spectrum of unmanned reconnaissance, surveillance and targeting missions. In terms of future force planning, he said, “The attack helicopter is finished.” […]