When science fiction meets reality, Air Force edition

November 23, 2010

One of the problems pilots encounter when flying combat missions is the blind spot, places where an enemy plane might lurk unseen, such as behind or directly below. Wouldn’t it be nice if our pilots could see in all directions, at once?

Well, a new gadget from Northrup-Grumman, the Electro-Optical Distributed Aperture System, promises to make that wish come true. A pilot can even see through the cockpit floor:

As the video makes clear, there are uses for the DAS besides dogfights, including faster identification of ground-based defenses and highly detailed views of the ground or seas surface, even in poor viewing conditions. (And note how often desert/dust environments were used as an example. Hello, Tehran?)

America has traditionally compensated for having a smaller military in terms of numbers by maintaining a technological edge over likely enemies; better equipment and tactics compensates for numerical inferiority. Granted, this is a marketing video designed to make the product look as sexy as possible to Pentagon buyers, and defense contractors have a bad history of over-promising, but if this tech comes even partway close to its potential, it will be an amazing advance in sensor technology and give our pilots a heck of an edge in combat situations.

As I often like to say, we have all the best toys.