A recent story in The Verge revealed what the plot for “Top Gun 2” will be when it finally goes before the camera. According to producer Jerry Bruckheimer, the movie will pit human fighter pilots against drones.
The idea is that someone has decided that piloted combat aircraft are obsolete and that remote controlled drones can perform missions without placing a human being at risk. Tom Cruise’s character, Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, sets out to prove the folly of this supposition.
Movies and TV shows that have pitted human beings against robots and computers have been around for decades. An episode in the original “Star Trek,” “The Ultimate Computer,” pitted Captain Kirk against an artificial intelligent computer that was placed in control of the starship Enterprise and had run amok. “2001: A Space Odyssey” famously had astronaut Dave Bowman trying not to be murdered by the computer HAL 9000. There was even a recent movie about a computer controlled jet fighter that has to be put down by human pilots. In each of these cases, the human protagonist prevailed.
The one exception was “Colossus: The Forbin Project” is which an artificial intelligent computer successfully takes over the world.
It is uncertain what the approach will be for this humans vs. machines theme in the new “Top Gun” though one suspects that Maverick is going to win in the end. The problem is that while drones have been used in a number of air to ground strikes, particularly in targeted assassinations of terrorists, there has not been much use of them if at all un air to air combat.
A recent study conducted by the Air Force suggests that Predator drones are useless in virtually every other combat role aside from reconnaissance and targeted assassinations. On the other hand defense analysts, including the Israelis, envision an era in which drones can take on other roles, including air to air combat.
That suggests that Maverick and his fellow aviators will face a squadron of new, state of the art drones that would be designed to do everything that a piloted fighter can do. Following the conventions of the theme, human instinct and experience will likely prevail over computer speed and durability. But then this is a Bruckheimer, who is notorious for bending technology and even science to the needs of the plot, project. So all bets are off.