There's going to be a whole lot of pissed off Navy pilots if they make a UAV that can land on a carrier deck at night in crap weather. Their main reason for superiority over all other pilots will be shot to hell.
I'm the senior Landing Signal Officer for the US Navy's Atlantic Fleet, and we've actually had fully automated landing systems on carrier aircraft for a long while. The first test of any Automatic Carrier Landing System (ACLS) was in August 1957, and after extensive development the system was regularly used in Vietnam. The current AN/SPN-46 is the latest iteration, but essentially it's just a glorified missile tracking radar that feeds into the airplane's autopilot via a simple UHF datalink. It's all old tech.
While not all aircraft since Vietnam have done it well (my old F-14B Tomcat was actually worse at "Mode I" (fully coupled) ACLS approaches than the F-4 Phantom it replaced) today's Hornets and Super Hornets are very smooth when coupled up -- much smoother than the typical manual landing.
The problem comes when the system fails (something that can happen in any large automated system - in the air or on the ground). Pilots regularly practice landing by hand, because they never know when the ACLS might not be there for them. They could perform coupled approaches every pass, but they wouldn't have the skills to confidently get aboard if the system ever went away. Those skills require lots of practice to stay sharp, and landing at sea is really hard. I've been doing it for ten years, and it's still just as challenging as ever.
Sometime in the next decade the N-UCAS is supposed to demonstrate truly autonomous UAV operations in a carrier environment. It will rely on a draft version of our next-generation GPS-based replacement for the SPN-46: JPALS. It's stated goal is to fully integrate with our normal manned carrier air traffic procedures. Having seen highly trained aviators struggle with the challenges of operating around the boat, I'll be impressed if it lives up to its goals.
Examples of prohibited uses include, without limitation, the following:
(ii) as a substitute or backup for private lines, landlines or full-time or dedicated data connections;
Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't this seem to imply that you *must also* have dedicated home telephone *and* data service or you're violating their TOS?
If computers take over (which seems to be their natural tendency), it will serve us right. -- Alistair Cooke