Will Drones Replace Fighter Jets in the Future?

Drones and fighter jets have become prominent tools in modern warfare and military operations, each possessing unique capabilities and advantages. With the rapid advancements in technology, the question arises: Will drones eventually replace fighter jets?

In this article, I will explore whether Will Drones Replace Fighter Jets in the future by comparing the different capabilities of both military aerial vehicles.

Will Drones Replace Fighter Jets?

Yes, drones could replace fighter jets in the future but today drones are not that evolved we could rely on them completely for air-to-air combat fights.

Drones or UAVs are aircraft that can be remotely controlled or autonomously flown. Fighter jets, on the other hand, are manned aircraft that the military occupies for aerial battle missions. Both have seen major shifts all over the years and have played essential roles in military operations.

Are Drones Better than Fighter Jets?

Are Drones Better than Fighter Jets

Drones offer several advantages that make them better than fighter jets for various military applications.

Reduced Risk to Human Life: 

One of the most significant advantages of drones is the elimination of human pilots on board. The risk to human life in combat situations is drastically decreased by eliminating human pilots from the aircraft. Drones can be sent into high-risk environments or operate in dangerous airspace without risking the lives of pilots.


The affordability of drones is one of their main benefits. Drones are usually cheaper to buy, apply, and repair compared to fighter jets. According to the latest news a F-35 fighter jet can cost between $75 million to $80 million As a result, they are a practical choice for missions like surveillance, reconnaissance, and other military operations.

Stealth and Low Observability: 

Drones, especially those designed for reconnaissance and surveillance purposes, can be designed with low observability features. Typically smaller than fighter jets, drones are capable of carrying out missions overlooked by radars. This stealth capability allows drones to gather intelligence and carry out missions discreetly.

Longer Endurance: 

Drones can remain in the air for extended periods compared to manned fighter jets. According to Brussels Morning Newspaper, the NATO military drones has the longest endurance and flight time up to 24 hours in each flight. 

This increased endurance is primarily due to their smaller size, lightweight construction, and efficient propulsion systems. With longer flight durations, drones can conduct prolonged surveillance missions, providing real-time information to military forces.

Versatility and Maneuverability:

The advantage of drones is their extreme flexibility and maneuverability. Their compact size and agile flight capabilities allow them to access tight spaces and navigate complex environments with ease. This makes them ideal for missions such as urban warfare, intelligence gathering, and targeted strikes.

Advantages of Fighter Jets over Drones:

Advantages of Fighter Jets over Drones

Whiles drones have their own advantages over fighter jets but these aerial battle aircraft have their own abilities and importance.

Speed and Agility:

Fighter jets are known for their exceptional speed and agility. Military fighter jets can travel faster than the speed of sound. They can reach at the speed of 1,225km/h  and are also known as supersonic. Their speed allows for rapid response and interception capabilities, making them crucial assets in defending airspace.

Weaponry and Firepower:

Fighter jets are equipped with advanced weapon systems and high firepower. These payloads include missiles and bombs to strike the target in the air and on the ground as well. The destructive power of fighter jets remains unmatched, making them indispensable in certain military scenarios.

Pilot Experience and Decision-making:

The experience and decision-making skills of fighter jet pilots cannot be overlooked. Highly trained pilots possess the expertise to assess complex situations, make split-second decisions, and adapt to changing circumstances. Their cognitive abilities and situational awareness contribute significantly to the success of missions.

Current Use Cases for Drones and Fighter Jets:

Both drones and fighter jets are currently employed in various military operations and non-military applications.

Surveillance and Reconnaissance:

Drones excel in surveillance and reconnaissance missions. They can provide real-time aerial imagery, monitor enemy activities, and gather intelligence without risking human lives. Fighter jets, too, are capable of conducting surveillance missions but are primarily focused on air superiority and combat operations.

Combat Missions:

Fighter jets are the primary choice for offensive and defensive combat missions. Their speed, firepower, and maneuverability make them indispensable assets on the battlefield. Drones, on the other hand, are increasingly being utilized for targeted strikes, asymmetrical warfare, and covert operations.

Humanitarian and Disaster Relief Operations:

Both drones and fighter jets are involved in humanitarian and disaster relief operations. Drones can aid in search and rescue missions, deliver supplies to remote areas, and assess damage after natural disasters. Fighter jets can provide air support, deliver emergency supplies, and assist in evacuations when required.

Limitations of Drones:

Despite their advantages, drones have certain limitations that restrict their full-scale replacement of fighter jets.

Limited Payload Capacity:

Drones typically have limited payload capacities compared to fighter jets. Their smaller size and weight restrictions restrict the amount of equipment, sensors, or weaponry they can carry. This limitation hinders their effectiveness in missions that require heavy payloads or specialized equipment.

Vulnerability to Hacking and Jamming:

Drones are susceptible to hacking or signal jams, potentially compromising their control and data transmission. As drone technology becomes more prevalent, the risk of adversaries disrupting or hijacking drone operations increases. Fighter jets, being manned platforms, are less susceptible to such cyber threats.

Regulatory Challenges:

The rapid proliferation of drones has led to regulatory challenges regarding their safe and responsible use. Governments and aviation authorities are still grappling with issues such as airspace management, privacy concerns, and ensuring the integration of drones into existing air traffic systems. These challenges must be addressed to fully realize the potential of drones.

Limitations of Fighter Jets:

Despite their long-standing dominance, fighter jets also have limitations that pave the way for the rise of drones.

High Cost of Acquisition and Maintenance:

Fighter jets are expensive to acquire, operate, and maintain. The high costs associated with their procurement, training, and infrastructure make them a significant investment for nations. As defense budgets tighten and technological advancements in drones continue, the cost-effectiveness of fighter jets becomes a relevant consideration.

Pilot Training and Expertise:

The training and expertise required to become a fighter jet pilot are extensive and time-consuming. Pilots undergo rigorous training programs to develop the necessary skills for aerial combat and decision-making under high-stress situations. The limited availability of highly skilled pilots poses a challenge to maintaining a significant fleet of fighter jets.

Environmental Impact:

Fighter jets have a significant environmental impact due to their fuel consumption and emissions. The carbon footprint of fighter jet operations, especially during training exercises, raises concerns regarding sustainability and environmental conservation.

The pursuit of greener alternatives and the integration of more environmentally friendly technologies are gaining attention.

The Future of Drones: Will Drones Replace Fighter Jets?

As technology continues to advance, the future of drones and fighter jets is likely to be intertwined, rather than one replacing the other.

Increasing Role of Drones in Military Operations:

Drones are expected to play an increasingly significant role in military operations. Their versatility, cost-effectiveness, and advancements in technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and autonomous systems make them valuable assets. They will likely continue to evolve and be integrated into various military strategies and missions.

Integration of Drones with Fighter Jets:

The integration of drones with fighter jets is a growing trend. The concept of “loyal wingmen” involves drones operating alongside fighter jets, providing additional capabilities, and acting as force multipliers. These drones can perform tasks such as surveillance, and electronic warfare, and even engage in combat under the guidance of a manned fighter jet.

Potential Advancements in Fighter Jet Technology:

Fighter jets are not stagnant in terms of technological advancements. Future fighter jet designs may incorporate improved stealth capabilities, enhanced sensor systems, and more efficient engines. These advancements aim to maintain their superiority in air-to-air combat while addressing concerns related to cost, pilot training, and environmental impact.


While the question of whether drones will replace fighter jets remains complex, it is clear that both have distinct advantages and limitations. Drones offer cost-effectiveness, versatility, and reduced risk to human lives, making them ideal for certain missions.

However, fighter jets continue to excel in terms of speed, firepower, and the expertise of highly trained pilots. The future is likely to witness a greater integration of drones and fighter jets, with each complementing the other’s capabilities.


Are Drones More Affordable Than Fighter Jets?

Yes, drones are generally more affordable than fighter jets. The production of a fighter jet can cost millions of dollars and even for maintaining also need a high amount of money. On the other side, drones are very much cheaper to buy and easy to maintain. Drones also have lower operational expenses and require less infrastructure compared to fighter jets.

Can Drones Perform Combat Missions?

Yes, drones can perform combat missions. Drones are being used for many military operations such as surveillance, gathering data about enemy areas, and target strikes. Drones provide advantages such as reduced risk to human life and the ability to operate in challenging environments.

However, air-to-air combat missions are not defended by drones and their use in combat raises ethical and legal concerns regarding civilian casualties and the potential for autonomous decision-making.

Are Drones Going To Replace Fighter Pilots?

Yes, it is possible that in the future drones replace fighter pilots but they cannot completely replace human fighter jet pilots. The advanced capabilities of drones make them well-suited for certain tasks, but human pilots bring decision-making skills and adaptability that are currently unmatched.

The future may involve a combination of manned and unmanned systems working together in military operations.

Will Pilot Expertise Become Less Important With The Rise Of Drones?

No, pilot expertise will remain important with the rise of drones. While drones can perform many tasks autonomously, pilots are still needed to operate and control them effectively. Pilots bring essential skills, such as decision-making, situational awareness, and troubleshooting abilities, which are crucial in complex and unpredictable scenarios.