When Good UAVs Go Bad

I came across this article this morning, courtesy of the Marine Corps Gazette’s Facebook Page; it’s titled UAVs’ next challenge: Bad guys shooting back [PDF: UAVs’ next challenge – Bad guys shooting back] and I thought that it might offer some interesting perspective on counter-UAS philosophies…

Counter-UAS is an area that hasn’t got much press yet as the last three decades of growing UAS use, back as far as Israeli’s excursion through the Bekaa Valley in 1982, have all been in very benign airspace conditions where almost without exception, any air defence has been ruthlessly snuffed from the missionspace. But sooner rather than later, we will have to come to terms with various means of countering the West’s UAS advantage…

Unfortunately, the article doesn’t deliver and is a disappointing rant about how the nasty old USAF is holding back the rest of the world from autonomous freedom by selfishly insisting that its next bomber at least have the option of a human crew. I mean, who do they think they are? Autonomous strategic weapons have been around since the days of Snark, Mace and Pluto so what’s really that new about it? Didn’t we have those cruise missiles in DESERT STORM that were so smart as they rocketed down the empty boulevards of Baghdad that they obeyed the road rules..?

Well, I guess, maybe one of the key differences between those systems and manned bombers since the 1930s is that you can always turn a manned bomber around; a manned bomber can also, by virtue of the squidgy bits sitting up front, think for itself if someone forgets to pay the datalink account this month…

To state “…where you might be able to develop a new UAV quickly, in relative terms, an optionally manned bomber will be a good bill-payer for years, requiring all the time, money and effort of a human-operated airplane. Look how long it took, and how much it cost, to develop the B-1 and B-2…” and  imply that either of these systems took as long and as much money as they did because they were manned platforms, and that the main driver behind an optionally manned bomber is its cash-cow-ability, is simply dishonest.

The simple fact is that, in comparison to a manned aircraft, even the smartest UAV today is still pretty dumb – even the pathological mono-focus of The Terminator’s Hunter-Killers is a long way off, let alone the true learning ability of Stealth‘s EDI – in the meantime, the squidgy bits, in the air or on the ground, offer the best option not just for smart weapons but smart, devious and cunning weapons…

1 thought on “When Good UAVs Go Bad

  1. Hello! I’ve been following your website for a while now and finally got the bravery to go ahead and give you a shout out from Atascocita Texas! Just wanted to say keep up the good job!


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