October 24, 2011

"The Pentagon already includes unmanned drone attacks in its arsenal."

"Next up: housefly-sized surveillance craft, shape-changing 'chemical robots,' and tracking agents sprayed from the sky."

The future of war.

44 comments:

ndspinelli said...

Arthroscopic surgery helped create these small cameras. When they first became available for use as surveillance they cost 1k. I bought my first when they were ~$400. Now, you I think you can get them for under $100.

The Drill SGT said...

A fleet of drones roams a mountain pass, spraying a fine mist along a known terrorist transit route – the US military's version of "CSI: Al Qaeda." Days later, when troops capture suspects hundreds of miles away, they test them for traces of the "taggant" to discover whether they have traversed the trail and may, in fact, be prosecuted as insurgents.

Fuel-air explosives seems better than taggants. Fewer steps in the process.

Note that it presupposes that the Army, in theater, is arresting terrorists :(

Scott M said...

The future of war.

The distant past of speculative fiction.

KenK said...

Just like with nuclear weapons in the 40's and 50's the US enjoys a monopoly on this technology. For now. But look out once the rest of the world figures it out how to make these things.

Nonapod said...

In an age when you can buy a mini RC helicopter for $20 on Amazon it's not too surprising that in a few short years there could be fly sized drones being used for intelligence gathering (and perhaps warfare directly, imagine swarms of these things).

KenK said...

In the late 1990s Fox had a sci-fi TV show (starring Jessica Alba) that was set in the 2020's in a dystopian Seattle that featured police drones that spied on and killed people. I though that this was obvious BS at the time some 11 years ago. Now they're here. Scary.

Psychedelic George said...

The commercial applications will be incredible....good for U.S. business.

Peter said...

If the military wants to be able to rely on these weapons then it had better be able to control space.

For, many of these weapons will become useless if the military's orbital resources are destroyed.

edutcher said...

An interesting corollary to this is a story on StrategyPage that some USAF drones are going over to the Army.

In 20 years or so, there may not be an Air Force, just an Army Air Corps because the Air Force insists all drone pilots be qualified aircraft pilots, and thus officers.

The Army uses sergeants, so it's cheaper.

EDH said...

Shape changing 'chemical robots.'

"Get out."

No, you "Get Out!"

Patrick said...

My sons are interested in military (they're young); weapons and armor and battles. One of them brought home a book which contained a section called "the future." The book was written in 1987. Smart bombs, drones and satellites. In retrospect, it doesn't seem so imaginative. But I remember the first gulf war, when the US used smart bombs and Patriot missles. Seems we've come a long way.

Scott M said...

It looks like the Navy will be the first to mount ELE lasers and bring actual "ray guns" into the battlespace. The military has obviously been using lasers for decades, but this will mark a first for actual systems designed to damage/destroy enemy gear. We're a long, long way from anything man-portable, but it will happen eventually.

Although...Heinlein smiles as any sort of power source small enough to be man-portable and powerful enough to function as an infantry assault weapon might also, just possibly, be scaled up to power articulated armor exoskeletons.

Curious George said...

All well and good, but where are the Jetson cars? WE WERE PROMISED JETSON CARS GODDAMIT!

John Lynch said...

Most of these won't work out. Maybe one or two.

Drones are the big success story from the previous 20 years of R&D. Most of the rest never passed the RL test.

We forget the failures.

exhelodrvr1 said...

Just skimmed the article so far, but it didn't look like it mentioned the significant technological advances in satellites, night-vision goggles, counter-battery radar/return fire systems, to name just a few.

Cedarford said...

Iraq/Afghanistan was perhaps the last American war where "heroes with boots on the ground", sniper and IED fodder...need to be deployed.
Hugely expensive, and "the heroes with boots on the ground" change few enemy native's hearts and minds. Leaving the only reason to "hold ground" is if we plan on colonizing the place with surplus Americans or Mexicans.
An Army may still have a place in the "kinetic phase" to wipe out the military assets of an OPFOR...but after that...with the enemy beat on the battlefield, we can watch and act in a remote fashion that typically does not require "the heroes with boots on the ground".

Scott M said...

C4

Please use your wealth of military experience to show us the way. Actually, I could use another laugh. Give us another example why the Army is unnecessary. Just for giggles, please cite your operational theater experience and the years. Dates aren't unnecessary, apparently like the army.

Scott M said...

Double-negatives always ruin good snark.

Cedarford said...

Scott M said...

Nothing that made sense.

The AF kills the enemy, the Army takes the casualties from the enemy. The Marines clean up Army messes. The Navy keeps the sealanes open in order to cart the immense supplies the Army heroes with boots on the ground need, so they can later be given to the enemy the AF defeats.

Scott M said...

As you're making less sense than J, C4, I'll let you wallow in your ignorance.

Cedarford said...

Also, who has the elite Didlo Force?
The Army.
Who does the country call on when it needs the best ground troops for critical small engagements? Navy sailors.
Why did so many of them get lost in a helo crash?
Well, credit the Taliban with a good shot at a fat target, but it was a Army Chinook, not the Spec Ops helos they normally ride in.

Verdict of technology - 100,000 ground pounders are going to be eliminated from the military in 2012. More subs, drones, and cyberwar capability coming.

Roger J. said...

Scott M--I think C4 has disclosed on this blog that he was serving Engineer officer during the Kuwait war.

As to his latest post, I do believe he is on target--as a former armored cavalry man, I say that tanks are irrelevant on the modern battlefield. The modern battlefield will be dominated by the technology we are now seeing, and boots on the ground, while relevant in some situations, will be the exception rather than the rule.

If he is correct, and I think he is, technology should drive a total reorganization of our current military structure.

we are in Billy Mitchell territory now, because the bureaucratic impedimentia of the military structure will fight to maintain their billets.

My .02

Roger J. said...

I also agree that we need to move to a deployable force of small unit, highly trained, special ops forces--Large formations are not needed; eg: we didnt deploy brigades or divisions to Uganda--just 100 "armed advisors."

Roger J. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Roger J. said...

Finally (and apologies for consecutive posts) we are moving into Starship Trooper territory here--Robert Heinline (USNA 24) was quite precient in his science fiction: the modern military is looking more like his view of mobile infantry.

Roger J. said...

and mea culpa for misspelling Robert Heinlein's name.

BarryD said...

"I though that this was obvious BS at the time some 11 years ago."

I don't know. I think Seattle had already become dystopian by then.

BarryD said...

'I also agree that we need to move to a deployable force of small unit, highly trained, special ops forces--Large formations are not needed; eg: we didnt deploy brigades or divisions to Uganda--just 100 "armed advisors."'

Vietnam, you say?

Roger J. said...

BarryD: you make my point, I think--the initial idea was good; but when the operation gained visibility and the old line generals who thought the WWII approach was better it went to hell pretty quickly.pantsxhi

The Drill SGT said...

edutcher said...
An interesting corollary to this is a story on StrategyPage that some USAF drones are going over to the Army.


Those MC-12's are not UAVs. They are nearly civilian beechcraft King air 350's.

they are in fact manned substitutes because there are not enough UAVs,

why move them to the Army? Because the Army has used C-12 (light cargo) and RC-12 (intel) versions for 40 years. the MC-12 have basicly UAB grade sensors in a King Air chassis.

The Drill SGT said...

Roger J. said...
and mea culpa for misspelling Robert Heinlein's name.


My favorite SST quote went something like this, regarding women in combat. In SST, the troopers were all male, but he postulated that the combat transport pilots were female with mixed crews, (hand-eye coord, and that little extra)

(again a paraphrase from memory)


why?

.. because the female pilots are the best and because when you strap troopers into capsules, ready to launch them into death and destruction, it helps if the last thing they hear before launch, and maybe the last thing they ever hear, is a woman's voice wishing them good luck and good hunting. If you don't understand why, you have resigned from the human race...



a classic appeal to why men fight...

Roger J. said...

Drill--wonderful remembrance, I have to confessed to have forgotten it--Heinlein would have made a great CNO or CJCS had he stayed in the navy.

Roger J. said...

Off to class--sorry I cant hang around this thread--short though it may be. Old soldiers dont have much sway anymore except for their connections to other old soldiers. Which, ultimately is the most rewarding benefit of being an old soldier.

Its hell to get old. I am now in Colonel Blimp territory.

Scott M said...

All of "we-never-need" hinges on us never having to fight a high-intensity conflict again. I seriously doubt that will end up being the case.

The Drill SGT said...

Scott M said...
All of "we-never-need" hinges on us never having to fight a high-intensity conflict again. I seriously doubt that will end up being the case.


I doubt the Army would be that dumb:

1. to abandon all its heavy direct fire capability by depending on the Air Force, LOL. Just ask the Marines what they think about that.

2. forgeting TF Smith. For the rest of you beyond Roger, that is pretty much an Army motto whenever force redesign comes up.

Back 60 years ago, we had some occupation troops in Korea. The North Koreans came acros the border and the CG of the 24th Dvision sent a Infantry battalion at half strength (400 men) along with 6 105 howitzers armed with 6 anti-tank shells (total) out to stop the Koreans. The heavy weapons of Task Force Smith consisted of those 6 anti-tank shells, 6 obsolete 2.36 inch bazookas, and 2 75 mm recoiless rifles.

The American Army had no tanks in Jorea, for the roads would not support tanks.

The Korean Army forces were led by the 105th Armored Division (150 T34/85 heavy tanks), (the Koreans not having got the memo about the uselessness of tanks) and the 4th Infantry Division.

all in all the Americans were outnumbered 30 to 1 in men, and 150 to zero in tanks, while having exactly 6 shots that could penetrate the front of those 150 tanks.

The Americans shot their 6 shells, fired off the rest of their weapons and either died in place or ran.

The rest is history...

The American Army isn't going to count on the Air Force or depend on the fact that the Chinese (they have 8,000 medium or heavy tanks, we have 1,000) have gotten the memo

William said...

OK, agreed that in the context of WWII, the atom bomb saved many lives both American and Japanese. Still, it's worth remembering that the atom bomb would not today exist had Roosevelt not chosen to fund the Manhattan Project. In a sense, the atom bomb was the last of the grand New Deal projects. No other nation could have undertaken the expense of this huge project on speculation. And after it's reality, a great many nations have felt obliged to own one. .....It's fair to argue that the world was parodoxically a safer place after the invention of the a-bomb, but it is also fair to argue that the final chapter has not yet been written in nuclear warfare. The atomic bomb has haunted us for generations and may yet come back to wreak a fair amount of destruction.....What I'm getting at here is that we should proceed with caution. Many of the components of these whiz bang weapons will be available at Radio Shack within fify years. Some technically agile dissident from the Phuc Xiu valley in northwest Irkistan may decide to dramatize his displeasure with the US by letting loose a machine gun robot in Times Square.....However, I have read the article. What is striking is not the destructive power of these new weapons, but their ability to minimize havoc.

exhelodrvr1 said...

William,
"Still, it's worth remembering that the atom bomb would not today exist had Roosevelt not chosen to fund the Manhattan Project."

The SOviets would have - with all the scientists they stole from Germany, and their desire for domination, they would have developed it on their own. Of course, without the threat of the bomb, they also would have invaded western Europe by the early 50's, so maybe it's a moot point.

William said...

You may be right, but from what I've read the Germans were far from developing an a-bomb. Heisenberg was bogged down in S-matrix collision particles instead of, uh, that other doohickey. In any event, he said that if it were even possible, it would cost an enormous amount of money to develop. Hitler and Speer thought the money would be better spent on other projects, and perhaps Stalin would have reached the same conclusion. Perhaps the a-bomb would have remained, like a manned trip to Mars, one of those feasible things that are kept on the back burner. Uncertainty is the driving force all historical analysis.

Carnifex said...

All technology can be spoofed. When radar was first developed they invented chaff. Infra red anti aircraft missiles? jets with the exhausts on the dorsal side.

The war is not always won by the biggest baddest army with the latest technology. Viet Nam is proof of that. We were winning the fighting war but lost at the popular front.

The Jews at Masada, the Spartans at Thermopylae, were not defeated. The heart and will of the warrior wins wars.

This is why we will lose to the Islamicist. They are willing to die for their cause, and we are too squeemish to oblige them. They merely await the appearance of a modern day Saladin.

I do agree with the policy of using drones. We have to conserve our shooters because of the disparity in numbers. With 1 billion Muslims in the world, if only 1% are "radical", (I believe the number to be much higher) that gives them an "army" of 10 thousand.

The good news is that all this is moot. The coming economic collapse will create enough chaos that it will be a century before there's any other global threat. again,

Carnifex said...

Scott M speaking from experience I think. You win a war by putting your boots on the enemies soil. period.

The Drill SGT said...

Carnifex said...
Scott M speaking from experience I think. You win a war by putting your boots on the enemies soil. period.


The old school said:

You win a war when you plant your flag on the burning rubble of the enemies Capital, or as Conan once said:

Mongol General: We have won again. That is good! But what is best in life?
Mongol Warrior: The open steppe, fleet horse, falcon on your wrist, wind in your hair!
Mongol General: Wrong! Conan, what is best in life?
Conan: "To crush yoah enemies, see dem driven befoah you, and to hear de lammentation of de vimmin!"
Mongol General: That is good.

Carnifex said...

As an item of Military History, the Franks got their name from the type of battle axe they carried called a "Francesca", or alternately "Francisca". An axe with a curved wide bladed head, they would throw the axes as a volley during a charge of the enemies line. Because of the unusual shape the axe would bounce unpredictably, either hitting foes in the legs, or shields , or elsewhere. Quite often the opposing lines would break and flee seeing the bouncing blades of death hurtling towards them.

Carnifex said...

Will we be called drones by the future?

John Lynch said...

We'll be using soldiers, tanks and planes for a while longer. There's still conventional war.

It's best to prepare for conventional wars because we can lose one in a week. Counterinsurgency can be learned on the job but there's no time to learn in a war against an enemy that can field a real army.

The tank has been declared dead many, many times but refuses to die. I don't see it going away anytime soon, even if it becomes a robo-tank. It's just too useful to have a persistent, mobile, armored gun platform.

The problem with aircraft is that they come and go. You can't control the ground with aircraft. We keep forgetting this. Also, any enemy with a few SAMs can shoot down any drone we have.

Technology isn't going to fundamentally alter war. We invented atomic bombs but we still field men with rifles. Approach all technological claims with skepticism.