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Monday, April 11, 2005

Revolution in War Fighting

StrategyPage points out here how technology is spreading decentralization in the military. One example cited is the "mini UAV"
Perhaps the most dramatic example of this is found in the development of micro-UAVs. New materials, digital cameras and wireless communications technologies combined to produce inexpensive (by military standards) UAVs weighing under ten pounds. It’s also no accident that many of these look, and perform, like the small, remote control aircraft, built and operated by hobbyists. The gadget geeks were also building “toy robots” that soon turned into battlefield tools for checking out caves, or possible booby traps. After September 11, 2001, some of these hobby projects were sent off to war. While the traditional military manufacturers scoffed at the idea of hobbyist remote control aircraft being used by the military, the troops had a very different idea. For an infantryman, or Special Forces operator, a five or ten pound remotely controlled aircraft, that could send back live images of what it was seeing over the hill or around the bend, could be a lifesaver. 
See my previous post on a Micro Air Vehicle which points out that the Navy is investigating the use of this small UAVs to perform what are essentially "scouting" functions. As StrategyPage notes, this decentralizing acceleration might be perceived as a threat to the US Air Force, which has recently being trying to assume all UAV management for the Armed Forces to some apparent resistance of other services. See my post on this new born power struggle here.

It may well be that for strategic level and, perhaps, operational level UAV missions, the USAF is right to argue for one manager. But it's hard to assert that at the tactical level anyone other than the grunts who are there ought to be deciding whether and when a sensor platform can be deployed to take a peek around the corner. I'm sure that supporting aviation units can make it clear to the field operators what flight levels are safe so that missions can be de-conflicted.

Saving lives through this kind of technology is a good thing.


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