posted on Jul, 1 2006 @ 02:47 PM
Though I'm sure it's a 'terrific surprise' to everybody, I actually agree with most of what you say. I will comment that there is validity to the
"The more they rely on remote automation, the more attacking the automation's C2 becomes not only viable but absolutely necessary."
Here are some things to consider:
1. UCAVs don't need to carry armor or heavy weapons. Thus a lot of their costs can be attributed purely to high-ticket avionics systems. Note that
even the cheapest (MQ-1 Predator, 2-3 million and technically an A-UAV) are some 2-3 million dollars which is about 2/3rds the price of a modern MBT
for little more than a powered sail plane.
2. Airborne systems in general are not as readily visible and thus /studyable/ as ground systems. Both because of the standoff advantages of a high
grazing angle sensor and altitude effect on munition performance. And because they (typically) have access to satcomms and relay airframes which make
directionality easier to achieve. If you are using C/X/Ku band systems and they are all high power, pointed up and AWAY FROM the the ground sender,
you are winning 90% of the jammer war.
3. Really, while you can secure comms in a tactical unit with MMW or Laser systems as you suggest, the ability to at least self-navigate back to a
leap off or alternative safe-recovery point is pretty much a 'good thing'. Even as it is technically _harder_ to do than for an airframe which
faces few if any obstacles in it's open, 3D, environment.
4. The more you put automated systems on the ground, the more you encourage threats to leave the battlespace where they can find them. Be it getting
off a street into a building and tunneling through walls (or sewers or or or). Or shifting to standoff attacks with soft and hard kill alternatives
of their own. Or simply jumping on a flight to an area where friendly civillians form a much easier target base. In particularly the latter
instance, so long as we moderate our responses to the individuals directly enacting terror, we will always be 'more vulnerable' because we in fact
_value life more than death_ and so are richer and softer and 'happier' (more trusting) because of it. As soon as you start saying things like
"For every one of ours, 100 of you until we run out of targets..." they will start to shape up. The Indian Wars of the 1800s proved this because it
was obvious that we were going to own the landscape anyway and extermination of a hostile indigenous population was not seen as particularly evil in a
controlled propoganda environment. Today, this might or might not be possible, depending on the level of casualty inflicted. But it would mean The
Death Of Decency. Which is a dark road to travel down.
For myself, the basics of automated navigation are already present. You have Tom Tom and other automotive/GPS navigators with builtin 'address'
terrain conditional configurations sensors (parking lot, hospital, hotel) for threat-engagement acceptability parameters.
You have both curb whiskers and increasingly cheap MMW/FLIR visionic and traffic-avoidance systems (on high end Beamers and Caddies and the like as
well as increasingly as mine detectors on existing tanks). You even have the ability to _simplify_ things like cruise control and servo'd driving
mechanisms by removing rack and pinion and power assist channels from a central location and returning them to on-wheel gimballing and digital-engine
control subfeatures as a function of eliminating the 'human interface'.
With these basics you can probably ensure auto-navigation in most conditions and commanded-breaching (through walls or into yards/gardens etc.) 'on
demand' as digitized requests to a handler.
Which only leaves weapons employment. Here, I actually expect the robot to be superior to the human because the first hit will not 'reprioritize'
all sensory responses towards pain management and there is no specific worry over dismemberment or mutilation (since anything lost can be replaced if
The vehicle can carry more payload weight in the form of _redundant_ sensor and weapons systems (meaning you can fire an explosive round or a guided
round or a low-threat round or a 'crowd control' system off a single chassis, in the same mission).
And it will almost assuredly be superior in terms of killing point targets at range. Because it will have anti-sniper systems (for instance) that
triangulate a base range of azimuthXelevation to within a cone perhaps 30` on a side. And a FLIR too look for muzzle flashes after that. And a
robotic wingman to take over the mission and handoff engagements to a separate gun-laying optics system should the sniper first engage the robots own
anti-sniper sensors (i.e. every unit is networked to provide coverage overlap).
I can even see changes in overall systems profiling (unmanned turrets with with all ammo onboard = halved systems weight on what can now be balloon
tires instead of tracks, which means halved chassis weight etc. etc.) which dramatically reduce deployment lag and numbered engagement/support
The problems with all of the above are relatively simple. Let's say it takes 60,000 dollars to make an infantryman a useful killer. Lets say, to
'occupy' a given terrain matrix, so that you can regulate as much as deny all activities within it, that it takes 100 infantrymen.
Let's further say that, because of changes in the UGV (Unmanned Ground Vehicle) each one 'only' costs 1 million dollars vs. the 5-6 that an MBT
does. Are six tanks the equivalent of 100 soldiers in terms of 'preventative intimidation' on a threat populace that prefers to fight only when
I don't think so. So you may actually see an INCREASE in particularly OOTW actions, at least until the populace realizes how ruthless these things
are in counter engagement and how 'un fun' it is to trade a life for a silicon chip.
If you reduce the price to say that of a high end automobile in the 100-250,000 dollar range...
And if you equip it with even cheaper (sub-10K) mini-UGV which are either hard-tethered or have such a high power command-link transmitter backing
them up at short range as to make jamming irrelevant. Then you can start to talk about utility.
But what this means is _specifically_ evaluating both the KINDS of missions we are doing today (and for which Tanks are no longer appropriate IMO).
And how much the soldier specifically is worth. So that you can create cutoff levels as to how much 'value' you imbed in his replacement.
Obviously, no mother will cry why Johnny 5 dies. But there will still need to be made doctrinal decisions at both the tactical and strategic levels
as to how much or little you can rely on these systems to perform ALL not 'some' of the high-lethality infantry mission set as a justification to
reduce the manned TOE.
Lower costs only work if they offset lower abilities across the board (scrubbing dishes, delivering logistics, standing guard duty, forced entry into
a house etc.).
Something few people like to discuss is how vulnerable MAN is as a function of wide area electronic attacks, not just to his systems but his person.
As soon as DEWS like the millimeter wave ADW illuminator panel start to make their effects known at less than billboard size, you will discover that
robots are evaluated more fairly than is now the case.
You still will need to start with a good baseline chassis (ten times what SWORDS can do) and then plan for a range of 'open architecture adaptability
enhancements' similar to what retraining does for us (modular everything).
And at the same time, you will need to control costs above all else. '10-50-150-200' grand escalation level commitments of force being common on a
But it can and will be done, if you can just remove the Beef Eater mentality from the UE.