Sunday, February 28, 2010

Drone Syndrome – Part 2

The new arms race has already gathered momentum. Thirty to forty other countries around the world have begun to build, buy and deploy unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), 

They’re showing up at international weapons expos and air shows. Countries ranging from Iran to China to Israel are showing off their new UAVs. The fact that Lebanon's Hizbullah is already using unmanned spy planes armed with cameras to spy on Israel means they're already in the hands of at least one extremist group prone to terrorist attacks.

We’re in for a rude shock if we if we think we’re the only ones with the ability to use armed UAVs to attack another country. Remember ten years ago when we couldn’t even imagine terrorists using commercial aircraft as weapons against us? 

This new technology presents a real threat to the United States and its allies. The future holds a world in which foreign robotics will equal or even surpass our own—a world where terrorist organizations can purchase UAVs capable of delivering deadly explosives into the countries of their enemies.

Most of this technology is commercially available right now. It’s only a matter of time before UAVs fall into the wrong hands, giving even small regional terrorist groups the capability to wage war without casualties. All it will take is money. 

This is the beginning of the biggest change in military strategy and capability since the invention of the airplane. That technology was available to our enemies within ten years after the Wright Brothers flight at Kitty Hawk. With today’s communication and computer technology, sophisticated UAV technology will be available to our enemies in less than half that time.

They may not have the satellite or supercomputer capability to control their UAVs from the other side of the world, but they don’t need it. The technology that agri-business uses for unmanned crop dusting is commercially available. These same drones could be easily and inexpensively converted to carry explosive warheads or disperse chemical or biological weapons. 

Those of us old enough to remember the need for air defense strategies in the mid-twentieth Century, may live to see that need reborn. The proliferation of this relatively inexpensive yet extremely deadly technology harks the birth of still another arms race—anti-UAV weapons.

These UAVs can be very small and made from hard-to-detect materials. They can use low heat-producing propulsion systems. They can fly at very slow speeds at very low altitudes. This will make them very hard to detect by radar and for heat seeking missiles or jet aircraft to destroy.

Given our government’s proclivity to enter into unprovoked, imperialistic wars and the resources it will take to stay ahead in this new arms race, it looks like any hope of lower taxes and a peace dividend have evaporated. 

Probably for good.

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