Tuesday :: Jun 29, 2010

Drone, Baby, Drone!


by paradox

The Air Force is deploying a new evolution of American weaponry, pilotless vehicles with the seemingly dull and harmless name of drones, a legacy from when the remotely piloted vehicles mainly loitered for hours in drowsy reconnaissance. Drones have weaponry now, of course, and their recent implementation in Afghanistan and Pakistan raises very serious issues for the little people that, so classically, we weren’t consulted or asked about at all.

Like all Air Force platforms drones are prone to basic targeting mistakes, they made the news recently when a convoy of Afghan civilians was blown to smithereens in error, 23 human souls perishing in the letters of reprimand details. But two other factors in this southwestern Asia deployment make their use noteworthy beyond the heinously tragic loss of life: truly scary weaponry potential in the drones themselves and equally frightening political games to keep them in use.

Before we get there I think it’s critical to understand how drones are but a tiny fringe element in the almost incalculably vast and powerful American air weaponry arsenal, especially when compared to any other country in the world. Every branch of the Services has a very significant air force with capabilities most Americans are completely unaware of in scope, not just drones in the Air Force.

The United States Navy berths USS Abraham Lincoln in Everett, Washington, with the seemingly innocuous number of 48 substantiating her four squadrons of F-18 SuperHornet aircraft. Not one country in the entire American northern and southern hemispheres would ever dare to take them on, they wouldn’t have and air force left in hours. The game gets a little frightening moving to Africa and Eurasia, there are just a few maybe’s and yes’s on the list of countries brave or foolish enough to take on four squadrons of American F-18’s. Even if they held them off to a draw losses would be catastrophic with a decade of infrastructure repair ahead.

The United States has ten Nimitz class air wings—along with the huge Army and Marine Corps air complements (the United Kingdom has a smaller air force than the Marine Corps). Then one layers on the Air Force and all their vast capabilities, plus the new drone weaponry evolution. That’s the kind of mind-boggling scale of American air weaponry capabilities leading up to drones.

Drones are of course remotely piloted aircraft, and their current nominal weaponry capability is completely irrelevant, the Air Force is very serious about drones not for the crushing blows of violence they will ultimately deliver but that all of that will be accomplished without a human pilot. The issue here is not the very significant aircraft potential deployment leap (humans impose severely constricting elements on aircraft machine design) but that one day American forces could attack in vast number and force with zero risk of human losses to the American side.

That’s something quite new to the American or human experience, a scary Heinlein or Asimov science fiction vision of fleets of remote aircraft with unheard-of non-human capability filling the skies of an alleged enemy with awesome terror at no immediate risk to any American. Just imagine all of the current American air capabilities fitted with drones and the instant uh-oh should make every American aware that something new and potentially very, very dangerous has evolved in our armed services that merits a lot of Congressional discussion and public investigation.

What’s in fact happened is that our leadership is playing games with the precise underlying issues needing exploration above, pilotless drones have inviolably trampled and crushed the idea of Pakistan sovereignty by invading and attacking in their airspace with impunity. That’s a plain act of war for as long as modern humans have ever tried to define the condition, the Pakistani leadership publicly and very loudly complain about it to their people and then blatantly collaborate with the CIA for more drone strikes. Such childish dishonesty and obsequious sniveling to national principle, most Pakistani’s despise all the CIA groveling but are helpless to stop it.

For ordinary Americans the bullshit, contempt for the most basic rules of how countries are defined and act with each other and truly scary drone capabilities in wartime merit the highest concern. Already most American Air Force officers state theirs is the last generation of piloted attack aircraft, but most Americans have no tactical idea what that means or the immense risks this opens up for the human race, let alone Americans. We need some answers about what precisely the American military plans for implementing drones and some crystal clear explanations regarding our mechanisms for going to war with them. Fast.

paradox :: 6:52 AM :: Comments (15) :: Digg It!