Let’s tea took at a military scenario that could happen in the age of drones.
Over the South China Sea, a US reconnaissance aircraft is shot down by a nervous Chinese anti aircraft crew and the drone plunges into the ocean. News reports post and color the story. It in fact was a reconnaissance drone that strayed well into Chinese territory. Yet the news reports a version where the drone was in airspace china claimed counter to international treaties. When push comes to shove the drone aircraft drivers in the US violated sovereign airspace.
But the pundits and war hawks clear a path to a military action.
A wave of reconnaissance drones heads to a nearby Island where the anti aircraft crew fired and identifies additional targets. There is a power station, two microwave amplifiers, and three gun emplacements. Nano recon drones loiter silently keeping an eye on all these targets and transmit the imagery back to battle planners.
A wave of strike drones are in the air awaiting their assignments. Twenty pilotless strike aircraft each revive a specific target assignment, some include hitting targets a second time just to be sure.
Behind them, launching from runways, a dozen recon drones will assemble into close orbits and await their assignment to fly over target and do bomb damage assessments (BDA).
The strike is green lighted.
Chinese naval assets on the island command base launch their own drones that locate two Marine Mobile Landing Platforms, acting as a base for many of the drones in the air.
The US strike permanently damages the microwave amplifiers, and all gun emplacements. the power plants are down. While fires burn at the gun emplacements, Chinese HQ-9 missiles fired from J-10s launched at Shangdong head off after the mobile landing platforms.
The MLPs pick up the HQ-9 missiles and warn the crew to brace for impact. The MLP crew launch chaff that blossoms 150 feet over the ship and floats down in front of the other MLP. One HQ-9 flies through the chaff cloud and acquires the second MLP, the USS Shenandoah. It slams into the main landing deck just as the Shenandoah is receiving a wave of RPVs that desperately need refueling.
Now the US ups the ante and sends manned strike aircraft to hit the launch sites of the HQ-9s. Of course, recon drones go ahead and telemetry back the location. B-1s launch SLAMs that follow their own inertial guidance systems so they can’t be jammed. The SLAMs find their target, and the Chinese launch radars and silos are smoking holes. Follow up BDAs show the targets are dead.
Next, the Chinese send drone subs to hunt US subs. They don’t find any American subs, but do locate the UK HMS Invincible, on maneuvers with NATO in the South China Sea.
The point here is that drone technology will keep the modern battlefield armed with the deadliest weapon of all: information. In fact, all this data will have to be managed along with high speed processors that help battle planners keep abreast of a rapidly changing battlefield.
Drones will also help keep wars less deadly, oddly. Pitted against each other, it will be a battle of leverage and intelligence that makes the difference.
Drones will probably be the first responders everywhere. First to stabilize patients. First to go fight off those pursuing downed pilots. First to put fires out. Drones will issue traffic tickets and follow suspects calmly and guide intercepting officers to the location they need to be to apprehend him or her.
Drone warfare will not follow the same model as air-to-air missile technology. That was available to the richest nations in the world. No one owns digital technology. There are inventors at the very fringe and gritty low tech of drone technology. Indians and Pakistanis and Palestinians make their own DIY drones, and quite sophisticated ones. And if we are ahead of them now, how long will that advantage remain unchecked? If the drones made by any of our enemies work, then what difference does it make?
Drones will be the ultimate revenge machines? When the anniversarry of the Nakbah (literally “the disaster” the date the Israeli nation was declared) drones pre programmed and hidden all pop up and kill hundreds in public market places, in soccer fields, in traffic tie ups, and all programmed by people now dead.
This is the new face of warfare. One without a face.