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Modern Drone Tactics

This is a discussion on Modern Drone Tactics within the Military Strategy and Tactics forum, part of the Global Defense & Military category; I hope this is the right place to ask but what's your opinion on drone usage for a modern military? ...


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Old June 3rd, 2014   #1
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Modern Drone Tactics

I hope this is the right place to ask but what's your opinion on drone usage
for a modern military?

Personally, I think drones would make excellent ground support and workhorse aircraft if they were made cheaply and in enough numbers. They might even make
decent replacements for the retiring A-10s since what they lack in individual
firepower, they make up for in presence and numbers. They might also be
good for taking down an air defense network in a brute force kind of way.
So basically a low-tech complement to manned aircraft instead of high-tech
replacements. On the other hand, as demonstrated by Iran, non-autonomous drones will always be vulnerable to outside "interference" by persistent opponents.
But this all presupposes that countries can make capable drones at an affordable
price say 50 percent the performance of an F-16 at 35 percent of the price. Right
now, I think countries such as the US, France, and China are trying to put too much capability into individual drones and not emphasizing the fact that drones
are expendable. The RQ-9 reaper is an okay example, but the price at $20 mil. is still too high for what you're getting.

Again I'm new so please excuse me if someone has already posted
something like this.
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Old June 3rd, 2014   #2
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The first role of most modern UAVs (including the Reaper) is ISTAR, relatively it's a small percentage (10% for the RAF IIRC) of missions which result in a weapons release and even then it's more often than not on unsuspecting targets far into hostile territory than responding to a 'troops in contact' call.

Not really great for taking down an IADS either, they're great for operations in Afghanistan because they lack the ability to destroy or even locate the aircraft in the sky. Against a technologically competent aircraft both militarily and through cyber there are significant risks to UAVs which is why development of stealth UCAVs has been something seeing development, like the US UCLASS or RQ-170/180, the French nEuron or the UK Taranis.

These are not cheap, the main cost of aircraft like these are the electronic systems and capabilities. If the aim is to penetrate a proper IADS then i'd not imagine any cheap MALE/HALE UAVs which are not designed for that mission to last for any meaningful length of time.

Drones are not expendable, any drone worth anything will be too expensive to be deemed disposable IMO.
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Old June 4th, 2014   #3
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The last thing any military wants is a fully autonomous UAV killbot that makes its own target selection. Either you would have to constrain its selection so much that it is easy to spoof, or open it up and accept high levels of collateral damage i.e. blue-on-blue and civilian deaths. It would also violate a number of international agreements (written for landmines and booby traps, but those are the only current fully autonomous weapon systems). If a human makes an error and orders a kill of an innocent target you can blame and replace him. When an autonomous UAV makes an error you are likely to have to ground the entire fleet until you can develop, test, and install a software patch, which could take months.

So you need a man-in-the-loop to authorize the attack. He needs a lot of sensor data to evaluate the situation before authorizing the attack. That takes a lot of bandwidth, which is in short supply, so you can only operate a few UAVs in a single communications “cell”.

Target identifications also requires a lot of expensive sensor hardware, probably even more in an autonomous UAV due to the limits of the software and the need to be sure of the target, possibly 60% or more of the total cost.

So fully autonomous armed UAV are out. Cheap large armed drones are out. And you are very limited in the number of operator controlled UAVs you can deploy.
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Old June 5th, 2014   #4
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I guess I'm too used to thinking of drones as
tomahawk missiles without the warhead. I was
thinking more along the lines of using MQ-1s to force
SAM sites to fire and expose themselves to SEAD aircraft.
Either you shoot at the drones and expose yourself
or don't shoot and let them do what they want.
While the issue of not having enough drone operators is
valid right now, I don't think it would be in serious wartime
if you gave someone the choice between being a drone
operator or being infantry. They'll learn quickly enough.
I dunno, I guess it just bugs me that you can get 2 MQ-1 Predators
for the price of an Abrams tank and possibly 30 of them for
the price of an F-35. An F-35 is great, but it can still only be in
one place at a time.
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Old June 5th, 2014   #5
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A SAM site only has to be activated and transmitting any form of electronic signals of any kind (radar signals + other communications signals) to be picked up, analysed and nail to a location. It's not dependent on firing way beyond the range where visual identification would be able to be done.

Radar emissions at a certain point actually tell a potential target more than the origin of the emissions because past a certain point the radar does not create any meaningful picture however everybody knows there's a radar transmitting and a possible origin.
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Old June 19th, 2014
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