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Every Country Will Have Armed Drones Within Ten Years
Defense One ^ | May 6, 2014 | Patrick Tucker

Posted on 05/06/2014 10:35:51 PM PDT by 2ndDivisionVet

Virtually every country on Earth will be able to build or acquire drones capable of firing missiles within the next ten years. Armed aerial drones will be used for targeted killings, terrorism and the government suppression of civil unrest. What’s worse, say experts, it’s too late for the United States to do anything about it.

After the past decade’s explosive growth, it may seem that the U.S. is the only country with missile-carrying drones. In fact, the U.S. is losing interest in further developing armed drone technology. The military plans to spend $2.4 billion on unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, in 2015. That’s down considerably from the $5.7 billion that the military requested in the 2013 budget. Other countries, conversely, have shown growing interest in making unmanned robot technology as deadly as possible. Only a handful of countries have armed flying drones today, including the U.S., United Kingdom, Israel, China and (possibly) Iran, Pakistan and Russia. Other countries want them, including South Africa and India. So far, 23 countries have developed or are developing armed drones, according to a recent report from the RAND organization. It’s only a matter of time before the lethal technology spreads, several experts say.

“Once countries like China start exporting these, they’re going to be everywhere really quickly. Within the next 10 years, every country will have these,” Noel Sharkey, a robotics and artificial intelligence professor from the University of Sheffield, told Defense One. “There’s nothing illegal about these unless you use them to attack other countries. Anything you can [legally] do with a fighter jet, you can do with a drone.”

Sam Brannen, who analyzes drones as a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ International Security Program, agreed with the timeline with some caveats. Within five years, he said, every country could have access to the equivalent of an armed UAV, like General Atomics’ Predator, which fires Hellfire missiles. He suggested five to 10 years as a more appropriate date for the global spread of heavier, longer range “hunter-killer” aircraft, like the MQ-9 Reaper. “It’s fair to say that the U.S. is leading now in the state of the art on the high end [UAVs]” such as the RQ-170.

“Any country that has weaponized any aircraft will be able to weaponize a UAV,” said Mary Cummings, Duke University professor and former Navy fighter pilot, in a note of cautious agreement. “While I agree that within 10 years weaponized drones could be part of the inventory of most countries, I think it is premature to say that they will…. Such endeavors are expensive [and] require larger UAVs with the payload and range capable of carrying the additional weight, which means they require substantial sophistication in terms of the ground control station.”

Not every country needs to develop an armed UAV program to acquire weaponized drones within a decade. China recently announced that it would be exporting to Saudi Arabia its Wing Loong, a Predator knock-off, a development that heralds the further roboticization of conflict in the Middle East, according to Peter Singer, Brookings fellow and author of Wired For War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century. “You could soon have U.S. and Chinese made drones striking in the same region,” he noted.

Singer cautions that while the U.S. may be trying to wean itself off of armed UAV technology, many more countries are quickly becoming hooked. “What was once viewed as science fiction, and abnormal, is now normal… Nations in NATO that said they would never buy drones, and then said they would never use armed drones, are now saying, ‘Actually, we’re going to buy them.’ We’ve seen the U.K., France, and Italy go down that pathway. The other NATO states are right behind,” Singer told Defense One.

Virtually any country, organization or individual could employ low-tech tactics to “weaponize” drones right now. “Not everything is going to be Predator class,” said Singer. “You’ve got a fuzzy line between cruise missiles and drones moving forward. There will be high-end expensive ones and low-end cheaper ones.” The recent use of drone surveillance and even the reported deployment of booby-trapped drones by Hezbollah, Singer said, are examples of do-it-yourself killer UAVs that will permeate the skies in the decade ahead – though more likely in the skies local to their host nation and not over American cities. “Not every nation is going to be able to carry out global strikes,” he said.

Weaponized Drones Are Inevitable: Embrace it

So, what option does that leave U.S. policy makers wanting to govern the spread of this technology? Virtually none, say experts. “You’re too late,” said Sharkey, matter-of-factly.

Other experts suggest that its time the U.S. embrace the inevitable and put weaponized drone technology into the hands of additional allies. The U.S. has been relatively constrained in its willingness to sell armed drones, exporting weaponized UAV technology only to the United Kingdom, according to a recent white paper, by Brannen for CSIS. In July 2013, Congress approved the sale of up to 16 MQ-9 Reaper UAVs to France, but these would be unarmed.

“If France had possessed and used armed UAVs…when it intervened in Mali to fight the jihadist insurgency Ansar Dine – or if the United States had operated them in support or otherwise passed on its capabilities – France would have been helped considerably. Ansar Dine has no air defenses to counter such a UAV threat,” note the authors of the RAND report.

In his paper, Brennan makes the same point more forcefully. “In the midst of this growing global interest, the United States has chosen to indefinitely put on hold sales of its most capable [unmanned aerial system] to many of its allies and partners, which has led these countries to seek other suppliers or to begin efforts to indigenously produce the systems,” he writes. “Continued indecision by the United States regarding export of this technology will not prevent the spread of these systems.”

The Missile Technology Control Regime, or MTCR, is probably the most important piece of international policy that limits the exchange of drones and is a big reason why more countries don’t have weaponized drone technology. But China never signed onto it. The best way to insure that U.S. armed drones and those of our allies can operate together is to reconsider the way MTCR should apply to drones, Brannen writes.

“U.S. export is unlikely to undermine the MTCR, which faces a larger set of challenges in preventing the proliferation of ballistic and cruise missiles, as well as addressing more problematic [unmanned]-cruise missile hybrids such as so-called loitering munitions (e.g., the Israeli-made Harop),” he writes.

Weaponized, Yes. Weaponized And Autonomous? Maybe.

The biggest technology challenge in drone development also promises the biggest reward in terms cost savings and functionally: full autonomy. The military is interested in drones that can do more taking off, landing and shooting on their own. UAVs have limited ability to guide themselves and the development of fully autonomous drones is years away. But some recent breakthroughs are beginning to bear fruit. The experimental X-47B, a sizable drone that can fly off of aircraft carriers, “demonstrated that some discrete tasks that are considered extremely difficult when performed by humans can be mastered by machines with relative ease,” Brannen notes.

Less impressed, Sharkey said the U.S. still has time to rethink its drone future. “Don’t go to the next step. Don’t make them fully autonomous. That will proliferate just as quickly and then you are really going to be sunk.”

Others, including Singer, disagreed. “As you talk about this moving forward, the drones that are sold and used are remotely piloted to be more and more autonomous. As the technology becomes more advanced it becomes easier for people to use. To fly a Predator, you used to need to be a pilot,” he said.

“The field of autonomy is going to continue to advance regardless of what happens in the military side.”


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Crime/Corruption; Foreign Affairs; Government
KEYWORDS: aerospace; aircraft; drones; military

1 posted on 05/06/2014 10:35:52 PM PDT by 2ndDivisionVet
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

But most of the people on earth still won’t have drinkable water.


2 posted on 05/06/2014 10:42:23 PM PDT by DesertRhino (I was standing with a rifle, waiting for soviet paratroopers, but communists just ran for office.)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

http://www.bananahobby.com/


3 posted on 05/06/2014 10:46:13 PM PDT by mylife
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

http://www.bananahobby.com/videos.html

Stuff is getting cheap.


4 posted on 05/06/2014 10:47:39 PM PDT by mylife
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To: 2ndDivisionVet
Every single time I peer into the future, all I can conclude is that I am grateful the bulk of my life has been lived. I would hate to be one of the children born today. Imagine the dystopia they will need to experience.

At least I tasted freedom, once.

5 posted on 05/06/2014 10:50:07 PM PDT by Lazamataz (Early 2009 to 7/21/2013 - RIP my little girl Cathy. You were the best cat ever. You will be missed.)
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To: Lazamataz

Political freedom is a luxury, and what semblance of it America had was directly tied to its gospel roots.


6 posted on 05/06/2014 10:51:32 PM PDT by HiTech RedNeck (Embrace the Lion of Judah and He will roar for you and teach you to roar too. See my page.)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x8IFTa2ulA4


7 posted on 05/06/2014 10:52:48 PM PDT by mylife
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

The ones in Mexico will be operated by the cartels, not the federales.


8 posted on 05/06/2014 10:52:49 PM PDT by Veggie Todd (The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. TJ)
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To: HiTech RedNeck

Agreed. When we abandoned God, we sealed our fate.


9 posted on 05/06/2014 10:52:50 PM PDT by Lazamataz (Early 2009 to 7/21/2013 - RIP my little girl Cathy. You were the best cat ever. You will be missed.)
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To: HiTech RedNeck

>> Political freedom is a luxury

However, it ultimately proves to be a onerous obligation that eventually prevails.


10 posted on 05/06/2014 11:05:36 PM PDT by Gene Eric (Don't be a statist!)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

Oh come on guys ... someone had to think of this before me.

Oh no ... its the Drone Wars


11 posted on 05/06/2014 11:28:34 PM PDT by taxcontrol
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

this may bring a whole new meaning to duck hunting


12 posted on 05/06/2014 11:42:44 PM PDT by blueplum
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To: Lazamataz

Everything seems to be moving faster and faster.....descending us into a tyrannical hell.


13 posted on 05/07/2014 2:08:09 AM PDT by Faith65 (Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior!)
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To: blueplum

http://www.popsci.com/article/technology/guide-spotting-and-hiding-drones


14 posted on 05/07/2014 2:08:50 AM PDT by onona (I’ve pretty much given up on sanity returning.)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

Great info- thanks!


15 posted on 05/07/2014 2:08:56 AM PDT by Faith65 (Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior!)
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To: Veggie Todd
The ones in Mexico will be operated by the cartels, not the federales.

Might not be much of a difference.

16 posted on 05/07/2014 4:01:45 AM PDT by from occupied ga (Your government is your most dangerous enemy)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

Don’t military drones depend on GPS? How many countries have their own GPS system, or the ability to build one?


17 posted on 05/07/2014 5:19:49 AM PDT by PUGACHEV
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To: Lazamataz
Every single time I peer into the future, all I can conclude is that I am grateful the bulk of my life has been lived. I would hate to be one of the children born today.

Absolutely. This is something about I think of every day. I give thanks for having been born when I was.

18 posted on 05/07/2014 5:19:53 AM PDT by OldPossum ("It's" is the contraction of "it" and "is"; think about ITS implications.)
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To: OldPossum
This is something about I think of every day.

What odd sentence structure. I meant to write: This is something I think about every day.

19 posted on 05/07/2014 5:22:09 AM PDT by OldPossum ("It's" is the contraction of "it" and "is"; think about ITS implications.)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

I just saw the latest “Captain America” movie last night. It occurred to me that the “operation Insight” thing was about armed drones (except they were manned ships, but the net result was the same).


20 posted on 05/07/2014 6:35:18 AM PDT by Disambiguator
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To: PUGACHEV

Only USA and Russia have global GPS systems for open use.

Civilian GPS can be turned off instantly. It also does not operate above Mach 1 (to prevent military use)


21 posted on 05/07/2014 7:32:11 AM PDT by varyouga
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To: PUGACHEV

GPS or a cheap camera that transmits.


22 posted on 05/07/2014 6:35:03 PM PDT by USAF80
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To: Lazamataz

The kids will be fine, they may have a few rough patches but so did our parents.


23 posted on 05/07/2014 6:36:37 PM PDT by USAF80
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To: PUGACHEV

Most military aerospace vehicles use a self contained navigation systems. Lose GPS and they can still find their way, that and also the secure data links can provide position info.

Once they develop autonomous drones we are screwed.


24 posted on 05/07/2014 6:40:44 PM PDT by USAF80
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To: Lazamataz

Might be an up-side. If everyday folks can conjure their own counter-measures to despots (guns, drones, communication systems) then it might give freedom a fighting chance.

Or, I could be hallucinating.


25 posted on 05/07/2014 6:41:07 PM PDT by Larry Lucido
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