Warfare of the future: does it belong to the drones?


There is no doubt that the use of unmanned aircrafts or drones has seen a tremendous growth over the last few years. Since 2005 there has been a 1,200% increase in combat air patrols by UAVs. Al-Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki was killed by a drone only last month. But does this mean that the future belongs to UAS? What are the pros and cons of using unmanned aircraft vehicles vs manned?

What are the pros and cons of UAVs?


Pros include:

    1) significantly lower cost compared to manned vehicles (although they can get pretty expensive depending on their sophistication); this should allow the military to buy UAVs in much larger quantities than manned aircraft
    2) expendability, you can afford to send them into heavily defended areas and risk losing some without endangering a pilot
    3) more maneuverable than manned planes without the limitations of a human pilot
    4) can be built stealthier than a manned plane since one of the least stealthy parts of the aircraft (the cockpit) is unnecessary
    5) should be lighter, smaller, and easier to transport

Cons include:

    1) limitations of their programming, may not be able to compensate for the changing battlefield environment (such as being able to attack a new more desirable target that appeared after the aircraft was launched or changing course to avoid enemy defenses)
    2) because they are typically smaller than a manned plane, they cannot carry as large a payload (however, they do generally have a greater ratio of payload to total weight)
    3) along the same lines, they may not be able to carry as much fuel and therefore may have a shorter range
    4) typically tailored to specific kinds of missions and not as versatile as a modern multi-role fighter
    5) if contact is lost with a ground station, the vehicle may be lost

Overall, but the pilot in the cockpit is already an endangered species.

What is your opinion? Please comment below.

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  1. #1 by Maximillion on January 2, 2013 - 2:34 pm

    All the faith in unmanned/unpiloted aircraft smells exactly like USAF Generals telling Robin Olds that fighter planes will never need a gun because the pilots will never see each other in future conflicts.

  2. #2 by Maximillion on January 2, 2013 - 2:34 pm

    All the faith in unmanned/unpiloted aircraft smells exactly like USAF Generals telling Robin Olds that fighter planes will never need a gun because the pilots will never see each other in future conflicts.

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