From The ENGINEER: Bumble Bee Drones at War

The rise of the micro air vehicle
13 June 2013 | By Jon Excell
Read more: http://www.theengineer.co.uk/in-depth/the-rise-of-the-micro-air-vehicle/1016519.article#ixzz2XeLGHbVs
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A soldier of The Queen’s Royal Lancers launches a Black Hornet, Nano UAV from a compound in Afghanistan during Operation QALB.

…one of the compelling advantages over larger surveillance UAVs such as the Reaper is that the system can ‘be tasked in a matter of seconds’, whereas a reaper might take half an hour to arrive at the scene.

…Prox Dynamics’ CEO and founder Petter Muren told The Engineer that the technology that appears on the PD100 is considerably more advanced than anything that would be found on a remote-controlled aircraft. The motors, servos and sensors are, he said, smaller and more efficient. The radio-link is more advanced, the system has fully integrated GPS, as well an autopilot system, and is far more robust.

And the beat, wing beat, goes on…
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Green on Blue, Afghan Tribalism and Would Cyberdyne do better? (w/edits)

One of my favorite websites is StrategyPage it has a text only format news wire covering technical, tactical, strategic, operational, social, political aspects of the military.  An ongoing thread has been the Blue on Green attacks (Afghan  police or army members, killing US, NATO and other Afghans) .  One of the basic issues Strat Page point to is that Afghan society is by modern standards pathologically dangerous.  Most Afghans are probably clinically PTSD by our standards, and they few restraints on killing.  Murder rates are vastly higher than in the west, the main reason we never hear about it is that there is no one to keep the statistics.

This should not come as a surprise, it has a lot to do with their culture and their state of development, particularly the latter.  We used to be a lot more like them, except at the time it was bows and swords, not AK47s.   The murder rate in the west has been decreasing  precipitously for centuries. In feudal and pre-modern times, when the village, clan and tribe were the underpinnings of society, life was harsh anyway,  honor was all a man or family had, and the weapons were knives, clubs and fists (which are often more about hurting than killing and death was a random though not infrequent occurrence)  the killing/murder rate was many times what it is today.  The violence in clan and tribal (familial not trust based) cultures is higher than in the nuclear family/trust based cultures.  In fact I would argue that most of the US murder rate happen in sub cultures that never developed from or devolved back to clan / tribal structures.  Murder in the sense of the gentile English tea garden variety is rare and probably getting ever rarer.

This article What the Western media doesn’t say about green on blue attacks in Afghanistan : goes much further and broadens the aperture:

Recalibrating our perspective
The enemy that we’re fighting in Afghanistan is tribal. Their notion of the nation-state is almost abstract and, outside of the major cities of Kabul and Kandahar, essentially irrelevant to the people of the provinces where the tribe has been the principal social unit since before recorded time. The CIA estimates the literacy rate in Afghanistan at a shockingly low 28.1% of the general population.[ii] The tribe doesn’t recognise international borders when its members have familial ties on both sides that go back for millennia. Nation states may come and go but the tribe remains and nowhere is this more apparent than southwest Asia as a region and Afghanistan in particular. Alexander learned this the hard way after three bloody incursions 329 years BCE. So did Genghis Khan in the 13thcentury, Tamerlane in the 14th, and Babur in the 16thcenturies CE

……..

Tribal alignments are socio-politically complex arrangements that are driven by principles of defence and survival. Tribe and democracy are incompatible constructs, a reality the modern Western militaries would do well to accept and build policy around. Tribal leadership and honour is everything; people do as their chiefs direct. They fight with total commitment the enemy they are told to fight, stop fighting when they are told to stop, vote for whom they are told to vote, plant wheat or opium as directed, and demonstrate a degree of social cohesion that is simply unknown to Western cultures. War and conflict are incredibly personal things to tribal culture and the tribal affiliations transcend any external relationships. This may logically explain how 500 Taliban and Haqqani insurgents escaped from the Kandahar prison in early 2011 without a single ANSF casualty; clearly the ANSF didn’t want to challenge the insurgents or were told not to by their superiors.

In this environment fighting a war in the traditional sense is almost pointless unless you have a clear eyed view of the situation and a long term plan to eradicate the problem not by violence alone but by uprooting the social structure. Of course there are many who would see this as abhorrent on its face…though the lives of those affected would be improved it would not be self determination.  It would also require decades and decades of money, toil and blood.  In our 140 character society with its plethora of supposedly quick changes we lack the ability to see that doing a hard thing like this requires incremental change over time, a million little wins not a handful of big ones.  This is the curse of our Big Bang mentality, and the failure of Westerners to understand that people from low development cultures are not  ‘us; waiting to be released from some shell of dung.   It takes decades of work to infuse the ‘memes’ that would underpin an Afghan society with the arrow of development going up rather than spinning down.

I’m not advocating this, I don’t think that humans have the ability to carry through the ‘plan.’  No society could wage peace-war for decade after decade maintaining the high moral and intellectual honesty as well as financial and material outflows that it would require while suffering the casualties and the continuing hatred of the the rest of the world.  See the fate of the British Empire..

We are going to pull out of Afghanistan in the main, given the surrounding hostility we cannot maintain a large force in country without the risk of something bad happening.  In a few years Afghanistan will be a near worthless wilderness patrolled by deadly drones ready to kill anyone who is seen to present a threat.  

And…maybe Cyberdine is the solution. The Terminator…the flying Terminator, the Predator.  With these reapers taking down any would be king Afghanistan might become a new frontier of wild east libertarian-ism. At first a place where the tribes can live if peace, or war, as they feel fit.  But under the unblinking eye will they slowly be brought to heel by the chains of modern life, solar lighting, cell phone commerce, TV, Googlepads, etc.

Maybe this is the plan behind the plan in the Disposition Matrix…..

Skeet Shoot

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This piece on StratPage rather says it all. It’s kind of interesting, aircraft become more ‘efficient’ in a technical sense of cargo(including fuel/power)/weight as they grow larger…it’s mostly about geometric effects of volume vs. surface area. There is also a tendency to focus on endurance in drones for obvious reasons, which in air vehicles means slow and relatively large wing spans. Consequently the ‘low threat’ generation of UAV’s are all about the same in regards to vulnerability. But the next generation, Quadopters, UCAVs, Avenger, etc, are all higher performance, trading something away for more performance, and will be significantly less vulnerable.
And let’s be clear the first generation were all about experimentation with the basics, not about high intensity combat ops. If you look at a lot of the manned platforms in service, survival in combat has not been a big driver for the last decade.

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The Future of War

The future of war is taking form all around and it is not a vision of super battleships and death rays, though they may exist in infinitesimal numbers the real fighting will be done by tiny groups of specialists (SOCOM, the SEALs and an array of similar highly trained, expensively equipped and lethally effective troops.) Weapons like one discussed in Wired recently, a Proposed program to develop a missile capable of hitting and destroying small targets like SUV’s (60 miles away) that can be fired from another SUV.

SUV being unloaded from a C-17

There is a bit of spy v spy in this and the Wired article is a bit ironic in tone but the truth is this is the future, and in most ways it will continue the trend of things getting better for the majority of humans, it will kill its target without killing hundreds of others and could lead to a ‘decapitation’ strike where the warmaker is taken out of the picture so peace can find a way.  And of course it will be misused, and ill-used and those of good heart and hope will deplore it all.

Of course the use of discrete platforms is nothing new, the recent tragedy in Africa involved a U28.  This is a single engine utility turboprop, built by Pilatus and used all over the world but very intensively in Africa where its low cost of acquisition and operation along with the high reliability of the single turboprop airframe make it highly coveted.  You can think of an SUV as being in the same vein really.

Pilatus, U28

Of course drones will be a big part of future war, though how big and how are interesting questions. If both sides are aggressive users of technology with combat hackers or the like as well as jammers, radio direction finding/ranging and guys (and gals) with skeet shooting guns and skills it should get ‘interesting.’

Here’s a piece of drone related news where things got ‘interesting’ for some bystanders when a crashed drone was given the coup de grâce by one of its robotic compatriots.

Aerovironment micro UAV

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AeroVironment’s Hummingbird NAV shown in the palm of a hand to give it scale. The company has been able to fly the NAV (nano air vehicle) indoors and outside, including flying it through doors and down corridors into a workshop and office environment.

From the SAE aeronautics eNote. Not new news but best picture and ‘technical’ description yet.

AeroVironment has captured the imagination of a worldwide audience with news of a major extension of its activities into nano air vehicles (NAVs). Ever since human beings first discovered the basic principles of lift and the importance of wing shapes, the necessary muscle power and control movements of birds defeated all attempts to emulate the mechanical process of using wing flapping to beat gravity. The hummingbird’s amazing ability to conduct a perfectly stable hover has long fascinated students of aerodynamics, especially when slow-motion film footage displays the complexity and perfection of its ultrahigh-speed wing flapping movements.