High Tech Warfare of the 21st Century
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles or Drones designed and manufactured in Pakistan have been making news since IDEAS 2008 event in November of last year. Also in the news has been the growing reliance on armed drones (aka predators) by Americans in Afghanistan and Pakistan's FATA region to target militants with increasing casualties. This post is an attempt to put these headlines in perspective for those interested in the 21st century high tech warfare.
Back in 1970, the U.S. Army Gen. William Westmoreland is reported to have said: “On the battlefield of the future, enemy forces will be located, tracked and targeted almost instantaneously through the use of data links, computer-assisted intelligence and automated fire control. … I am confident the American people expect this country to take full advantage of its technology–to welcome and applaud the developments that will replace wherever possible the man with the machine.” Is this vision from the 1970s being realized today?
The basic strategies and thought processes are the same but the methods of Sun Tzu or Carl von Clausewitz or WW2 are long gone as the modern battlefields evolve. There are still tactics such as the use of decoys, deception and the element of surprise, but today the remote-controlled Unmanned Combat Air Vehicles (UCAVs), high-tech guidance and targeting systems, mobile missile launchers and anti-aircraft systems are some of the most sophisticated technologies on the planet.
Reflecting the modern realities, the US military is targeting its recruiting efforts on a generation of Americans that has grown up with computer-based video games. The recently opened Army Experience Center in Philadelphia is a fitting counterpart to the retail experience: 14,500 square feet of mostly shoot-’em-up video games and three full-scale simulators, including an AH-64 Apache Longbow helicopter, an armed Humvee and a Black Hawk copter with M4 carbine assault rifles. For those who want to take the experience deeper, the center has 22 recruiters, according to a report in the New York Times.
On a practical level, thousands of miles away from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, American remote pilots in Nevada fly armed drones and target the perceived enemy with deadly force. In front of the remote human pilots is a live video from the Predator's camera, thousands of feet above ground. Buildings and trucks come into view. They zoom in and out, put the cross-hairs on the targets and fire missiles with ease, killing dozens on the ground.
Beyond Nevada,at Djibouti's Camp Le Monier, CIA agents and special forces troops - about 1500 personnel in all - have opened a wide-ranging but little-reported front in President George W. Bush's so-called "war on terror".
This high-tech, not-so-covert battle is part of a broader US effort against suspected terrorists. It surfaces frequently, with news of air strikes on suspected Taliban forces in Afghanistan or al Qaeda operatives in Yemen. Such warfare places heavy reliance on the accuracy and breadth of human intelligence on the ground. In Afghanistan, failure of such intelligence has often led to growing friendly fire incidents and increasing civilian casualties.
In addition to human intelligence on the ground, there is need for Electronic Warfare Support (ES). ES in military terms, is the passive detection of signals in order to detect and locate threats or target location, information necessary to conduct Electronic Attack (EA). By comparison, Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) is the related process of analyzing and identifying the intercepted frequencies (e.g. as a cell phone or RADAR). SIGINT is a combination of ELINT, COMINT, and MASINT.
On the military strategy and planning front, wargames are a subgenre of strategy video games that emphasize strategic or tactical warfare on a map. Computer wargames are generally classified based on whether a game is turn-based or real-time and whether the game's focus is upon military strategy or tactics. These distinctions divide computer wargames into four categories: real-time strategy, real-time tactics, turn-based strategy, and turn-based tactics. Wargaming is an essential part of any high-tech military campaign.
Given the nature of the broad shift to high-tech warfare in the battlefields of the world, it is understandable that Pakistan's military is beginning to take it seriously. All three Pakistani military branches have sought to build UAV capabilities. The Army has considerably increased its UAV inventory; the Air Force has formed two UAV squadrons (with the intention of fielding up to six); and the Navy tested the Schiebel Camcopter S-100 rotary UAV from a frigate in March, Defense News reports. Karachi-based Integrated Dynamics, the designer and manufacturer of drones for Pakistan Army and Air Force, actually exports its Border Eagle surveillance drone to the United States for border patrol duties. The company also makes drones for the turbojet-powered Tornado decoy, which can fly up to 200 kilometers, and emit false radar signals to confuse enemy air defenses into thinking they are attacking aircraft.
Pakistan's traditional rival India is pursuing relationships with Israel and UK to acquire UAVs. All of India's current UAV needs are met by Israel, and this partnership will ensure that will continue to be the case for at least the near future.
Pakistani Drones in America
India, Israel UAV Partnership
New York Times
India's UAV Technology Center
America's High-tech Warfare
It's not Your Father's Military
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio — Two miles from the cow pasture where the Wright Brothers learned to fly the first airplanes, military researchers are at work on another revolution in the air: shrinking unmanned drones, the kind that fire missiles into Pakistan and spy on insurgents in Afghanistan, to the size of insects and birds.
The base’s indoor flight lab is called the “microaviary,” and for good reason. The drones in development here are designed to replicate the flight mechanics of moths, hawks and other inhabitants of the natural world. “We’re looking at how you hide in plain sight,” said Greg Parker, an aerospace engineer, as he held up a prototype of a mechanical hawk that in the future might carry out espionage or kill.
From blimps to bugs, an explosion in aerial drones is transforming the way America fights and thinks about its wars. Predator drones, the Cessna-sized workhorses that have dominated unmanned flight since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, are by now a brand name, known and feared around the world. But far less widely known are the sheer size, variety and audaciousness of a rapidly expanding drone universe, along with the dilemmas that come with it.
The Pentagon now has some 7,000 aerial drones, compared with fewer than 50 a decade ago. Within the next decade the Air Force anticipates a decrease in manned aircraft but expects its number of “multirole” aerial drones like the Reaper — the ones that spy as well as strike — to nearly quadruple, to 536. Already the Air Force is training more remote pilots, 350 this year alone, than fighter and bomber pilots combined.
A Tsunami of Data
The future world of drones is here inside the Air Force headquarters at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., where hundreds of flat-screen TVs hang from industrial metal skeletons in a cavernous room, a scene vaguely reminiscent of a rave club. In fact, this is one of the most sensitive installations for processing, exploiting and disseminating a tsunami of information from a global network of flying sensors.
The numbers are overwhelming: Since the Sept. 11 attacks, the hours the Air Force devotes to flying missions for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance have gone up 3,100 percent, most of that from increased operations of drones. Every day, the Air Force must process almost 1,500 hours of full-motion video and another 1,500 still images, much of it from Predators and Reapers on around-the-clock combat air patrols.
The pressures on humans will only increase as the military moves from the limited “soda straw” views of today’s sensors to new “Gorgon Stare” technology that can capture live video of an entire city — but that requires 2,000 analysts to process the data feeds from a single drone, compared with 19 analysts per drone today.
At Wright-Patterson, Maj. Michael L. Anderson, a doctoral student at the base’s advanced navigation technology center, is focused on another part of the future: building wings for a drone that might replicate the flight of the hawk moth, known for its hovering skills. “It’s impressive what they can do,” Major Anderson said, “compared to what our clumsy aircraft can do.”
One US Air Force general has predicted that conflicts in the near future will involve “tens of thousands” of robots – and not the robots of today. The current Packbots and Predators are just the first generation of battlefield robots; they are like the Model T Ford or the Wright brothers’ Flyer when compared to the prototypes already under development. Much as the earliest designs for the automobile and the aeroplane spread rapidly around the globe, so too is the revolution in military robotics. 44 countries are building robot systems today, including the UK, France, Russia, China, Israel, Iran and the UAE
The reason is that while we most often focus on the narrative of collateral damage in discussions of these drone strikes, our interpretations are not only shaped by whether civilians get in the way or not. There is something more at work. The meaning of these strikes – and the battle to define their morality and efficacy – cuts to the heart of the narratives by which each side in the “war on terror” defines itself.
The most basic rationale for the use of unmanned systems is to reduce the user’s risk of casualties: American commanders I have interviewed reflexively cite this as the most important benefit of the new technology. As one soldier put it: “When a robot dies, you don’t have to write a letter to its mother.”
But as Peter Feaver, a Duke University professor turned Bush Administration National Security Council adviser, asks: “What is Osama bin Laden’s fundamental premise if not the belief that killing some Americans will drive our country to its knees?”
The conflicts now raging in places like Iraq and Afghanistan are being fought by combatants with vastly different understandings of war, the role of the warrior and the meaning of sacrifice. ....
It is for this reason that completely different interpretations are made of the same act. To some, a person who blows themselves up along with a hotel full of civilians is a shaheed carrying out a noble act of jihad. To others, that same person is a fanatical murderer committing an ignoble act of barbarity. Similarly, a pilot who uses a drone to strike with precision from thousands of miles away may see himself as a warrior fighting in full respect of the international laws of war. But 7,000 miles away that very same pilot is described by others as a coward engaging in an act of “heartless terrorism”, as the lyrics of a Pakistani pop song put it.
The use of unmanned systems may therefore provide the most graphic illustration of the “war of ideas” that underpins much of the conflict currently underway. The very value of robots in war is their ability to diminish human loss for the side using them: they are the ultimate means of avoiding sacrifice. But the side that turns to robots is fighting against those who see death as something to be celebrated, and not merely for themselves, but also for those around them. The loss of civilians to a member of al Qa’eda is not something to be lamented or apologised for, but viewed as a victory. So, with the growing use of remote technologies and terrorism, the warriors of the two sides meet less and less in battle – whether actual combat or the battle of ideologies. Each side has its own worldview, but it is one that the other side views as not only irrational, but also contemptible.
Thus, when we bring together those who fight with robotics and those who see themselves as martyrs targeted by them, a powerful irony is revealed. For all our growing use of machines in war, our humanity remains at the centre of it. The dilemmas of modern warfare may seem to be driven by technological advances, but they are rooted in our all too human politics and psychology. If we want to understand the impact of using robots to wage war, we should really look within ourselves.
A Practical UCAV for Pakistan
The attempt forward will be to propose a solution in the form of a UCAV for the PAF. We will first focus on some basic parameters that need to be fulfilled. The focus will then shift to defining a specific solution that meets those requirements in a most balanced manner.
We identify the following characteristics as imperative for the discussed UCAV solution:
1. Unmanned Platform
2. Simple construction and achievable technology
3. Simplified single-engine buildable in Pakistan
4. Relatively Low Cost
5. Economy and asymmetry in sensor load
6. Using parts bin of existing aircraft and from industry partners
7. Designed for high altitude, high speed f-pole BVR combat
8. Structure can operate in and sustain high G-forces
9. Artificial Intelligence
10. Network centric
11. Swarm & Group Tactics
12. Low Observable
13. Combat Air Patrol efficiency
14. Interceptor suitability
In the Grande Strategic view, PAF can use large numbers of J-UCAVs as a cheap and ideal counter for IAF and any other air force that seeks to undermine Pakistani airspace. They could form a picket line that are the first to deal with enemies and are reinforced with manned fighters where necessary. Such J-UCAVs would require very low maintenance, near zero training costs and may be cheap enough to not worry about being put outside hardened shelters, a valued commodity for PAF. Armed with 2 BVRs and 2 WVRs, J-UCAVs could prove to become the foot soldier of the skies, lightly armed and yet overwhelming in their numbers.
UCAVs are an emerging technology that has the potential to revolutionize air warfare. While the 5th generation of combat planes is today the pinnacle of military aviation, UCAVs present paradigms that can supplement if not supplant manned fighters of the 4th and 5th generations. People who discuss a potential 6th generation inevitably mention unmanned aircraft as a likely salient. Unlike the 5th generation of aircraft that are extremely expensive and complex to build and maintain UCAVs provide the potential of finding an equivalent solution with significant reduction in complexity and cost.
The PAF has until now not considered UCAVs in the air-to-air role. With the systematic addition of net-centric warfare with platforms such as Erieye, ZDK03, ground radars, future planned communication satellite and the necessary middleware for a superior C4I, Pakistan has managed to transform the battle environment to one were UCAVS can multiply the effectiveness and flexibility of the entire air defense system.
While nations struggle to keep their 4th generation aircraft operational and can barely dream about 5th generation solutions, UCAVs provide an interesting paradigm shift that cannot be ignored by those entrusted with the defense of their nations and peoples. For some like Pakistan, UCAVs may be the only realistic way to counter a large number of PAKFAs and possibly other 5th generation planes sitting across the border in belligerent India, whose stalwarts dream about “cold starts” and “surgical strikes”, and are only kept at bay by the strength of arms and the courage of the Pakistani soldier; whether on land, in the depths of the seas, or up high over the towering mountains and skies above.
The armed forces announced on Monday that they had inducted the very first fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) in the Army and the Air Force.
According to a release from the Inter-services Public Relations (ISPR) announced that the first fleet of strategic drones, ‘Burraq’ and ‘Shahpar’, had been inducted into the forces. Both of the drones were produced indigenously.
The military described the induction as a “landmark and historic event,” where a “very effective force multiplier has been added to the inventory of the armed forces.”
“In the future these UAVs could also be gainfully employed in various socio-economic development projects, as well,” it added, hinting at the possibility of using drones in non-combat settings and for civilian use.
The induction ceremony was attended by Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Tahir Rafique Butt, Director General Strategic Plans Division Lieutenant General (Retd) Khalid Ahmed Kidwai, and senior officers from armed forces, scientists and engineers.
General Kayani, while appreciating the work of NESCOM scientists and engineers, highlighted that induction of indigenously developed surveillance capable UAVs in Pakistan Armed Forces is a force multiplier, and will substantially enhance their target acquisition capabilities in real time.
Pakistan’s military unveiled two domestically produced drones Monday, even as the country is facing growing protests over U.S. drone strikes on Pakistani soil.
After years of preparation, the Strategically Unmanned Aerial Vehicles were formally announced by Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, chief of Pakistan’s military. The drones, called Burraq and Shahpar, will not be armed and are to be used only for surveillance, military officials said.
The development of the drones, thought to have a range of about 75 miles, represents a milestone for the country’s military and scientists, Pakistani and Western analysts said.
“It is a landmark and a historic event, wherein a very effective force multiplier has been added to the inventory of the armed forces,” the Pakistani military said in a statement.
For years, Pakistan’s military has seen up-close the effectiveness of the U.S. drone campaign, which has included hundreds of strikes within the country’s borders. When the United States began using armed drones after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, then-Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf asked President George W. Bush to supply drone technology to his country.
The United States declined, setting in motion Pakistan’s homegrown effort to develop the technology.
Pakistan’s military first revealed its drone technology at a trade show last year, but Monday’s formal unveiling coincides with an ongoing farewell tour by Kayani, who is retiring after two terms as army chief.
Brig. Muhammad Saad, a former senior officer in the Pakistani military familiar with the subject, said the country already had less-sophisticated drones for intelligence gathering, with a range of about six miles. The newer models, he said, will prove useful for the “collecting of more operational intelligence” that could help guide helicopter gunships and fighter jets to specific targets.
“This is a great achievement, and the drones can be used instead of surveillance jets and fighter jets that would be costlier” to fly, Saad said.
Saad and other observers said Pakistan is still years away from being able to develop armed drones. Still, Monday’s announcement is likely to unnerve Pakistan’s neighbors, including India and Afghanistan.
Peter W. Singer, a security analyst at the Brookings Institution, said most surveillance drones can be armed, though they will lack the precision of U.S.-developed models.
“Almost any unmanned system can be armed in a crude style, such as dropping a bomb or even turning it into an equivalent of a cruise missile that you fly into the target,” said Singer, adding that the announcement will probably add to growing fears about proliferation of drone technology.
The Pakistani military’s announcement comes as the country is facing growing discontent in some parts over recent U.S. drone strikes, including an attack this month that killed the leader of the Pakistani Taliban....
Shahpar is a tactical canard pusher UAV that was developed by the Advance Engineering and Research Organisation, which is part of the state-owned Global Industrial & Defence Solutions (GIDS) conglomerate.
It was revealed to the public for the first time during IDEAS2012, Pakistan’s biannual defense exhibition, in November last year.
It was claimed to be an autonomous UAV with an endurance of seven hours and which could relay data in real time out to a range of 250 kilometers.
Observers have said the Burraq appears to be a Pakistani variant or development of the Chinese Rainbow CH-3 UCAV, but little else is known beyond speculation based on the CH-3’s specifications.
Former Pakistan Air Force pilot Kaiser Tufail said additional information will be difficult to obtain for now because sources will be “wary about leaking what is considered confidential stuff.”
Reports that Pakistan was developing an armed UAV named Burraq date back to 2009. Analyst Usman Shabbir of the Pakistan Military Consortium think tank said he first became aware of the existence of the Burraq some years ago when it was still in the design stages with NESCOM.
The two may be related, but he believes Burraq is armed and Shahpar unarmed.
“Shahpar can carry about a 50-kilogram payload and has around eight hours endurance. Burraq, based on CH-3 specs, would carry around a 100-kilogram payload and 12 hours endurance,” he said.
The given payload of the CH-3 is a pair of AR-1 missiles, or a pair of FT-5 small diameter bombs.
The ability of Pakistan to field an armed UAV has great benefits when faced with time-sensitive targets, he said.
“It is important in a sense that it greatly cuts the gap from detection to shoot,” he said.
Adding, “Earlier, once you detected something and wanted it taken out you had to pass on the imagery to higher ups, who had to approve and allocate resources like aircraft and by the time the aircraft got there the bad guys were long gone. Now detect, make decision, shoot and go home — all in same loop.”
He does not believe there is any real significance in the systems being named for use with both the Army and the Air Force, however, as “both have been operating their own UAV squadrons for a while now.”
“The Army has been using German EMT Luna X-2000 and the British [Meggitt] Banshee UAVs, while PAF as we know has a lot of faith in the Italian [Selex] Falco,” he added.
The Luna was also ordered by the Pakistan Navy in June 2012.
Reports from India claim that China has started to deploy armed robotic vehicles to handle the altitude and terrain that has proven too difficult for its troops.
China and India clashed in Sept. 2020 during a border dispute along the southern coast of Pangong Lake in an area known in China as Shenpaoshan and in India as Chushul, but the armies continued their standoff along the two nations' borders throughout 2021. China has now reportedly deployed unmanned ground vehicles (UGV) to the region of Tibet to strengthen its position.
The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) acquired the vehicles – known as the Sharp Claw and the Mule-200 – as early as 2014, but they have not seen much deployment until now. The Chinese military has deployed around 120-300 Mules to Tibet, the majority of them stationed near the border, WION News reported.
Operators can control the Claw wirelessly, but it can also move on its own, according to National Interest. The Mule can serve as either an unmanned delivery truck or utilize weapons, such as mounted guns.
The PLA has deployed around 88 Sharp Claws into Tibet, with 38 of them in the western part of the province close to where the Indian and Chinese armies maintain a standoff, Times Now News reported.
The region in which the vehicles may have deployed is described as exceedingly arid, remote, and largely inhospitable. The area mainly serves as access for a few commerce routes to cross the desert.
The PLA has also deployed the VP-22 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle, which can help move troops through the difficult terrain or serve as an ambulance. Most of the 70 units reportedly deployed to Tibet have also focused in the western sector.
Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic have called on world governments to halt the development of war robots for almost a decade, but efforts continue.
Tech company Zhong Tian Zhu Kong Technology Holdings developed the Mule, which has a range of roughly 31 miles (50 km)and can carry up to 440 pounds (200 kg) of ammunition, supplies or weapons.
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Chinese Defense Company NORINCO (China North Industries Corporation) developed the Sharp Claw for reconnaissance and limited engagements. The operator wears a small control unit to utilize the vehicle, Army Recognition reported.