It’s being reported that a Russian airbase in
was attacked by a UAV drone swarm
and that the attack destroyed or damaged Russian aircraft. I’m not going to offer a link because the
event can easily be found with a simple Internet search and, frankly, there is
no reliable information to refer to.
Further, for the purposes of this post, it doesn’t even matter whether
the event actually occurred or how. What
I want to discuss is the concept of a drone swarm attack in a land attack
Let’s start by imagining the possibilities! It boggles the mind. Swarms of small, cheap drones attacking in perfectly coordinated precision, putting on an aerial display of pure wonder, and then either suiciding into their targets and/or dropping small mortar type bomblets. Why, you could blanket an area with such an attack! Yes, against an alerted, defended base many of the drones would be shot down, thereby reducing the amount of “weapons” that get through but it would be difficult or impossible to stop them all. Sure, we’re not talking 16” battleship shell fire but it only takes a small explosive to ruin an airplane, right? Plus, this attack could come from many miles away and it would only take, maybe, 30-60 minutes of flight time, depending on the distance. That’s not instantaneous response to a fire call but it’s fairly quick. Yes, it’s got to take a fair amount of time to set up the attack, get everything organized, and get all the drones into the air and assembled but the effort is worth it for the results. This is the future of warfare, without a doubt!
Boy, if only such a technology had existed in the past, wouldn’t that have revolutionized warfare? That kind of ability to drop explosives over a wide area from many miles away would have been something military commanders would have loved to … to … ah …
Hey, now that I think about it, didn’t we used to have a system that could launch unmanned, ballistically guided, aerial systems that could drop small explosives over a wide area? Yeah … yeah, we did! It was called “artillery”, wasn’t it? They used launchers that fired small, aerodynamically shaped, unmanned craft that carried payloads of explosive submunitions that the aerial craft would scatter over a wide area before suiciding themselves into the target area. If I remember correctly, they called the unmanned craft, “shells”, and the explosives were called, “cluster” munitions. I think they referred to the unmanned launch process as “firing”. They would “fire” the “shells” from many miles away and they were unstoppable in flight, unlike swarm drones, and traveled at speeds immensely greater than swarm drones. What’s more, I seem to recall that the “shell” attacks could go on and on for extended periods as opposed to the one-and-done nature of a drone swarm. What’s more, the “artillery” system could respond within seconds to a call for fire and the “shells” over the target in minutes.
Okay, I had a little fun with the writeup, there, but it illustrates the idea that in our blind and fanatical pursuit of technology we tend to overlook simpler, more effective, existing technologies. Artillery puts to shame any drone swarm and yet we’re downsizing our artillery, have stopped developing cluster munitions, and are pursuing drone swarms with a zealousness that is obsessively fanatical. Does that really make sense?
Our technology obsession is blinding us to the reality of far more effective methods just because they’re older.
Here’s an amusing story that illustrates the issue. I was talking to some of my nieces and nephews at a family get together and they were all comparing notes about their new smart phones and all the latest features that each had. Well, not to be outdone, I told them that my phone had a just-released new app that allowed flawless conversational verbal text messaging on a real time basis. They were amazed and they all wanted to know what the app was so that they could download it. Of course, I told them that each of their phones had the app built in – it’s called “talking on the phone”!
The pursuit of technology can blind us to what we already have.