AMREL computers serve as Operator Control Units for many unmanned vehicles, so I pay close attention to that application. Recently an article on Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles (UCAVs) caught my interest. In a posting titled “UCAVs: The Future of Air Warfare,” a self-described Muslim think tank argues that Pakistan can counter the perceived threat of advanced Indian jet fighters with UCAVs. I found this article interesting, because:
It is an excellent, well –sourced introduction to UCAVs.
Even though the arena of battlefield robots is dominated by a few nations, unmanned vehicles are a worldwide phenomenon. This article makes clear that industry observers need to pay attention to more than just the usual suspects.
The application of unmanned vehicles has primarily been in asymmetric warfare. This article demonstrates a strategic use of robots in a traditional state vs. state conflict.
Some comments posted on this article have attacked the authors’ nationalistic and religious beliefs, which for our purposes here are irrelevant. More pertinent are the criticisms of Pakistan’s economic and technological ability to field a fleet of UCAVs. Anyone can stick a sensor or even a weapon on a plane from a hobby store and call it a UCAV. However, that is a far cry from transforming UCAVs into meaningful defense assets. For example, Russia is a global leader in military technology. Yet, Defense Industry Daily notes that Russia wants to buy Israeli UAVs, because their own production/engineering resources as well as miniaturization capabilities are inadequate.
Even more questionable than Pakistan’s technological capability is the central thesis. The think-tank’s author specifically proposes that UCAVs can successfully operate against 5th generation jet fighters, which can be defined as “…the fighter aircraft which are newest and most advanced as of 2011.” Does anyone really expect unmanned vehicles to seriously challenge the most advanced manned fighters deployed this year? Sure, UCAVs may eventually render the occupation of jet fighter pilot obsolete, but during the current generation?
Let us know what you think. Just how soon are our Top Guns going to be seriously threatened by UCAVs?