Unmanned Systems and the Future of War


Unmanned Systems and the Future of War


By Sebastian Viscuso

Army photo

In 2005, Vice-Admiral Lowell E. Jacoby, then director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, noted in testimony before the House Armed Services Committee that “lethal aerodynamic unmanned vehicles are expected to pose an increased threat to US and Allied forces. deployed in various countries. Regions. “

Jacoby predicted that not only Autonomous Systems would proliferate among U.S. allies, but also among potential competitors and pose a threat to friendly forces in the battlespace. His words were prophetic.

Largely thanks to its vast oil resources and geopolitical positioning, Azerbaijan integrated advanced unmanned aerial systems into its operations against Armenia during the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War, which took place from September 27 to November 10 of last year. Retired Marine Corps Major Brandon Tattersall, Senior Analyst at Insitu, said: “Azerbaijan has been able to invest in [UAS], precision guided munitions, loiter ammunition ”and various other systems because of its oil revenues and its privileged relationship with Turkey.

“Due to the close cultural and ethnic ties and historical hostility towards Armenia, Turkey has been very willing to lend its support,” he said in an interview.

The Turks trained the Azerbaijani people and also provided them with the techniques, tactics and procedures to effectively take advantage of UAS and integrate them into a combined arms approach, he said.

Even without the support of the United States, Azerbaijan, a mid-tier power, has been able to integrate these advanced unmanned aerial systems technologies into its force structures and assert its territorial claims.

US military planners have noted these changes in the global battlespace and the availability of drones. According to Tattersall, “The US military adapts its doctrine to the evolving nature of the battlefield. For example, the Marine Corps includes a squad leader deputy technology operator in the squad, who could be responsible for overseeing UAS and anti-UAS systems.

With these upcoming changes in technical requirements, Tattersall has affirmed that the industry is ready to support them.

“The defense industry is there to serve the troops,” he said. “If there is something the troops need – like a little anti-UAS system – I believe the industry will be there to meet that need.

Beyond doctrine, the Department of Defense pursues research and development programs to keep the United States at the forefront of autonomy and artificial intelligence.

Dr. Robert Sadowski, who is the Army’s Senior Robotics Scientist in the Research, Technology and Integration Branch at the Ground Vehicle Systems Center at Army Combat Capabilities Development Command in Warren, Michigan, said in an interview that “with these robots and autonomous systems… we’re going to have to take a different approach with development.

“We will probably have to use the software acquisition pathways that Congress has given us to allow us to scale up capabilities quickly, as opposed to the formal process where we would have a set of requirements that we already understand. to an original equipment manufacturer, then come back seven years later to [low-rate initial production],” he added.

Leveraging new avenues of software acquisition is essential for developing artificial intelligence, as stand-alone systems rely on improvements in software rather than hardware to become more efficient. For Sadowski, autonomous systems and robots are “moving information systems on wheels or wings”, which means that “the process of updating [software] needs to be much faster… from an industry perspective. It may be a little different where the software is more important than the platform itself. ”

Staying at the forefront of technology on autonomous systems requires rapid and dynamic acquisition pathways to create the ideal conditions for innovation.

While these changes may symbolize a proverbial “new frontier” in terms of military acquisitions, autonomous systems have the potential, in some roles, to prove to be much more effective than manned systems.

For example, Paul Decker, deputy chief robot at the Ground Vehicle Systems Center, noted that unmanned ground systems such as the Army Combat Robot have maneuvering capabilities that are not available for manned systems. comparable.

“There is only so much energy and shock that a body can take if you are driving at high speed,” Decker said. “If you don’t have to worry about having a human [the vehicle], the 6 watts of power entering the occupant are removed. Then you can potentially go pretty fast off-road. ”

While Sadowski reminds us that many emerging autonomous systems capabilities require even more development before the U.S. military can begin to reap these benefits, this example shows how next-generation systems have the potential to add to the war capacity.

As US adversaries are integrating autonomous systems into their armed forces at an alarming rate, a strong connection between private industry and government will support the maintenance of US dominance and the force posture. As the need for new capabilities continues to grow, industry and government will continue to work cooperatively, protecting the nation and leveraging American innovation to support the fighter.

Sebastian Viscuso is a junior from NDIA.

The subjects: Robotics, robotics and autonomous systems


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