This is a proposal I received from Igor Mendelev. If you have any comments, suggested improvements, or any other remarks, please send them to the author.
"Dealing with dictatorships without losing face and soldiers"
Copyright Igor Mendelev (email@example.com) v 0.2 April 10, 1999
Technology can't solve world problems - especially if it's a wrong one.
Recent events in Kosovo - being an unmitigated disaster from humanitarian point of view, a well as politically and militarily for NATO countries (but not for Milosevic) - forces the question : is there any military (or other) technology that can really help deal with or - even better - prevent such problems before they become tragedies.
As we've seen very clearly best air power in the world is unable to deal with 2nd rate army of 3rd rate country to the extent needed to halt slaughter and mass expulsion of civilians and sending ground troops is unpopular politically due to unavoidable casualties - small from a point of view of any dictatorship but way too large for any current Western democracy. Things as they stand now will only get worse due to low inventory of cruise missiles and laser-guided bombs (and long manufacturing time for them) and disagreements about political and military strategy.
It is clear that a very different approach is needed.
Proposed technical solution to this problem is - for the lack of better word - Remotely Controlled Combat Vehicle. RCCV is a remotely controlled unmanned buggy-like armed vehicle that will be cheaply mass produced (for under 100K$/piece) and airlifted (in hundreds or thousands depending on the enemy power) to the areas of regional crises and then remotely controlled by operators located within few hundreds miles.
It will leverage strengths of Western countries in auto production, air transportation, electronics and wireless communications (all of which are also weaknesses of their adversaries like Iraq or Serbia or North Korea) and make the problem of ground troop losses moot. It's also expected to be highly cost effective compared to existing alternatives- by at least an order of magnitude. It is also expected to be highly effective militarily due to very high firepower/weight ratio and strong negative psychological effect on enemy soldiers. Obviously, it's also completely unaffected by chemical and biological weapons and can withstand nuclear attack much better than existing ground forces of any country.
For the cost of a single B2 bomber ( which couldn't be used to do much since no one is planning - I hope - to nuke Serbia out of existence) at least 10 thousand RCCVs could have been developed, manufactured and deployed in or near Kosovo - and that would have changed Serbia's means (because even Milosevic isn't ready to have military losses measured in tens of thousands since it's a direct road to loss of power) and consequently goals.
System (anyone can provide better estimates for costs and weight?):
-firepower comparable to (somewhat less then) Bradley armored vehicle
-overall weight under 1000 (1500 ?) lbs (due to lack of need to use a lot of
armor to protect soldiers; only small part of the RCCV needs to be armored - probably using titanium and ceramic plates - to protect engine, fuel, electronics etc.)
range at least 500 mi (with about 20-25 gallons of fuel)
-requires 1 remote operator (with a proficiency in playing DOOM-like games;
they will be highly motivated to win -:) )
-built-in self-destruction mechanism (to prevent weapons etc. being studied
and/or used by the enemy)
-development time under 2 years and cost under 100M$ (if done in a way
similar to commercial auto project, not as a military project with 10+ years time-frame and bloated budget) for initial version of a vehicle
-development time under 1 year and cost under 10M$ for remote operator
software (including training sw) - it's no more difficult than development of a good game for PC
manufacturing cost under 100K$/each (if developed with consideration of mass production - in batches of 1000 or more using standard commercial parts and existing military hardware wherever possible) and more RCCVs could be quickly manufactured as needed
-attached to rotating telescopic tube located at the center of the vehicle,
it could use technology similar to active suspension to increase precision of fire when RCCV is moving
-low-caliber (5.56-7.62 mm) machine gun (belt-fed) and several thousand
-high-caliber belt-fed machine gun (like Hughes 25mm Chain gun ) with
several hundred or few thousand rounds
-grenade launcher (40+ mm) and several dozen grenades
-laser range finder
-supply of mines (anti-tank ?) with dispensing unit
few antitank missiles (cost ??)
-4 (or 6) wheels with bulletproof tires driven by electrical motors (which
allows to move silently when needed and also to save fuel) attached to cart-like frame
-hybrid engine - possibly with Rotapower (http://www.freedom-motors.com)
engine that is cheap when mass-produced ($20/hp), powerful and light - charging batteries or supercapacitors and powering electrical motors, communications and weapons systems (which can also work from stored power)
-variable ground clearance (?)
-variable length of RCCV frame (if could be done cheaply and reliably - to
improve transportation density, stability on bad roads etc.)
Communications and control:
-medium-speed (around 1-2 Mbs) encrypted feed to high-flying (15-40 km)
communication platform (aircraft or dirigible) consisting of 2 video feeds (384-768 Kbs each) and misc. telemetry (256-512 Kbs that includes GPS data, environment (weather, sounds etc.), vehicle and weapons status); could likely use off-the shelf commercial wireless G3 gear by the time RCCV is ready for production. I think overall latency under 15-20 ms (one way) could be easily achieved using existing communication hardware and software, which makes system real-time (for the intended purpose).
-low-speed encrypted feed from operator (transmitted through communication
platform) for weapons and vehicle control
-use standard Internet protocols (IPSec and mobile IP) and commercial RTOS
(maybe even Linux with real-time enhancements?) to speed up development
-2 zoomed video cameras (for 3D view; will switch to 2D if one camera is
unoperational) with night-vision capability attached to rotating tube, see System
-small radar to detect other vehicles, planes etc. (they're really cheap and
small now - even planned for some passenger cars)
-all electronics EMP protected (because portable EMP weapons could be
available to the enemy)
-how difficult and/or expensive is to airdrop RCCV near areas of conflict in
the presence of air-defense systems
-possibility of "hijacking" (hacking) of communication platforms and cost and
time of developing software for it (shouldn't be too difficult since it's essentially flying router with some extra security + transmitter/receiver/antenna with EMP protection )
-resupplying fuel (seems doable using simple manipulator), bullets and
grenades (somewhat trickier)
-best way to return it after completion of the mission or for repairs etc.
(even though it might be unnecessary given relatively low - by norms of modern war - cost of RCCV)