UCAV = Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle
First use of armed drones heralds 'revolution' in warfare
Waging war by remote control
Oct. 18 - The United States is for the first time flying armed, unmanned
aircraft into combat and controlling them with operators in the United States
thousands of miles from the battlefield in Afghanistan, Defense Department
officials said yesterday.
THE USE of the armed RQ-1 Predators is a revolutionary step in the
conduct of warfare. The slow-moving, propeller-driven aircraft have been flown
by the Air Force for six years to gather intelligence, most recently in combat
during the Kosovo war in 1999. But now the Air Force has outfitted them with
Hellfire antitank missiles, powerful weapons usually carried on helicopters,
the officials said.
Not much is known about how the armed Predators have been used in Afghanistan,
but a government official said they have fired their missiles several times.
The attacks by the Predators mark a turning point in military history because
they signal that the Air Force is now able to survey and then shoot at ground
positions from lower altitudes without putting pilots at risk.
EXTENDING REACH, FLEXIBILITY
The armed drones also give the military enormous reach and flexibility,
creating the real possibility that the United States could someday fly combat
missions without having to put large numbers of military personnel on nearby
land bases or aircraft carriers.
Military strategists said the Bush administration's war on terrorism
could lead to the use of additional new technologies and methods, some of them
"I think this war is going to give you a revolution in military
affairs," said Eliot Cohen, an expert in military strategy at Johns Hopkins
The Air Force is also believed, for example, to be trying to weaponize
the RQ-4A Global Hawk, a much longer-range unmanned surveillance aircraft that
might eventually be able to carry weapons from the continental United States
to targets around the world. In April, the craft - which has a longer wingspan
than a Boeing 737 - flew 8,600 miles from California to Australia.
Predators are usually operated by the Air Force. But in the Afghanistan
conflict, the day-to-day operation has been handled by the Central
Intelligence Agency because of its ongoing effort tracking suspected terrorist
Osama bin Laden, according to a source familiar with the operation. After the
Predators take off, control is turned over to Air Force personnel in the
United States. In case the satellite link is lost, the CIA has backup
operators standing by to take over control.
"The more bouncing you have to do off of satellites and relay stations,
the more potential trouble you have to prepare for," one official said.
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Useless hypotheses, etc.:
consciousness, phlogiston, philosophy, vitalism, mind, free will, qualia,
analog computing, cultural relativism, GAC, Cyc, Eliza, cryonics, individual
uniqueness, ego, human values, scientific relinquishment
We move into a better future in proportion as science displaces superstition.
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