The world has been slowly, quietly adjusting to the growing use of unmanned systems in warfare. From the spectre of Predators and Reapers stalking the mountains of Afghanistan during the war on terror, there’s been a growing appreciation of what these systems can do, but it’s always been coupled with the feeling that ‘in a real war’ they wouldn’t be nearly as useful.
Then the Bayraktar TB2 started blasting $25 million anti aircraft systems in Ukraine while Russian drones have played a seemingly important role spotting for precision guided artillery rounds.
When an aircraft starts mowing down anti-air systems, you pay attention.
In this presentation, I give an overview of what we’ve seen in terms of the usage of drones and loiter munitions in Ukraine, then I get on to what makes that effectiveness so damn scary…the fact that these things are cheap. Really cheap (at least by defence equipment standards).
Compared to tanks, jets, and all the kind of traditional balance sheet platforms militaries rate themselves on, we’ve seen a serious role in this conflict for cheap, effective systems, ranging from the TB2 all the way down to off the shelf hobby drones.
We don’t have enough evidence yet to know exactly how effective these systems are proving, but I do think we know enough to say that they’ve been good enough to cause us to take a real look at whether they need to play a bigger role in our forces going forward.
If you’re a middle or minor power, the first scenes out of Ukraine should give you hope that these unmanned systems might give you an efficient way to narrow the balance against your major power opponents.
If you’re an ordinary member of the public, I’d honestly be a bit worried, because these systems are only going to get cheaper, better, and more widely proliferated as time goes on.
The mentioned Forbes article is linked below: