US in a quality vs quantity drone warfare dilemma – Asia Times

US in a quality vs quantity drone warfare dilemma - Asia Times

The US is changing its approach to satellite warfare, with the decision being between fielding a several very expensive but very capable drones and using high-cost drones as command centers for swarms of low-cost drones.

The US Army is now actively seeking secret business partners to build a large helicopter capable of performing varied missions including surveillance, tracking, stability, attack, precision strike and intelligence collection, Breaking Defense reported.

The action, still in the planning stages, aims to improve the military’s capabilities in huge- level combat operations by integrating sophisticated sensor technologies and precision- guided munitions, the report said.

The army’s desired unmanned aircraft system ( UAS ) should be able to operate at high altitudes, preferably above 30, 000 feet, with a range of 500 nautical miles and short takeoff and landing (STOL ) features.

The US Army’s request for information, empty until July 7, reflects a willingness to consider different alternatives, the Breaking Defense statement said.

The move comes after a month of major changes in the US Army’s aircraft strategy, influenced by training from the field, especially the ongoing fight in Ukraine. The Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft ( FARA ) program has been discontinued, and smaller drone fleets have been used less frequently.

The US Army’s changing strategy highlights the changing nature of aerial surveillance and the growing use of unmanned systems and space-based property in gathering knowledge.

The US Army has not yet made an official announcement about whether the new drone program will handle the potential gap left by FARA’s withdrawal. Some analysts think it will lead to the development of novel alternatives to existing drones like the MQ- 1C or the acquisition of more.

The US may have had to reconsider its approach to helicopter development and implementation following US drone costs against Yemen’s Houthi rebels, where multi-million money robots have been killed by crude air defense systems.

These losses have sparked debates about how the US should develop and deploy its drones, with arguments revolving between quality, which means improving survivability and capability, and quantity, where more expensive drones are relegated to command and control centers in exchange for less expensive, more expensive drones.

Houthi rebels are alleged to have carried out the drone downing that killed the US MQ-9 Reaper, making this the third May incident to be reported by Business Insider. Business Insider points out that the footage the rebels released suggests the drone was essentially intact after being shot down in the Marib province of northern Yemen.

The MQ- 9 is regarded as disposable, but its high US$ 30 million price tag raises cost-benefit concerns about using it in a theater. Yahya Saree, a spokesman for Hindus, claimed the drone was used on “hostile missions” to target it with a locally produced surface-to-air missile. &nbsp,

According to the Business Insider report, Brandon Tseng, president of the drone and software company Shield AI, claims the MQ- 9 is” too expensive and too slow to regenerate to continue operating within the range of surface-to-air missiles.”

” MQ- 9 is a great aircraft, I’ve used it. However, Tseng continues, “it needs to be re-defined for the future fight as quarterbacking intelligent teams of attritable aircraft.”

The MQ- 9 was created in an era when US air supremacy was a given, according to Liam Collins, founding director of the Modern War Institute at West Point. According to the Business Insider report, he points out that it was designed to carry a limited payload while maximizing loiter time.

According to Collins, the US did n’t make the MQ-9 maneuvering capability because it was deemed unnecessary at the time of its development. He claims that this has made the MQ-9 vulnerable in a world of large-scale combat operations.

However, C Mark Brinkley, senior director of communications of General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, stated in an October 2023 C4ISRNET article that such combat losses are to be expected.

According to Brinkley, those who favor replacing the MQ-9 with less expensive, less effective alternatives would require a highly developed AI that would be tactically relevant and cost billions of dollars.

He mentions that even if AI allowed 50 or more drones to operate as swarms, their payload and endurance would only be 25 % of the MQ- 9s’.

Instead of ditching the MQ- 9 for cheaper alternatives, Brinkley recommends integrating air- to- air missiles and early warning radar to increase the drone’s survivability and add new capabilities.

The US has made various efforts to rethink its drone warfare capabilities, each one incorporating ideas for improving survivability and capability or increasing the number of drones that can be recovered.

In terms of increasing survivability and capability, The Aviationist reported in May 2024 that the MQ- 9 will receive significant upgrades to enhance its survivability.

According to the report, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems and Shift5, a business specializing in onboard cyber anomaly detection and predictive maintenance, are working toward those goals.

According to The Aviationist, Shift5’s platform will be integrated into the MQ- 9A Reaper, providing real- time operational and cybersecurity insights.

A new pod designed to detect and counter radio frequency ( RF ) and infrared ( IR ) threats is also being worked on to develop an Airborne Battlespace Awareness and Defense ( ABAD ) capability for the MQ- 9A.

The US Air Force Special Operations Command ( AFSOC ) is looking into the use of MQ-9 Reaper drones as central command units for a network of smaller unmanned aerial systems, according to a report in Air & Space Forces Magazine from September 2023.

The initiative, part of the adaptive airborne enterprise ( A2E ) project, aims to transform MQ- 9s from their conventional intelligence and strike roles into dynamic control centers, the report said.

According to the report from Air & Space Forces Magazine, these centers would manage a fleet of light drones, creating a vast sensing grid for joint force operations.

This approach would give special operations forces on deep battlefields a robust communications link while expanding the network’s potential to reach hundreds of miles.

The A2E project addresses the outdated and labor-intensive infrastructure of the MQ- 9’s architecture, which has remained unchanged since the 1990s, according to Air &amp, Space Forces Magazine.

According to the report, the project aims to reduce the number of people needed to maintain a single MQ- 9 orbit from over 150 to a more efficient number, allowing for the deployment of a greater number of MQ- 9s.