Cheap drones and countermeasures: What experts care about the future of warfare

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Recent developments have made it easier to acquire military grade dronesand the US should focus on developing measures to combat drones, experts said Friday at the Aspen Security Forum in Aspen, Colorado.

“We see this as a growing problem because if you look at the availability of low-cost drones, you will find that the violent extremist organizations that we are fighting around the world have easy access to this technology,” the senator said. Joni Ernst, of Iowa, and a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said. “They don’t need to develop anything. All they have to do is go to Amazon and they can buy a $300 drone to use against the enemy. And that’s why it’s a real problem.”

Ernst and Rep. Jason Crowe, D-Colo, member of the House Armed Services Committee, discussed developments in drone technology and the need for countermeasures.

Ernst noted that China and Russia began focus on “swarm technology” a concept discussed in US Air Force documents and defined as “a group of autonomous networked small unmanned aircraft systems working together to achieve common goals.” The goal of such approaches is focused on suppressing the target and “saturating its defenses”.

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“It’s not just disposable drones that are being bought online, but now we have almost equal adversaries who are developing swarm technology where they can use 100 or 200 different drones – highly advanced drones that can attack our military personnel. on the battlefield,” she said.

Developing AI to use such technologies more effectively will remain important as the US also researches these weapons, Crowe said.

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“We also have some really big unanswered questions that we need to discuss with the public,” he said. “It’s just not a technology or an investment, but we have to discuss what the role of AI will be because we are debating as a democracy and we have to take into account the moral and ethical implications of drones and ways that some of our adversaries don’t have.”

Introduction of AI to the discussion also raises the question of what role humans play “in the kill chain,” as removing humans can help speed up decision making and targeting in combat scenarios, Crowe explained.

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“If we look at great power competition, our involvement in PACOM (U.S. Indo-Pacific Command) and what the participation scenarios and some aspects of military planning look like, this is an important part of the debate that remains unanswered,” he said. . said.

Ernst also described the need to develop interoperable systems in order to cope with the new conditions of air combat, especially with look towards Iran and its possibilities.

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“Given the threat that Iran poses, we are considering not only missile defense, but now, because of the threat of drones, it is air defense that we have not had to think about before,” she said. “So we do have a bicameral, bipartisan act that will allow our secretary of defense to work with a range of allies and partners to create systems of interoperability that are linked together, all the way to air and missile defense throughout the Middle East and again. aimed at defending against the threat posed by Iran.”

It is reported by the Wall Street Journal. that the Federal Aviation Administration predicts that the number of unnamed drones in US airspace will quadruple from 110,000 to 450,000 in 2022.