We received a lot of positive comments about my August 18 brief suggesting that policymakers are a bit too enamored of unmanned aircraft. The brief argued that such systems would be far less effective against well-armed adversaries than they are against rag-tag enemies like the Taliban. Here is an additional wrinkle on that argument, provided by a retired admiral who is a longtime friend of Lexington.
He points out that command and control for our most capable unmanned aerial systems depends almost exclusively on satellite links subject to interruption in wartime. That’s especially true of unmanned systems equipped with munitions such as Reaper, but it is necessarily true for any unmanned aircraft operating beyond the reach of ground or air-based communications. It’s great that airmen can operate unmanned surveillance drones over Southwest Asia from secure stateside bases, but what happens if the communication links are jammed or the satellites are destroyed in a war? There doesn’t seem to be a backup plan.
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