The vast fleet of military drones the Pentagon has at its disposal will likely be worth very little in the Pacific, against more advanced, capable enemies, according to a report by Dave Majumdar of the site Flight Global.“We are now shifting to a theatre where there is an adversary out there who is going to have a vote on whether I have that staring eye over the battlefield 24[hours], seven [days a week], 365 [days a year], and pretty certain they are not going to allow that to happen,” says Gen Mike Hostage, commander of Air Combat Command, speaking at the centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
That “vote” is a reference to the capabilities of potential enemies in that area of operations. Majumdar notes that “a drawdown is all but inevitable” and that these unused drones will have “to be parked” somewhere — in all likelihood here at home, parked in the skies.
According to the report the parking of these drones “could free up resources to build a new intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) platform to tackle the emerging anti-access/area denial challenges emerging around the globe.”
In layman’s terms that means drones that may be a bit more stealthy, a bit more advanced, and a bit more autonomous. Though autonomy has been a sticking point as of late, the military is well aware of the moral boundaries that come with giving robots a “licence to kill” — human acquisition and identification of targets will always be a part of the equation.
In fact, the military is tossing around the idea of incorporating virtual reality immersion to fully engage drone pilot’s awareness in unmanned aircraft.
“I fully believe we’ll get there some day,” Hostage says. “But I don’t have that technical capability today.”