Monday 18 Jan 2021 | 18:45 | SYDNEY
Monday 18 Jan 2021 | 18:45 | SYDNEY

Drones not just for the good guys


Rodger Shanahan


11 November 2011 09:36

Reading the series of posts about the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones, I couldn't help but think that it betrayed a degree of cultural superiority, with discussion centred on coalition strikes in Pakistan/Afghanistan against ideologically committed but technologically limited opposition. As though future war was simply about Nevada-based operators dropping bombs or firing missiles at targets with no threat from the ground.

A more interesting study into the future uses of UAVs may be found in the Levant, where Israel and Hizbullah have been engaged in a two-way drone war for nearly a decade. The latest episode this week involved speculation that Hizbullah may have found a way of bringing down an IDF drone and recovering it for technical exploitation.

This follows claims that Hizbullah had previously found a way of intercepting IDF drone feeds, ultimately leading to the disastrous Ansariyyah operation resulting in the death of 11 Israeli naval commandos in 1997. Similar claims were made about Iraqi insurgent groups' ability to download tactical UAV feeds from US assets.

Hizbullah has also been operating Iranian-made UAVs since the end of 2004, but more as a concept demonstrator and as part of an information operations campaign than as an offensive weapons platform. The IDF even shot down a Hizbullah UAV during the 2006 war.

UAVs are like any other weapons platforms — they have strengths and vulnerabilities, they can be operated by your enemies as well as your friends and are more commonly an enabler for, or adjunct to wider military operations.

Rather than looking at more esoteric subjects such as the degree to which the operator may or may not be removed from the environment in which his platform operates, more interesting subjects to ponder might be the vulnerability of UAVs and the impact on our own forces of UAVs being operated by future adversaries.

Photo by Flickr user [nivs].