Remote and/or unattended warfare & monitoring is a field that will grow in importance and visibility over the coming years. Its impact on the composition and format of the US military over the next several decades will be substantial. Advances in technology may already be seen in the current UAV Roadmap of 2005 (PDF on GoogleDocs) that will be further strategized and propagated with the upcoming QDR that will be taking its “final shape” next week.
From the UAV roadmap:
As the the Department of Defense (DoD) develops and employs an increasingly sophisticated force of unmanned systems, including UA over the next 25 years (2005 to 2030), technologists, acquisition officials, and operational planners require a clear, coordinated plan for the evolution and transition of this capability.
The ability to remotely detect, analyze, target, and directly engage or monitor and guide resources is here now and growing. These tasks are currently executed by both private and public (i.e. US Armed Forces personnel)resources. However, this is likely to shift to increasingly private resources for cost and commitment reasons. The desire of the military, or specifically the civilian leadership of the military, to train in-house (i.e active-duty military) resources to maintain and man ship technologies to Patriot missile batteries is already clear. As far as cost, I believe that is a red-herring when considering all the costs of the contract, including its management, knowledge-loss, staffing changes, accountability, etc. Do we really want defense on the cheap? This is an age old question that is tied to reducing the number of pilots in combat aircraft (including down to zero).
Much of the remote warfare today is executed by military companies under contract. Other remote sensors I have reviewed (most of which I unfortunately purged from the site a long time ago but I need to revisit) fit into an outsourced form of warfare & MOOTW that may have parallels to privatized military. For example, how do you program a UCAV to survive? It must have a cost-benefit analysis if it will be independent and this must include some factor of valuing survival. Won’t a private security contractors (aka ‘mercenary’) have the same interest? Should UCAVs be modeled off them them? More on this later.
One last note: remote technologies really fit in with the Future Combat Systems initiative. Take a look at the demonstration videos and consider the reliability of technologies, ability to insert either at design or later on a worm or virus, dust, batteries, or an EMP. The ideas and the goals of the project are fantastic, but my concern is civilian leadership getting ahead of the military leadership in creating and framing missions based on Hollywood and not professional military experience.
As somebody asked, will half the military be signal corps? What will the help button look like? The response: it will be THE help button:
"boooooiiiing…OnStar how may I help you?"
"Yes I need an airstrike."
"Okay I show you at NG 12345678 is that correct?"