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Thread: Using drones: principles, tactics and results (amended title)

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    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Default Using drones: principles, tactics and results (amended title)

    Moderator's Note

    This thread has several smaller threads merged in February 2013 and two in August 2013. On Xmas Eve 2013 two SWJ Blog and two small SWC threads were merged to here. The title was amended from 'The drone paradox' to 'Using drones: principles, tactics and results' (June 2011). November 2015 two SWJ Blog threads merged in.(ends)


    7 March AP - Israel Unveils Newest Unmanned Aircraft.

    The Israeli air force unveiled its newest unmanned aircraft Wednesday, saying the plane can fly longer, faster and higher than any other surveillance aircraft.

    The drone, called the Heron, already saw combat during last summer's war in Lebanon, where Israeli officials said a prototype performed well, seeking out Hezbollah arms and directing airstrikes.

    The Heron has a 54-foot wingspan and can fly up to 30 hours at a speed of 140 mph and a height of 30,000 feet. That would give it a range of 4,200 miles and the potential to reach as far as Iran, considered Israel's most serious strategic threat because of its nuclear program and its president's calls to wipe Israel off the map.

    Air force officers said the Heron was Israel's most advanced weapon in the booming field of drone technology...
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 11-11-2015 at 10:27 PM. Reason: Mod's note

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    Council Member 120mm's Avatar
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    Iran: PM sent, check your Inbox
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    Default Predator C "Avenger" unveiled

    Looks interesting. We should be doing more of this:

    Cassidy has earned a unique reputation by using company funds to develop what he believes the military needs rather than chasing Pentagon requirements that shift with disheartening regularity to produce cost increases and production delays. The result is a family of Gnat and Predator designs that are used by all the services and intelligence agencies.

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    Council Member Stu-6's Avatar
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    Default Using drones: principles, tactics and results (amended title)

    Ok it has been awhile so I will reintroduce my self in the appropriate thread but right now I have question that has been bugging me for a awhile now.

    Conducting missile strikes in Pakistan undermines the Paki government therefore it is, to put it mildly, strategically undesirable. But to allow al-Qa'ida sanctuary in Pakistan is also undesirable. So the question is: is one really better than the other or is there a third way?
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 02-23-2013 at 12:57 PM. Reason: Mod's note moved

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    Quote Originally Posted by Stu-6 View Post
    But to allow al-Qa'ida sanctuary in Pakistan is also undesirable. So the question is: is one really better than the other or is there a third way?
    Give me the money it cost for the drone flight and rocket(s) and I will raise a platoon of indigenous troops and wreak havoc with any Taliban or al-Qaeda trying to cross into Afghanistan without ticking off the locals. Give me money and discretion to commission construction projects and I'll make the population permanently hostile to the Taliban. Eventually word will get out across the border and we'll be invited to do the same thing in their neighborhood.

    Of course, the locals could always just figure out that I have money, kill me, and take the money...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Stu-6 View Post
    Conducting missile strikes in Pakistan undermines the Paki government....
    If that were true, then why does the Pakistani government allow it? The drones, as was recently revealed, operated from a Pakistani military base.

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    Council Member Ron Humphrey's Avatar
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    Default Look at the traditional

    Quote Originally Posted by Entropy View Post
    If that were true, then why does the Pakistani government allow it? The drones, as was recently revealed, operated from a Pakistani military base.
    They fight and you might have part of your answer
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    Quote Originally Posted by IntelTrooper View Post
    Of course, the locals could always just figure out that I have money, kill me, and take the money...

    And there is the catch, locals only work as long as your interest overlap.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Stu-6 View Post
    And there is the catch, locals only work as long as your interest overlap.
    So true.

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    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    If that were true, then why does the Pakistani government allow it? The drones, as was recently revealed, operated from a Pakistani military base.
    Because the Pakistani government and its military understand that allowing the drone attacks represents a critical element of its relationship with the U.S., especially the CIA and the U.S. military. For now the government is willing to take the hit that its public image suffers because of the drone strikes, knowing that the far greater damage is to the U.S.' reputation inside Pakistan, which could actually come in handy for itself in the future.

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    Council Member carl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tequila View Post
    Because the Pakistani government and its military understand that allowing the drone attacks represents a critical element of its relationship with the U.S., especially the CIA and the U.S. military. For now the government is willing to take the hit that its public image suffers because of the drone strikes, knowing that the far greater damage is to the U.S.' reputation inside Pakistan, which could actually come in handy for itself in the future.
    That is about the most astute and cogent thing I've ever read on this subject.
    "We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again." Gen. Nathanael Greene

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    Default Drone attacks: lengthy review article

    Forwarded by an observer: http://www.tnr.com/politics/story.ht...3d&k=40024&p=1

    It is very well written and full of facts, although I note it slid over the fact the drones fly from a Pakistani airfield.

    Yes, drones are an option and on reflection IMHO useful when successful and the local political impact is minimal. Now maybe the time to reduce their use, as David Kilcullen mooted.

    Have they changed the Pakistani Army's stance on confronting the Taliban plus? Or, assisted the Pakistani government in creating the conditions to make decisions?

    I think not. Conclusion: Tactically useful and strategically dangerous.

    davidbfpo

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    Conclusion: Tactically useful and strategically dangerous.
    Makes you ask, as I often do, if something strategically dangerous, can be tactically useful.
    Personally, I think the idea of "tactical success" but "operational/strategic failure" is not an intellectually or practically defensible position.
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    Default Well said...

    Quote Originally Posted by tequila View Post
    Because the Pakistani government and its military understand that allowing the drone attacks represents a critical element of its relationship with the U.S., especially the CIA and the U.S. military. For now the government is willing to take the hit that its public image suffers because of the drone strikes, knowing that the far greater damage is to the U.S.' reputation inside Pakistan, which could actually come in handy for itself in the future.
    it allows the Pakistanis to leverage on our capability yet have plausible deniability in the political dialogue of being the actual operators. This is also a bit of a cunundrum given that the government is accused in some circles of being merely a lackey of the United States.
    "What is best in life?" "To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of the women."

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    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    Personally, I think the idea of "tactical success" but "operational/strategic failure" is not an intellectually or practically defensible position.
    You old systems thinker you that is exactly right, it all has to align together or it you will just create another/bigger problem.

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    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    I think the idea of "tactical success" but "operational/strategic failure" is not an intellectually or practically defensible position.
    I'd be interested to hear you expand on this, if you don't mind.

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    Default Upside / Downside to drones

    A non-SWJ member's response to my viewpoint was:

    1) Armed UAV (drone) attacks can only be of tactical significance and are unlikely to lead to strategic gain.

    2) The downstream effects of Damadola far outweighed any possible gain (and there was none). A few days after the strike, a Pakistani Taliban leader called a meeting and asked for volunteers for suicide missions. Sixty-five young men put their hands up; a bit later a young soldier in the Frontier Corps shot an American officer at a bi-lateral border meeting. His family came from Damadola. He had no option under the code of revenge in Pushtun lore. (Damadola: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Damadola_airstrike )

    3) In the beginning the use of UAVs in Pakistan was a one-sided (US) attempt to decapitate the al-Qaeda leadership taking no account of the downstream effects mentioned above and breaking a US law of no targeted assassination except in time of war (the author is not a lawyer).

    4) That said a Predator over the Yemeni desert targeting a verifiable target with no risk to civilians can be justified. In fact the mission in 2002 that killed an AQ operative also impressed the Yemenis with its precision and careful targeting. So the downstream effect in this case was positive.

    5) Finally when in Peshawar in 2008 perfectly sane, educated and reasonable Pakistanis living under Taliban threat spared no air in rejecting the use of combat UAVs on the grounds that they helped a then growing Pakistani Taliban to become more radical and to recruit.


    davidbfpo

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    Default A poor answer I fear

    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    Makes you ask, as I often do, if something strategically dangerous, can be tactically useful.
    Personally, I think the idea of "tactical success" but "operational/strategic failure" is not an intellectually or practically defensible position.
    Wilf,

    I think those who have a short-term view would see drone attacks as a tactical success and meeting the imperative for taking action (shared by many actors). With their limited strategic horizon, or situational awareness, such actors do not consider the fuller picture and risks of operational or strategic failure.

    Staying with the Pakistani historical example; given the frustration with Pakistani in-action drone attacks appear an option and who say in 2006 would have objected to the impact on radicalising the FATA tribes? Striking the No.2 in AQ would be too tempting.

    All from my armchair faraway.

    davidbfpo
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 06-04-2009 at 10:12 PM.

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    Council Member M Payson's Avatar
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    Default The drones of war

    IISS has an interesting article on drones that I saw referenced at Abu Muqawama. It provides some technical detail as well as insight into operational roles and operators.

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    New issue of Air and Space Power Journal...whole bunch of stuff about Drones in it. Also article about the Army and there expanding use of aircraft,link is below.


    http://www.au.af.mil/au/cadre/aspj/a...cles/apje.html

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