Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Never Mind, We'll Do It Ourselves

The Inside Story of How a Team of Renegades Broke Rules, Shattered Barriers, and Launched a Drone Warfare Revolution by Alec Bierbauer and Col. Mark Cooter, USAF (ret) with Michael Marks.

The subtitle is a bit misleading--they weren't renegades, and the only rules broken were bureaucratic ones, and they got top cover for that. It's the story of how the Predator was modified and implemented for use in Afghanistan, first for observation and then armed.

It's a pretty upbeat tale on the whole. Just having a drone with a camera is only the start--where do you base it, how do you control it, and how do you get information to and between mutually hostile departments of the government (CIA and DoD)? And what do you do when you've found your target, but nobody wants to take responsibility for pulling the trigger? And it sounds obvious and easy to stick a rocket on the drone--but it's harder than it seems. The book's a book of problem-solving.

Of course the technology and tactics are all quite obsolete by now--the Ukraine war is a drone/counter-drone control/jamming arms race. Trent Telenko has been complaining that the US isn't taking drones or communications warfare seriously. If the book's any hint, he's probably right.

UPDATE: A man in our Bible study flew fighters in Afghanistan. He said that the initial default for a Predator was that if it lost communications signal, it should fly higher. This caused some near misses when circling fighters found an unmanned drone suddenly start climbing in front of them. The default programming got addressed, but the details had to be reviewed for each mission. "Just keep going straight" is OK for some situations, but not if Iran is a few miles over the border.

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