Joint Unmanned Combat Air Systems

News brief from DigitalJournal.com on "The Remote Controlled Military and the Future of Warfare":

In a secluded desert in California, two sleek 27-foot-long planes zip across the sky, dipping and swerving like air-show hotshots. But the flying turns vicious when a pop-up target appears and the Boeing aircraft quickly communicate with each other to determine which has the better chance of destroying it. One plane drops a 250-pound GPS-guided bomb from 35,000 feet, hitting the bull’s-eye. Before the planes can react, an anti-aircraft missile zooms towards them, and they each safely roll out of the missile’s path.

Transitioning from precision-guided munitions to the next generation of weapons will have a huge impact on war, peace, and everything in-between. The flashy world of "smart bombs", with their fantastic public relations / media entertainment value (Xbox masquerading as CNN), is really a world of "obedient weapons". These are devices, remotely controlled either by a pilot, RWO, or even some other grounded operator. Firing a Hellfire into a vehicle or a building from a Predator is a great extension of the long arm of the law (perhaps I shouldn't use "law" since it implies police... are we in a war or a police action? nevermind...).

Real smart weapons are what is coming in the area of "unattended, unmanned, and remote war technologies". These semi or fully autonomous devices include remote sensing, discriminating, and detonating or alerting devices are force multipliers. They may also be boon or bane. The notion of plausible deniability went out the window a while ago, or did it?

Larry Pintak comments that our media coverage looks at us through a lens of what we do (action, not being). Comparatively, our media looks at "them" as what they are (being, not action). If our direct actions are excusable because it is just something we did, which "in reality does not reflect who we are", how might this be extended when actions are indirect? When semi or fully autonomous technologies execute war for us. Is it them something we did?

Consider the two examples Robert Entman dissect in Projections of Power. Analyzing the media, Entman finds attribution to "technical glitches" as causal factors in the shooting down of the Iran Air Boeing by the USS Vincennes. The personification of the incident, specifically naming Captain Rogers, and visually implying a dizzying area of technology the US operators were supposed to work with, all pushed readers toward the conclusion it was something that just happened and wasn't who we are. The counter-example of the KAL 007 shoot-down (in fact, why can I recite the KAL flight number and not the Iran Air flight number?) was de-personalized and framed explicitly that the Soviets "should have known" it was a civilian airliner. The USS Vincenees was never put in the position, by the US media, of "should have known". The whole story of the KAL shoot down was the "saturated with morally judgmental words and images". The Iran Air tragedy was not. What we do, who they are.

How will this translate into remote warfare and the use of the Gladiator Tactical Unmanned Ground Vehicle and other fun toys (also see Autonomous Operations (AO) for Future Naval Capabilities). The realm of unmanned, unattended, autonomous, and remote monitoring and warfare will likely fall into the same legal gray area of private military companies, privateers, piracy with indirect accountability, fall-back claims on technology malfunctions etc. I also see an impact on Public Diplomacy as what we do is what we are to other people.