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Behind the Scenes With America's Drone Pilots

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the i-can-see-my-house-from-here dept.

The Military 419

An anonymous reader writes "As President Obama meets with advisors on an Afghanistan strategy today (who are now leaning more toward Joe Biden's more-drones policy), and even as Al Qaeda claims it's not all that scared of drones, the new issue of Esquire takes the first real in-depth look at the American military's UAV build-up. Defense geek Brian Mockenhaupt spends some time on the ground in Afghanistan, as well as back at the Pentagon, where the pilots ('more like snipers than fighter pilots') are playing a kind of role-playing game, getting to know terrorists' daily ins and outs. Looks like these Reaper drones are the real wave of the future, eh?"

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ChAir Force (2, Interesting)

Conchobair (1648793) | more than 4 years ago | (#29746959)

I've heard UAV pilots refered to more than once as the ChAir Force.

Re:ChAir Force (3, Funny)

biryokumaru (822262) | more than 4 years ago | (#29746981)

I've heard the Air Force referred to more than once as the Chair Force.

Re:ChAir Force (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29747843)

my grandfather called us Bus Drivers, then again he was in the marines

Re:ChAir Force (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29747141)

I've heard them referred to as cowards.

Who's the bigger coward? The man who straps a bomb to his chest and dies killing his enemies, or the man who kills from a lazy-boy with no risk to himself whatsoever.

Re:ChAir Force (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29747319)

How is killing enemies from the safety of a lazy-boy cowardice? With that line of thinking it would be cowardice to use guns that give you an advantage during war. With that line of thinking all leaders are cowards because they commit others to fighting in their place. Better make everyone drop their tools of destruction and whip out the good ole knuckles and settle all disputes with a quick round of pugilism so everything can be fair in love and war! If you have superior technology that allows you to protect your personnel while laying waste to your foe, then it's moste likely a good idea to use it.

Being a coward means not doing something because someone has psycologically cratered you, not because someone has found a method to terminate you without risk to themself.

Re:ChAir Force (1, Troll)

jimbolauski (882977) | more than 4 years ago | (#29747341)

So either I can choose the man who reviers a child molester (Muhammad had sex with 9 year old child) and straps a bomb to his chest to go blow up women and children in crouded shopping areas, or a guy who tries to kill him from a lazy-boy who does not target innocents.

Re:ChAir Force (0)

jgtg32a (1173373) | more than 4 years ago | (#29747413)

I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor, dumb bastard die for his country.
-Patton

But it seems like he never actually said that, but its a damn good quote.

Re:ChAir Force (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29747643)

Who is the bigger coward? The one who straps the bomb to himself and kills innocents. He won't have to face the consequences of his actions when he's dead.

The person piloting the drone will have to wrestle with the thought that maybe innocent lives were lost as a result of his or her actions.

Sorry. The "stupid bomb" (suicide bomber) is the coward.

Re:ChAir Force (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29747737)

Ah you are confusing commitment with bravery.

The most commited...hands down, the bomber.

That said, only a fool would deliberately ignore the advantages his or her military has granted through technology. Its like saying we should all drop our armor, rifles and go at each other with fists...then you will be a REAL man. Know what...I'd rather be alive than subscribe to your definition of manhood. It is about who wins not who dies.

Re:ChAir Force (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29747361)

ChAir Force?

Then Steve Ballmer should be made a general.

Re:ChAir Force (1)

jimbolauski (882977) | more than 4 years ago | (#29747463)

I doubt and president would want want a ride on ChAir Force One.

Re:ChAir Force (3, Interesting)

Whorhay (1319089) | more than 4 years ago | (#29747375)

That's the Air Force as a whole not just the drone pilots.

What is laughable though is that the drone pilots get their time flying drones counted as flight hours which count toward their career gates. So for being at less risk than most anyone else and essentially playing flight sim games all day they get bonus pay.

Re:ChAir Force (5, Insightful)

thrillseeker (518224) | more than 4 years ago | (#29747493)

It's a flight sim "game" with real death for someone at the end of the day, not "pretend death and go post my frag score on slashdot". They receive flight hours towards their career gates because the training and experience to perform this mission is specialized and expensive to generate, so that providing a solid incentive path to bring and keep high quality personnel in the career field is important.

Re:ChAir Force (1)

Five Bucks! (769277) | more than 4 years ago | (#29748139)

That's certainly not fair...

Those drones carry ordinance and cost a great deal of cash. I'm sure drone pilots face serious repercussions if they write off a drone just as if a pilot writes off a Raptor.

They require skill to fly. Isn't that what pilots are being paid for?

Interesting... (1)

nhytefall (1415959) | more than 4 years ago | (#29746965)

I wonder how long until the policies governing usage of these drones is no longer restricted to "war zones" ?

Re:Interesting... (5, Informative)

guruevi (827432) | more than 4 years ago | (#29747063)

What do you mean?

http://www.justnews.com/news/14708354/detail.html [justnews.com]
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/27/business/worldbusiness/27iht-drone.4.11474996.html [nytimes.com]
http://gizmodo.com/5167853/the-draganflyer-x6-uav-police-edition [gizmodo.com]

Except for FAA approval, there isn't much stopping our police state to use them.

Re:Interesting... (4, Informative)

blhack (921171) | more than 4 years ago | (#29747321)

Except for FAA approval, there isn't much stopping our police state to use them.

We already do use them to patrol the border.

Re:Interesting... (0)

kalirion (728907) | more than 4 years ago | (#29747497)

As bad as police spy drones are for civil liberties, don't compare them to the military drones until you start arming them.

Re:Interesting... (2, Interesting)

Gudeldar (705128) | more than 4 years ago | (#29747957)

I don't see the material difference between spying on people with a manned plane versus an unmanned plane other than the location of the pilot. Why should I be more worried about the government spying on me with a Predator than a U2 (which by the way have been around over 50 years)?

Re:Interesting... (4, Informative)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 4 years ago | (#29747075)

Too late. U.S. Customs and Border Protection is testing them over Lake Erie and Ontario [thehamiltonspectator.com] , and have been for several years over the Mexican border.

U.S. government corruption (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29747033)

U.S. government: Everything for killing, as little as possible for anything else. Killing and making the instruments of killing gives easy profits, partly because the contracts are largely secret.

The U.S. government is VERY corrupt, but U.S. citizens continue hiding from that fact.

As someone else said, the U.S. government's activities encourage other people to make drones. Soon that will be a common new threat. The rich people won't care, of course, since they will life in a radar-protected, drone-free area.

I think its Ender's Game time! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29747035)

How long will we throw Ender at thier asses?

That is what I wanna know because the kids these days know violence and are in desperate need of an outlet.

Where do I sign up (4, Funny)

Botched (1314867) | more than 4 years ago | (#29747041)

To be a rigger?

Re:Where do I sign up (2)

jgtg32a (1173373) | more than 4 years ago | (#29747495)

Am I the only one who misread that, and was confused why a troll was +5 funny?

Re:Where do I sign up (1)

blind biker (1066130) | more than 4 years ago | (#29747725)

No, my friend, you're not the only one: I definitely read the "magic word" right there, and thought "huh? WTF has THAT gotta do with anything?"

Re:Where do I sign up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29748001)

I had the same problem, however I just assumed it was yet another of the endless stream of comments using "that word" that have plagued this website (and probably many others) ever since Obama moved into the White House.

Re:Where do I sign up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29748029)

Renraku Arcology did it first chummers....

Re:Where do I sign up (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29747623)

Wiz idea, chummer.

Re:Where do I sign up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29747977)

Oh how I miss Shadowrun...

I hate to say this... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29747089)

...given the serious topic, but this is IMHO another typical case of American fantasy: a war without casualties. I mean, without American casualties, of course. Wishful thinking, whatever technologies you throw at the problem.

Re:I hate to say this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29747289)

more of an American dream actually :)

Re:I hate to say this... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29747399)

This isn't really a fantasy. Assuming other unmanned vehicles are developed such as tanks, or robots that can replace infantry it's reasonable to think that within a few decades America could conduct a war without casualties against a sufficiently undeveloped nation.

Re:I hate to say this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29748013)

There: just what I said. American reliance on technology. "Against a sufficiently undeveloped nation": at the last second, you realize there are some caveats. Go one step further. Remember the Britons in Afghanistan. And the Soviets. And Napoleon in Russia. And in Spain too. And Hitler in the USSR. And the French in Vietnam. And the US. The list is endless for the last two centuries alone.
Wage a war, be prepared to die. On the other hand, I admit it, refuse to wage a war, and maybe you should be prepared to die too. But at least reconsider your opinion on technology when you attack people on their own soil.
And remember that apart from beating Japan with the help of two nukes, the US hardly ever won a war in the 20th century (Stalin's millions of soldiers defeated the Germans, basically. What the US won was the cold war, fortunately for all of us).

Re:I hate to say this... (0, Offtopic)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 4 years ago | (#29747401)

Not really- when reading the al Qaida link above, it made me wonder if a top-secret weapon today was smart dust.

In other words, who needs a network of spies if you can use a network of bluetooth-enabled robots less than a milimeter in diameter that stick to clothing?

Re:I hate to say this... (1)

agnosticnixie (1481609) | more than 4 years ago | (#29747499)

Also, a war where air power achieves long term goals alone - sure a hell of a lot of the Yugoslav conflict was resolved in the air, until you realize that neither side took any long term losses from it - Serbia seemingly lost a tank force twice the size of what it even had and its entire airforce, and months after the peace it was operational again.

a war without casualties (1, Insightful)

rs232 (849320) | more than 4 years ago | (#29747521)

"...given the serious topic, but this is IMHO another typical case of American fantasy: a war without casualties. I mean, without American casualties, of course. Wishful thinking, whatever technologies you throw at the problem"

This bares similarity to another war where they tried to fight it from the safely of helicopters, and similar to this one they will also lose it. But then again it isn't really about fighting some tribesmen in Afghanistan, but about extending the boundaries of the US empire and spending lots of money on the military budget. Especially since there is no longer some Soviet bogeyman around to save us all from. What's wrong with these Islamo-fascists that they don't want the sex-&-drugs-&-rock-&-roll and porn American life style.

Re:I hate to say this... (1)

dave562 (969951) | more than 4 years ago | (#29747683)

There seems to be some misguided impression that we can win the war from the air. There is the impression that we can take care of al Qaeda with drone attacks. The dynamics of the situation are far more complex than that. The Afghan government does not have very much legitimacy among the people. Society in that part of the world is heavily based on tribal politics. The Taliban has an entire parallel government setup. That parallel government more or less runs the country outside of Kabul. Don't even get started on what a failed state Pakistan is, and how the Pakistani Taliban, and al Qaeda are both supported by the ISI.

Re:I hate to say this... (1)

agnosticnixie (1481609) | more than 4 years ago | (#29747733)

Society in the world is heavily based on tribal politics.

Deep down, that is the accurate version.

Re:I hate to say this... (1)

dave562 (969951) | more than 4 years ago | (#29747839)

I meant to say in "that part" of the world... It hasn't evolved much past the tribal level over there.

Re:I hate to say this... (1)

agnosticnixie (1481609) | more than 4 years ago | (#29747905)

That's why I didn't say corrected, I said that it was more accurate, nuance - I see what you meant, and I'm saying you're partially wrong.
No, it has, they just have less of a veneer. Which is understandable, they've been in civil war since the fall of the monarchy with short phases of dictatorship in between, it's a breeding ground for a return to old style politics - besides we don't notice it as such elsewhere, but in a lot of places the "state" is just a fancy thing a local tribe did - see how many of the world's countries are just a tribe with a constitution.

Re:I hate to say this... (1)

dave562 (969951) | more than 4 years ago | (#29748047)

To see tribal politics at work in America you don't have to look much further than the local school playground. By high school the tribal culture is ingrained. Gangs are tribes. The police force and law enforcement agencies are tribes. The marketing machine thrives on tribal politics. Look at the cults that have sprouted up around Linux, Apple, Microsoft, etc. Those are just obvious examples that are at play here on Slashdot. Tribal mentality pervades pretty much all aspects of our culture. Our government has just slapped a system of law on top of the innate tribal tendencies to try to unify people and keep us from all returning to our baser instincts.

Re:I hate to say this... (4, Insightful)

vertinox (846076) | more than 4 years ago | (#29747739)

...given the serious topic, but this is IMHO another typical case of American fantasy: a war without casualties.

I'm pretty sure that was the intent of all inventions developed for wartime use.

From the spear, the longbow, musket, and machine gun... The intent and purpose was to give your side the benefit of being able to put the enema at "arms length" (so to say) and put you on the side less likely to die.

I mean having people kamikaze their aircraft into targets might be more cost effective in the short term, but the point of making weapons was to kill the other side more effectively by putting your side at less risk.

Just a note...

Its really been the US doctrine since WWII whereas the Russians, Japanese, and Germans generals would still order suicidal attacks on targets for bravery where the US forces would just bomb the crap out of it, shell it with more artillery than needed, call in more air strikes, and then have the infantry move in forward with tanks in front of them. The tactics work.

Re:I hate to say this... (4, Funny)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 4 years ago | (#29747879)

From the spear, the longbow, musket, and machine gun... The intent and purpose was to give your side the benefit of being able to put the enema at "arms length" (so to say) and put you on the side less likely to die.

FWIW, you don't need to put the enema a full arms' length up there. Just a couple inches past the sphincter will do fine. If you want to try for arms' length, go right ahead -- it's your bowels, after all... I just suggest using extra lube in that case.

Re:I hate to say this... (1)

agnosticnixie (1481609) | more than 4 years ago | (#29747983)

That's a pretty limited view of things, the Russians carried most of the war and while they lost more soldiers, they achieved more, took more land, and managed to completely open a new front on the other side of the continent in as little as 2 weeks after they finished taking their zone of Germany while the western allies were still ploughing along. On the other hand, strategic bombing barely made a dent in Germany and would probably have had similar results in Japan without a thorough blockade of a country dependent on external sources of oil.

Only 1/2 of Americans want that (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29748049)

The other half want a war with ONLY American casualties

 

infernal machines (0, Troll)

czarangelus (805501) | more than 4 years ago | (#29747123)

By its own definition, the US government is a terrorist regime. It utilizes violence to try to effect political change in other nations. According to Army Counterinsurgency Handbook (authored in part by Gen. Patraeus,) that is a defining characteristic of terrorist entities. The Taliban didn't attack us on 9/11... a bunch of Saudi Arabians, based in Florida and European nations, attacked us on 9/11. The Taliban offered to turn over Bin Ladin upon receipt of evidence that he was responsible for the attacks. The US Gov't refused. Today, EVERYONE responsible for 9/11 is DEAD or JAILED, and the US is waging ceaseless terrorist attacks on the Pashtun ethnic group of Pakistan and Afghanistan for NO APPARENT REASON. The usage of terrorist drone strikes, which have killed hundreds if not thousands of non-combatants this year, represents the kind of cowardice nominally associated with the BRAVE fighters of the so-called Taliban which resist the alien occupation of their country.

Re:infernal machines (0, Offtopic)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 4 years ago | (#29747157)

czarangelus - We've been missing you on Fark.com. Please come home.

Re:infernal machines (-1, Offtopic)

czarangelus (805501) | more than 4 years ago | (#29747181)

I'm permabanned from Fark. :)

Re:infernal machines (1)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 4 years ago | (#29747195)

I'm permabanned from Fark. :)

hmm...I wonder why.

Re:infernal machines (1)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 4 years ago | (#29747255)

Thank Goodness, no one wanted you there.

Was getting tired of seeing your posts.

Re:infernal machines (0, Flamebait)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#29747225)

Exactly so. Americans dont seem to mind killing or abusing people as long as its not their own ones. USA is still the only country that has used nuclear weapons against other nation, and while on that killed hundreds of thousands of civilians.

Re:infernal machines (1, Insightful)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 4 years ago | (#29747263)

USA is still the only country that has used nuclear weapons against other nation,

Fighting a war is bad. Very bad.
Losing a war is worse.

and while on that killed hundreds of thousands of civilians.

Compared to the *millions* killed by the other participants in that war.

Re:infernal machines (1)

agnosticnixie (1481609) | more than 4 years ago | (#29747443)

The war was nowhere on the way to be lost. Japan was desperate and the Russians were in Korea already, it took them two weeks to bring the borders of Japan back to 1910.

Re:infernal machines (3, Informative)

Whorhay (1319089) | more than 4 years ago | (#29748017)

True, but the bombs were aimed at averting the need to invade the japanese home islands. So several hundred thousand japanese civilians were killed by two bombs rather than the millions that would likely die in an invasion. That's not including the military casualties that were predicted. The Armed forces are still giving out medals that were originally produced in anticipation of that invasion. As ugly as using those bombs was the outcome isn't as bad as it could have been without them.

Re:infernal machines (1)

quantic_oscillation7 (973678) | more than 4 years ago | (#29747533)

i guess you forget the allies raids over Germany.

Re:infernal machines (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29747599)

Don't be fooled by the propaganda your government threw out at that time. Japan was tanking anyway and would have surrendered in a few months since they didn't have many ships/planes/pilots left.
The bombs were launched because the USA needed both a field test and wanted to send a message to the world. It would have sufficed to launch them a few dozen miles from the Tokyo Bay to let the enemy know the USA has bigger balls whle sparing the lives of some hundred thousands people (note that people in Japan is still dying today because of those bombs). Even a small single charge threw into the mount Fuji could have changed its shape forever. The fact that the US chose the solutions that in the end killed so may people, mostly civilians, simply shows us how the US government considers foreign human lives.

Re:infernal machines (1, Insightful)

czarangelus (805501) | more than 4 years ago | (#29747283)

What people refuse to understand is that our lives are no more important to our benevolent government than the lives of the ragheads in the mountains of Waziristan. Do you really think Obama cares about YOU? he doesn't care about human life in Pakistan or Iraq, why should he care about human life in Detriot or San Diego? The moment it becomes more profitable to have you dead than alive from the view of the US gov't, they will find a justification to be rid of you. At Waco they used army equipment against people who had committed NO CRIMES. If we do not speak out about the lives of civilians in these far-flung nations these drones will be used against us next.

Re:infernal machines (1)

bakawolf (1362361) | more than 4 years ago | (#29747397)

It is not a good idea for a parasite to kill the host.

Re:infernal machines (2, Insightful)

czarangelus (805501) | more than 4 years ago | (#29747473)

The American people were the goose who laid the golden egg. We created so much technological innovation and such fine products at such low prices that the parasite of government couldn't resist. They bled us slowly, little by little. Income tax, social security (which my generation won't see a dime of,) state income tax, sales tax, property tax, emissions tax, tax and fees on everything. They drained the productivity of the American worker for decades, but we were so strong that we could feed the parasite and ourselves. But now we are drained dry and dying, the government is throttling the golden goose screaming for more money. There is no more money. I fear that soon the government will openly attack and beat the golden goose, using violence to try to coerce us into producing even more for their use when we are tapped out. The use of LRAD on protestors and tasers on lippy grandmothers will become even more widespread, mark my words.

Re:infernal machines (4, Insightful)

czarangelus (805501) | more than 4 years ago | (#29747697)

You're mistaken. The American people don't object to the killing or abuse of their OWN people either. It is well known that American prisons are full of non-violent druggies subjected to rape, torture, and all forms of sexual violence. Instead of a national outcry against this, it is treated as a subject for late-night humor. When blacks in Oakland protest against a black boy having been murdered, shot point blank in the back while restrained on the BART - most Americans were angry at the PROTESTORS and cheered when the police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse them. Americans will only become angry when it is a friend, neighbor, or family member who is abused. Anyone else and it becomes ENTERTAINMENT. The show "Cops" exists as a voyeuristic corruption of the justice system which is obviously based on the court room in Idiocracy.

Re:infernal machines (2, Informative)

tibman (623933) | more than 4 years ago | (#29747873)

I would say that is a very common mindset and not just american. The whole "There's us.. and then there's them" thing is international. Many counties own citizens kill each other over religious disagreements (no provoking physical harm or damages). I'm not excusing the US for killing anyone, just saying it's a world mindset, not an american one.

Yes, you are right about the nukes. The US is still the only country to use nuclear weapons against another country during total war. I have no doubt that will change during the next round of total war (whenever that may be)

Re:infernal machines (-1, Troll)

czarangelus (805501) | more than 4 years ago | (#29747307)

the Truth does not care about how it is modded. it stands for itself and justifies itself against the mob.

Re:infernal machines (0, Troll)

IgnoramusMaximus (692000) | more than 4 years ago | (#29747821)

While Slashdot is international in scope, it is still predominantly a US-centric site. Expect to be moderated into oblivion. Truth hurts and US-ians want *absolutely nothing* to do with it. Avoidance of truth is precisely why they have meticulously constructed a nearly impregnable bubble of self-centered dogma around themselves.

Speaking against the policies of the USA here clashes terribly with the "national mythology" which has been methodically and insistently injected into the minds of USians for generations now, even the supposedly well educated ones who ostensibly gather at sites such as this.

It conflicts with this view of the world where they are the "Knights of Freedom in Shining Armour on White Chargers" upon whom the entire planet dearly depends for its liberties and its masses for their daily crumbs, a world in which their network of military installations in over half of the countries of the planet does not herald an Imperial ambition, like with all the other "lesser" cultures and countries past, but instead it indicates a kindly, fatherly concern for the betterment (defined as shift towards US-centric world-view) of the "poor wretches".

All and any challengers to this world-view are "evil-doers" and have to be exterminated with prejudice, no matter the number of bystanders killed in the process ... as long as they are not US citizens. In fact, very much like Ancient Rome where the citizens were a different breed from the conquered and the "ungrateful" slaves outnumbered them 3:1, the only "people" in the view of US-ians are .... US-ians. The "lesser" creatures, although not outright enslaved as Rome had it, still "enjoy" only a marginal status as "somewhat sentient" in the view of the US-ians, and they should be grateful for it, for after-all all of the positive developments in their lives can be, in the US-ian dogma, attributed directly and exclusively to the US.

I could go on, as could pretty much anyone outside the US who is not inspiring to join the global "winners" in hopes of snatching some crumbs from the feast of their upper echelons of corporate nobility, and the extent of this attitude of the US citizens is far far greater then just this. But then again one could only look at the tens of thousands of dead, hundreds of thousands of maimed and wounded and millions of dispossessed the US "liberators" (with some help from sycophantic side-kicks) have produced in just the last decade alone to get an idea...

And on the topics of the drones, everyone outside of the US should by now know quite well how they are used: to assassinate, remotely (with no regard for bystanders, due process or any of that "coddling" stuff) people whom US suspects of the greatest crime possible, in this Universe - i.e. opposing US interests. I envision, in some 30 years time, a world where hundreds of thousands of US drones roam the skies of all 3rd world nations, and a good portion of the "allied" ones, conducting "targetted assassinations", Israel-style, of anyone who dares to oppose our "kindly and magnanimous" global "benefactors". For "our own good", you understand.

Re:infernal machines (0)

czarangelus (805501) | more than 4 years ago | (#29747859)

http://www.paulgraham.com/nerds.html [paulgraham.com] Nerds are unpopular because they are pricks. Some of the meanest, most vicious and petty people I have ever met were the ones who were intelligent and well-educated.

Re:infernal machines (1)

IgnoramusMaximus (692000) | more than 4 years ago | (#29747883)

... not inspiring to join ...

Spell-checker gone bad.

Another Benefit of Traditional Planes (2, Interesting)

s31523 (926314) | more than 4 years ago | (#29747243)

After reading this I realize the not-so-obvious benefit of real planes flying around patrolling and bombing the enemy... The fear factor. As stated in the summary " Al Qaeda claims it's not all that scared of drones", which makes sense, a little spec in the sky orbiting quietly does not put the fear of God, oh sorry Allah, into the enemy. Get a couple of F35s, A10s or Apaches cruising about voila, fear is back. Intimidation is back factor in warfare. Never really thought about that aspect of an all-drone airforce...

Re:Another Benefit of Traditional Planes (4, Insightful)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 4 years ago | (#29747407)

After reading this I realize the not-so-obvious benefit of real planes flying around patrolling and bombing the enemy... The fear factor. As stated in the summary " Al Qaeda claims it's not all that scared of drones", which makes sense, a little spec in the sky orbiting quietly does not put the fear of God, oh sorry Allah, into the enemy. Get a couple of F35s, A10s or Apaches cruising about voila, fear is back. Intimidation is back factor in warfare. Never really thought about that aspect of an all-drone airforce...

I've been under an F-15 at an air show and it sounds like God just got home, especially when the afterburners light up. I can only imagine what it's like when there's no concern about popping the eardrums of those on the ground.

That being said, operationally they keep the aircraft above 20k feet specifically to avoid small arms fire. The level required to act as a psychological weapon makes them great for target practice.

Incidentally, if they're not intimidated by having antitank missiles and precision-guided bombs falling on their heads, I doubt flying any lower will do much to wilt their spirits.

Re:Another Benefit of Traditional Planes (1)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 4 years ago | (#29747573)

I've been under an F-15 at an air show and it sounds like God just got home, especially when the afterburners light up. I can only imagine what it's like when there's no concern about popping the eardrums of those on the ground.

The F-15 doesn't get much louder than what happens at an airshow. afterburner is afterburner. A Predator/Reaper is much quieter nearby, and pretty much silent at altitude.

Re:Another Benefit of Traditional Planes (5, Insightful)

Nidi62 (1525137) | more than 4 years ago | (#29747475)

The fear factor isn't from noise. It's from never seeing what platform delivered the munition. You sit a drone up at 25-30k feet, the target wont ever hear it or see it. The survivors of an attack only know that the hand of God came down upon them without any warning, no sound, and their buddies got vaporized. THIS is where you get the fear factor. The knowledge that it could come at any time, and there is no way to know when. In fact, you almost have to assume that there is a drone over you at all times, and that all it would take is the push of a button to wipe you out.

Re:Another Benefit of Traditional Planes (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29747753)

This is the same fear a sniper can have on enemy morale. What happened to Frank? Where did that come from? Wait what happened to Tom?

Re:Another Benefit of Traditional Planes (1)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | more than 4 years ago | (#29747593)

Yeah, but wait 'til those terrorists get out the nerve stapler, then watch the drones start running.

Re:Another Benefit of Traditional Planes (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 4 years ago | (#29747981)

If they're not afraid that something they cannot see, but is likely to be present, isn't about to bring in an air strike or an armed patrol... They either ain't too bright, or bullshitting.
 
While open brute intimidation is a valuable facet of the psychological side of warfare (which is different from psychological warfare), so is increasing the uncertainty and thickening the fog of war. There are different levels to the game... Open intimidation and shows of force are aimed at the tactical level, the proles and the grunts on the ground. More subtle forms of increasing friction and uncertainty are aimed at the higher levels, the leadership and the strategic planners.

The first job... (1)

olau (314197) | more than 4 years ago | (#29747261)

... where having spent countless of hours fragging others in Descent will get you hired. Scary.

Look at the USAF... (4, Interesting)

tcopeland (32225) | more than 4 years ago | (#29747301)

...Chief of Staff's reading list [militarypr...glists.com] . Short on fighter pilot stuff, long on strategy and counterinsurgency. They see the way things are going, no doubt about it.

The Wave Of The Future (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29747331)

is the past [youtube.com]

Yours In Electrogorsk [youtube.com] ,
K. Trout

why drones are so BAD (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29747357)

They're bad because one of the reasons people, soldiers included, don't like war is due to the risk of being killed. If you remove that you also remove the only motivation to stop a war or just not start it. The geek in me loves the tech involved in drones development (minus the weaponry) but my human half is scaried as hell because they represent one more step towards an endless war scenario.

Re:why drones are so BAD (1)

wh1pp3t (1286918) | more than 4 years ago | (#29747539)

Mod parent up.

This is scary as hell. When there is no risk of (negative public opinion) losing your boys while still killing theirs, there is no incentive to declare war only as a last resort.

Not that bad (4, Funny)

cromar (1103585) | more than 4 years ago | (#29747575)

On the other hand, if wars are made up of robots fighting robots, there'd be drastically lowered casualties on both sides... then, maybe, we could reduce wars to episodes of BatteBots [battlebots.com] and generate a large potential for advertising profit as the world tunes in to see the latest "war." In this way, it would be possible to turn the human craving for cyclical violence into a family friendly TV show. The advertising revenue would feed back into the "wars" much in the same manner as the current military-industrial complex uses profits from one war to develop the weapons for the next.

Re:Not that bad (3, Insightful)

Whorhay (1319089) | more than 4 years ago | (#29747845)

It'd never work because people and nations don't go to war over things they think are trivial. And if it's not trivial they are likely to fight tooth and nail for whatever their cause. This is already evident in that the terrorists have resorted to being terrorists because they do not have the resources to fight in a more traditional way on a field of battle. Even we, in the USA, did this during the Revolutionary War.

We didn't necessarily fall to the same level as the terrorists of today. But at the time shooting from any available cover, specifically targeting officers, and not forming up in ranks to exchange volleys was considered very dishonorable and unsavory by the British.

Re:Not that bad (1)

Rolgar (556636) | more than 4 years ago | (#29748113)

There is going to have to be either a threat of death (either for soldiers or civilians) or economic pain, probably above and beyond the cost of building/replacing and operating your robots. After your enemy destroys your robots, they will always have an incentive to attack your human military, economic capital, or civilian population to force you to give up more in the ensuing treaty.

Re:why drones are so BAD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29747855)

And just to add more stuff, while a drone attacks usually there are no journalists to report abuses or wrong attacks on civilians, i.e. the only data available after an attack would be what the drone cameras sent back, which of course would likely be classified or doctored to hide any wrongdoing.

Re:why drones are so BAD (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 4 years ago | (#29747933)

They're bad because one of the reasons people, soldiers included, don't like war is due to the risk of being killed.

I've heard this argument time and time again, but its plain BS

If it were true Europe would have stopped at WWI and not did WWII.

People don't mind dying... In fact if you read the memoirs of most WWII US, German, Japanese, Soviet soldiers they have no fear of death after a while and seeing dead bodies doesn't even phase them. Any grunt can have the fear of death beat out of them. Heck, nationalism, religion, and dogma can make any farm boy pick up a bayonet screaming "Urah!" For the motherland/fatherland!", "for the emperor!" into a hail of machine gun fire.

That said... Making people kill each other is a bit harder when it is in person.

Germans used to have a problem with it so badly that they issued orders that anyone caught with a cold gun during a firefight was to be court marshaled in 1945 and summarily hanged or shot. I know there was a study that shown many US soldiers did not fire on the enemy as much as originally thought.

Anyways... Wars will still be fought because politicians will order them and people will still follow them weather or not they have to do it with robots or wooden spears.

Or have you any evidence that genocide and war was any less worse during the Greek and Roman times than now?

Re:why drones are so BAD (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#29748057)

Or have you any evidence that genocide and war was any less worse during the Greek and Roman times than now?

Well, there were less people to kill back then. ;-)

Re:why drones are so BAD (1)

decipher_saint (72686) | more than 4 years ago | (#29748031)

I agree let's keep the war to good old fashioned radar guided, over the horizon artillery barrages and "precision" carpet bombing.

War is about killing the other side without getting killed yourself, it sucks, it's war.

Air power never wins wars (5, Insightful)

Nidi62 (1525137) | more than 4 years ago | (#29747419)

Air power never wins wars, and that is what drones are. It is important to have boots on the ground, especially in a counterinsurgency campaign. For most insurgencies, the recruitment pool is the citizenry within the country who are unsatisfied and discontented. If a counterinsurgent force is relying primarily on impersonal methods such as drones or air power, the local populace will never see or interact with the foot soldiers of the counterinsurgency. The only way you can beat an insurgency is by interacting with the populace within the country, to galvanize support for the counterinsurgency campaign. If all you do is bomb people from the air you are going to get eh exact opposite effect. Without boots on the ground, you will not get proper intel. As such, there is a higher likelihood of collateral damage. When surprise attacks indiscriminately kill both combatants and civilians, you lose what little support you may have had. You have to go out there into the bush at the squad or platoon level and interact with local leaders, repair damage from both insurgent and counterinsurgent attacks, give little kids food/medical attention. You build up a rapport with people, and they will work with you. Otherwise, they are more likely to see you as the enemy instead of the insurgents. It may not be the newest, sexiest piece of technology, but it works. And you cant be afraid to have people out in harm's way. You have to have men getting in firefights, so the locals see you actually taking an interest in protecting their towns, their fields, their families. If this doesn't happen, you will lose.

Re: Air power never wins wars (4, Insightful)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 4 years ago | (#29747729)

Air power never wins wars

That's the one lesson that nations can't seem to learn.

Without boots on the ground, you will not get proper intel. As such, there is a higher likelihood of collateral damage. When surprise attacks indiscriminately kill both combatants and civilians, you lose what little support you may have had.

This is the key. As long as we keep blowing up women and children, we're making more enemies than we kill.

The West (including Israel) have a blind spot, thinking "collateral casualties don't count". But to the people on the receiving end, their family is just as dead as if we had deliberately blown up their skyscrapers.

Whatever else our new strategy entails, "no civilian casualties" needs to be the cornerstone, or we're never going to win.

\rant

Re: Air power never wins wars (2, Interesting)

agnosticnixie (1481609) | more than 4 years ago | (#29747833)

I'd be tempted to say there's a good half of the west that doesn't have this luxurious blindspot America has. If anything big we to happen, they were on the frontline. Casualty previsions from the cold war in European countries basically ran in the high 80% range, and I'm pretty sure most major powers (India, China, Japan, the Soviets) in Eurasia had pretty similar things - sure, there's probably some of it in what are considered "side conflicts", but that blind spot is something you can't afford to have when you're not sitting an ocean away from where the shit will inevitably hit the fan.

Re: Air power never wins wars (1)

agnosticnixie (1481609) | more than 4 years ago | (#29747847)

I know, replying to oneself is tacky, but "basically ran in the high 80% range" - for first strike estimates and one week after, they got worse.

Re:Air power never wins wars (1)

jmichaelg (148257) | more than 4 years ago | (#29747743)

Not only are boots on the ground important, but you have to have enough to hold the territory you've gained. It was a hard lesson from the Iraq war that this administration doesn't appear to have learned.

Michael Yon [michaelyon-online.com] has a great, non-partisan, blog on the war in Afghanistan. Yon is a blogger who used to be a Special Forces member and can see situations developing years before most folks can.

Well if we fought them like the good old days (1)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 4 years ago | (#29747861)

I would not agree. However in this day and age where we handicap our side in every war you point is true.

bombing a population into submission works, it broke the back of the Germans and Japanese. It is far cheaper in manpower expenditure on our side to demoralize an enemy than befriend them. Yet we choose the later and put more people into direct risk.

I really think we would get seriously hurt in any real conflict as it would take a large population center being affected before we could fight like we had to. Perhaps that is the problem, in many cases today we don't really need to be in the fight in the first place. We had it right after 9/11 but lost it after countless "what ifs" and such by press and pundit. We lost it because don't have the patience for the long run nor did we feel the risk after so many years. Bush lost the effectiveness of 9/11 with the "mission accomplished" crap and really for many that removed the "pressing need".

Drones are great tools of assassins. I guess if the new face of war needs an association that is negative I would give it that. Now we will just hunt and peck at the enemy while he does the same to us and prolong things for dozens of years. The public now wants wars akin to Star Trek episodes, done in an hour with the nitty gritty done in the last ten minutes and everyone patting themselves on the back about how good they were.

Cliches never wins wars (0)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#29747999)

There are plenty of examples of wars won by air power. The Second World War, the Korean War, the Yom Kippur War, the Persian Gulf War, and the recent invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Sure there's no examples of air power winning wars all by itself, but that's not the point. Boots on the ground with a lot of air support beat boots on the ground.

Re:Air power never wins wars (0)

dave562 (969951) | more than 4 years ago | (#29748005)

You bring up good points. The Afghani people want security. The Taliban gave them security. The Taliban defeated the Russians. Up until 9/11, the Afghani people weren't dealing with war on a day to day basis. The Taliban are the force in Afghanistan. They have the popular support of the people. They are providing the services to the people. It's absolutely insane to think that the United States and NATO can dislodge al Qaeda and separate them from the Taliban. Mullah Omar and the Taliban stood strong next to bin Laden and al Qaeda when it seemed like the United States was going to wipe them out. Here we are 8 years later and the Taliban are stronger than ever. If they didn't give up supporting al Qaeda when they were threatened with losing it all, there is no way they are going to give up on al Qaeda now that it's obvious they're winning.

As another poster mentioned, the whole point of keeping American troops in Afghanistan is to expand the empire. We need a presence in Central Asia to mitigate Russian and Chinese influence. We need access to the resources. al Qaeda and the Taliban are just excuse for us to be there. We lose more people in traffic accidents every year than died on 9/11, but we aren't declaring a war on automobiles.

Sex with sheep (5, Funny)

Dan East (318230) | more than 4 years ago | (#29747423)

From page 4:

Indeed, they see many things meant to be secret, like men having sex with sheep and goats in the deep of night. I first heard this from infantry soldiers and took it as rumor, but at Bagram I met a civilian contractor who works in UAV operations. "All the time," he said. "They just don't think we can see them."

Re:Sex with sheep (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29747701)

Hopefully these are not brought into sovereign US soil because I certainly wouldn't want my privacy compromised by perverts watching me have sex with my lovely goats.

Re:Sex with sheep (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#29747907)

As long as you don't have sex with sheep, you'll be ok.

BurpPhase (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29747645)

Drone planes....the most pussified, cowardice occupation ever conceived. I guess we know why their are so many RPG games available, complete with Network capability logging really "talented" gamers.

How indifferent will such a "pilot" be after a few months of "missions".

SMDH...Police in my neighborhood have been hanging Anti-Violence posters everywhere. Laughable considering our history.

It's when they try to mate with the 747s that... (1)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | more than 4 years ago | (#29747827)

it disturbs me.

i read this somewhere (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29747939)

Ender's Game

Reaper? How 'bout Cheaper? (1)

Bob9113 (14996) | more than 4 years ago | (#29748037)

Looks like these Reaper drones are the real wave of the future, eh?

At $10.9m, I'd rather see them going cheaper, and deploying more. Having seen the advances in home-built drones at Maker Faire and on RCGroups and having done a little myself, that price is absolutely ludicrous. You need $10.9m aircraft to reduce the risk that the components (or humans, if manned) will be lost in combat or fall into enemy hands. But if you use cheap commodity components, you don't need it to survive.

I do think there is a role for Reapers -- send them in for advanced missions and when you need to shoot. But for getting a look at the bad guys without putting anyone in harm's way? A $2k tricked out R/C airplane will get you there.

Nice side bonus: If you have a lot more planes, you can give more soldiers stick time. Not that war is fun, but if you're going to be in a war, it's nice to have a productive diversion.

"The real wave of the future" is your humiliation (1)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 4 years ago | (#29748083)

Looks like these Reaper drones are the real wave of the future, eh

"The real wave of the future" is complete and utter humiliation of the aggressors in this world and the Hereafter. Don't you forget that, all people with morality based on computer games.

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