The first swarm of fifty drones managed by a single operator was successfully tested this past week. “Gee, that’s neat.” Techies seem pretty excited about the news. Others might wonder: “Why would anyone want to launch and manage fifty drones simultaneously?”
Swarms have been developed for the US Navy and are touted as important for providing 360 degree situational awareness in the theater of combat. Of course, today’s “no boots battlefields” have no US soldiers on them at all. In fact, one of the main reasons for the development of robotic and semi-robotic means of warfare is to spare human soldiers the risk of death.
The most likely immediate application of these new swarms will therefore be to have them sweep in and provide a better look at the buildings and groups about to be taken out by missiles launched from larger drones. Perhaps they will offer badly needed assistance in avoiding the slaughter of women, children, and hostages. Unfortunately, greater “situational awareness” will do nothing to circumvent the problem of distinguishing innocent suspects from empirically indistinguishable evil terrorists.
The current approach, simply defining all military-age males as fair game for slaughter, ignores the possibility of nonthreatening men such as journalists, doctors, farmers, storekeepers, teachers, and many others, in so-called hostile areas. The assumption appears to be that all of those men are leading dual lives. Deep down inside, they must all terrorists. Why else would they be located in hostile territories?
The journalists who courageously penetrate these areas to investigate the depredation caused by drone strikes are all propagandists and “Al Qaeda media fronts”. The farmers and shopkeepers are “associates” who feed the terrorists. The doctors are “associates” who treat the terrorists. The teachers are “associates” who recruit children to take up the jihad cause, often to avenge the deaths of their fathers “splashed” by Hellfire missiles.
Previous generations of drones were not initially weaponized, but later they came to be. Given the lethal centrism of the US government, the next logical step for swarms will be to weaponize them for combat deployment. Now that the killing of human beings is sought as an end in itself, and a “take no prisoners” stance has been wholeheartedly embraced by political elites, it’s hard to believe that swarms will not be armed and deployed to kill. The only real question is: How?
The size of Zephyr drones is quite small relative to the Predator, Reaper and Global Hawk drones, to which Hellfire missiles are conveniently affixed. Will tiny micro-missiles be developed? Or will swarms be weaponized to disperse chemicals or perhaps cluster bombs? The sky is the limit, given the development of so many creative means of homicide by the ever-innovative weapons industry. Configurationally, drone swarms bear some similarity to cluster bombs, which fire deadly chain-reaction munitions over large areas, killing or maiming numerous people with a single launch. Perhaps the swarms will be weaponized with chemical agents of some sort.
Whatever the ammunition to be fired from swarms of drones, it seems safe to say that somewhere in the dark entrails of DARP someone with a hefty grant is working on it right now. About the lethal future of drone swarms, there can be little doubt.
For more information and related criticism, see We Kill Because We Can, Chapter 4: Lethal Creep; and Chapter 11: Death and Taxes