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How War Drones Are Changing the Battlefield in Ukraine and Beyond


War Drone: Definition, History, Types, and Future




War drones are unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that are used for military purposes. They can perform various functions such as intelligence gathering, surveillance, reconnaissance, target acquisition, decoy, electronic warfare, research and development, or attack. War drones have evolved from simple pilotless vehicles to sophisticated systems that can operate with varying levels of autonomy. War drones have advantages and disadvantages in different scenarios. They can reduce the risk to human pilots, increase the accuracy and efficiency of strikes, extend the range and endurance of operations, and lower the cost and complexity of warfare. However, they can also raise ethical, legal, and moral issues, such as civilian casualties, extrajudicial killings, sovereignty violations, and accountability gaps. They can also face technical, operational, and strategic challenges, such as cyberattacks, jamming, countermeasures, detection, regulation, and escalation. War drones are likely to become more prevalent in the future, as technology advances and new trends emerge. Some of these trends include drone swarms, artificial intelligence, and diversification of drone domains.




war drone



What is a war drone?




A war drone is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that is used for military purposes. A UAV is an aircraft that has no onboard human pilot or passengers. It can be controlled remotely by a human operator or autonomously by an onboard computer. A war drone is also known as an unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) or a combat drone. A war drone can perform various functions such as intelligence gathering, surveillance, reconnaissance, target acquisition, decoy, electronic warfare, research and development, or attack. A war drone can carry sensors, cameras, radars, lasers, communication devices, or weapons such as missiles, bombs, or guns. A war drone can operate in different modes such as manual, semi-autonomous, or fully autonomous. A war drone can vary in size, shape, design, and speed. Some examples of war drones are the MQ-9 Reaper, the X-47B, the CH-5 Rainbow, and the Taranis.


How did war drones evolve?




War drones have a long and complex history that spans over a century. They have evolved from simple pilotless vehicles to sophisticated systems that can operate with varying levels of autonomy. Here is a brief summary of the historical development of war drones from the 19th century to the present day.


The first experiments with pilotless vehicles




The idea of using unmanned vehicles for military purposes dates back to the 19th century. In 1849, Austria used balloons filled with explosives to bomb Venice during the First Italian War of Independence. In 1898, Nikola Tesla demonstrated a radio-controlled boat that he envisioned as a weapon of war. In 1916, Archibald Low invented the first radio-controlled aircraft, which he called the "Aerial Target" and intended to use as a flying bomb. In 1917, Charles Kettering developed the "Kettering Bug", a biplane that could carry a 180-pound bomb and fly to a predetermined target using a gyroscope and a barometer. In 1944, Nazi Germany deployed the V-1 flying bomb and the V-2 rocket, which were the first cruise missiles and ballistic missiles respectively.


The rise of modern military drones




The advancement of drone technology and capabilities accelerated during the Cold War and the War on Terror. In 1959, the U.S. Air Force initiated the Red Wagon program to develop unmanned reconnaissance aircraft that could fly over the Soviet Union and China. In 1964, the U.S. Navy launched the first successful strike by a drone when it used a QH-50 DASH helicopter to attack a North Vietnamese radar site. In 1973, Israel used drones to deceive and jam Syrian air defenses during the Yom Kippur War. In 1982, Israel used drones to locate and destroy Syrian surface-to-air missiles during the Lebanon War. In 1986, the U.S. Air Force deployed the MQ-1 Predator, which was the first drone to combine reconnaissance and strike capabilities. In 2001, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency launched the first lethal drone strike against a terrorist target in Afghanistan. In 2013, the U.S. Navy successfully landed the X-47B, which was the first stealthy and autonomous drone to operate from an aircraft carrier.


The proliferation of war drones




The spread of drone warfare to various countries and regions has increased in recent years, especially in the Middle East and Africa. According to a report by New America, as of June 2021, there have been at least 14 countries that have conducted lethal drone strikes: the United States, the United Kingdom, Israel, Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Nigeria, Libya, Egypt, Azerbaijan, and Armenia. According to another report by Drone Wars UK, as of March 2020, there have been at least 102 countries that have military drones in their inventory: 21 with armed drones and 81 with unarmed drones. According to a third report by Bard College's Center for the Study of the Drone, as of January 2020, there have been at least 95 non-state actors that have used drones for military purposes: 67 with improvised or commercial drones and 28 with military-grade drones.


war drone with laser-guided bomb


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war drone features and specifications What are the main types of war drones?




War drones can be classified according to their function, size, design, and autonomy. Here is a table that summarizes the main types of war drones and their characteristics:


Function


Size


Design


Autonomy


Intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and target acquisition (ISR/TA) drones


Small to large


Fixed-wing or rotary-wing


Manual or semi-autonomous


Decoy and electronic warfare (EW) drones


Small to medium


Fixed-wing or rotary-wing


Semi-autonomous or fully autonomous


Research and development (R&D) drones


Small to large


Various


Semi-autonomous or fully autonomous


Attack or strike drones


Medium to large


Fixed-wing or rotary-wing


Semi-autonomous or fully autonomous


Intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and target acquisition (ISR/TA) drones




ISR/TA drones are used for gathering information, identifying targets, and directing attacks. They can carry sensors, cameras, radars, lasers, communication devices, or other equipment that can collect and transmit data. They can also provide guidance for other drones or manned aircraft that are conducting strikes. ISR/TA drones can operate in different environments and altitudes, depending on their mission and design. Some examples of ISR/TA drones are the RQ-4 Global Hawk, the MQ-9 Reaper, the RQ-170 Sentinel, and the CH-4 Rainbow.


Decoy and electronic warfare (EW) drones




EW drones are used for deception, jamming, hacking, or spoofing enemy systems. They can carry devices that can emit signals, noises, or images that can confuse or mislead enemy radars, sensors, communication networks, or weapons. They can also carry devices that can interfere with or take over enemy systems by hacking, spoofing, or injecting malware. EW drones can operate in different domains and dimensions, such as air, land, sea, space, or cyberspace. Some examples of EW drones are the ADM-160 MALD, the AN/ALQ-184(V), the Harpy NG, and the Dark Sword.


Research and development (R&D) drones




R&D drones are used for testing new technologies, concepts, or tactics. They can carry experimental equipment or systems that can demonstrate new capabilities or features. They can also simulate different scenarios or situations that can evaluate new strategies or methods. R&D drones can operate in different modes and conditions, depending on their purpose and design. Some examples of R&D drones are the X-45A UCAV, the X-47B UCAS-D, the Taranis, and the nEUROn.


Attack or strike drones




Attack or strike drones are used for launching missiles, bombs, or other weapons against enemy targets. They can carry various types of munitions that can destroy


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