a drone

The United States Army is looking for Suicide Drones! Or to put it mildly, they want cheap attack UAVs that they can afford to lose in battle!


MQ-9 reaper
A fully armed MQ-9 Reaper taxis down an Afghanistan runway. Source: WikiMedia


Compared to manned flights, military unmanned aerial vehicles are safer and  cheaper. Well, compared to $148 million+ for the Air Force’s F35A, a Reaper sets the US tax payers back by about $13 million. That’s 11 times less, but still a big figure! So the military wants something that still hits the targets, but also is okay if lost in battle. At least that’s the rationale behind the “Low Cost Attritable Strike UAS Demonstration,” posted online on the 4th of June 2015. To encourage the design of an inexpensive and deadly drone, the federal government is willing to reimburse up to $7,450,000 for developing the concept in a month.


The solicitation notes that aircraft are increasingly costly, so the USAF needs drones that “provide dramatic reductions in cost with a purpose to bring ‘mass’ to the engagement, and obtain a cost imposing impact on future adversaries.” Which is to say: a good quantity of drones which can be low-cost enough so that it really becomes costly to shoot all of them down. The solicitation goes on to say that these drones will not be designed for the lengthy haul. Traditionally, drones are designed like other Air Force aircraft, dependable and with a protracted life expectancy, however the Air Force desires to chill out these requirements for a low-cost drone, to give them something useful at a much lower cost.


How much lower? While it is difficult to say what’s low cost in a service that views $148 million fighter jets as essential, experts anticipate that the value of the drone would be between Half a Million Dollars to a Million Dollars, the cost of a cruise missile.


We’ve seen indicators of this coming. DARPA is exploring airborne aircraft carriers, where cheaper cargo planes launch wings of drones. In addition, DARPA is engaged on a system for drones hunting in packs, as lethal robotic groups in hostile skies. Honestly, the strategy wouldn’t be a lot different than what the militants have ladopted lately, Suicide Bombing. It’s almost impossible to stop a person who has decided to sacrifice himself for the “sake of greater good” (or Kamikaze, as they were known in World War II). With the advent of these drones, the cost of suicide bombings will be greatly reduced! The robot’s won’t mind giving up their lives for the State (as long as they don’t develop AI… or will they?)


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