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  • Ved Shah

Global Warfare: Drones Usher in the New Frontier

Bayraktars. TB2’s. Predators. Reapers. Drones go by a myriad of names and, on account of their affordability and accessibility, they are becoming increasingly prevalent among all countries, regardless of their economic status. Drones are cheaper by far, and it can be devastating to a country’s military budget not to employ this technology in contemporary warfare.

The Atlantic contributing writer Mark Boudin, author of Black Hawk Down, stresses how drones are enormously efficient and threatening to enemy terrain and personnel in modern warfare. In fact, their accuracy is such that they can target indispensable and vital facilities—electrical plants and water systems—with pinpoint precision. Although Ukraine and Russia have a vast artillery of rockets and cruise missiles, they prefer to use drones simply for their dispensability. 

Not only are they accurate and cheap but the UAVs are also unmanned and stealthy. These drones are often misconstrued as birds flying in a V formation because of their velocity and altitude off the ground. In an effort to boost this aerial masquerade, they are often launched in bunches to mimic birds flying in flocks.

Since drones tend to be more affordable than a Tomahawk Cruise Missile Mark IV ($2 Million) or an Evolved Sea Sparrow ($1.8 Million), the cutting-edge T-600 Torpedo Drone and other amphibious drones are leveling the playing field when it comes to international warfare.  Although the T-600 is still in its experimental stages, one could posit that its cost will be a fraction of that of the Tomahawk or Sparrow. 

With budgetary considerations and warfare competition forefront in mind, it is imperative for the United States to engage in further research and development in this area of defense. Drones have now become indispensable tools of warfare that are cheap and versatile. This has led to huge militaries such as the US’s, down to small militias such as the Houthi’s, acquiring cutting-edge drone technology. 

No limits. No borders. No hefty prices. Drones are accessible to nearly any country. Dollar for dollar, drones are more affordable for small countries and are easier to purchase when compared to expensive aircrafts and missiles. Instead of acquiring an expensive cruise missile, for example, a country could purchase a suicide drone for a fraction of the price, generating more damage whilst upholding more accuracy. Populous countries such as Russia use these drones en masse,  purchasing them from Iran.

According to and the global research site, based in Washington, D.C., the total number of drones owned by Russia is approximately 15,000, while endeavoring to construct an additional 13,000 this year, thereby approaching 30,000 drones in total by the end of 2024. The United States, on the other hand, has 11,000 drones in its Military, 3,000 of which are large drones such as The Reaper, and 8,000 of which are handheld micros.  

Currently, China has 10,000 drones, according to estimates, and is the number one drone producing-exporting country worldwide. Although this numeration status quo is not impressive, Jamestown research forecasts China amassing by 2025 an additional half a million drones by converting them from civilian and commercial use. China’s potential proliferation is especially worrisome for us in the US: a clear admonition that we should ramp up drone research, development, and production. 

Given these numerations, it is clear that the United States must continue to advance its arsenal to remain a formidable world player in the theater of international defense. The US is in its experimental stage of infantry drones, which could situate the United States at a disadvantage as its micro drones are merely in their tinkering stages. A shortfall of these drones could cost lost battles and, ultimately, American lives.

The most vivid example of how drones are used today is within the battlespace of Ukraine. There, drones are used in every way possible be it surveillance, bombing, or suicide attacks. Ukraine loses up to 10,000 drones every month but is still able to sustain the intense fighting. A notable example of how drones are used in Ukraine is the process by which civilian or hobby drones are transformed into weapons of war. These regular commercial drones are modified until they are capable of knocking out infantry and destroying tanks. Even though the drones are remote-operated, the war has every Ukranian’s hand involved, as demonstrated by this very public and televised war. 

Another modern battle stage heavily utilizing drones is The Middle East. Drones are most active in the battlespace of Yemen, and are used abundantly by both US forces and opposing Houthi forces. Drones play an especially integral role in the Houthi war plan as they are used extensively to attack civilian cargo and US warships. One such example of a Houthi drone is the Sammad, available as Models I, II and III, all of which can carry payloads up to ranges of 1,500 kilometers. Given these paramaters, the Houthis can attack countries outside of Yemen–such as Saudi Arabia–with ease. Sammad Models are also made in-house by the terrorist group, showing how cheap and easy they are to mass produce.

As small and unthreatening looking as a child’s plastic toy, the army green Black Hornet is a micro drone with two propellers, weighing 18 grams–the weight of a house mouse. It can fly up to 13 miles per hour. Equipped with a data-gathering range of one mile and night vision, the Black Hornet takes live photos and videos. The US owns roughly 10% of the Black Hornet arsenal, and the remaining Hornets are part of NATO and its allies armory.

Given the Black Hornet’s functionality, this Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) is strategically geared for intelligence gathering and esoteric surveillance. Without a doubt, drones are here to stay, and the United States must match–or surpass–the production of infantry drones of that of other countries. 

Whilst most people imagine combat care on the battlefield as Humvees with red crosses and medics darting from corner to corner, the future might be strikingly different. As previously discussed, drones are becoming a much more fundamental part of modern warfare and may start to affect the medical side of battle. Research is increasingly funded to support drone programs that allow drones to transport blood bags or bullets to battlefields. Some can even imagine drones that can evacuate wounded troops or resuscitate a heartbeat, using an on-board defibrillator.  

Vital necessities such as medicine, water, tourniquets, pain relievers, and antibiotics can also be delivered by medical drones. In delivering these essential supplies, drones can circumvent obstacles such as inclement weather, rough terrain, and harsh travel conditions. 

Indubitably, the theatre of global armed conflict has changed tremendously over the past several years, in no small part due to the factor of drone warfare. From the standpoint of the United States, a critical recommendation is to increase its fleet of drones. The US military must exploit new combat technology in order to protect its domestic infrastructure, its international interests, and its citizens.

Photo by ZenaDrone / ZenaDrone, Inc. Futuristic vision of a drone that can transport supplies to troops on the frontlines whilst not having to land and take off from a runway.

Photo by Bennie Davis III / Air Force Magazine These American stealth bombers are the B-2 Spirit (left), shown on a runway at Anderson Air Force Base in Guam, sitting beside a B-21 Raider (right).

Photo by Daniel Wiepen / This tiny drone, used by UK forces abroad since 2011, was retired from service in 2017. New military product orders suggest the Black Hornet is about to be reintroduced into the UK Army.


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