DRONES IN THE HUNT FOR AL-QAEDA
The CIA and the United States Air Force are fast turning the tables on terrorists, making their lives ones of imminent death, uncertainty, and unpredictability. In no small measure their success lies in an ever expanding reliance on robotic warfare, on drones that maintain constant surveillance of suspected targets and can deliver laser guided munitions within seconds of the command to fire.
The CIA and the United States Air Force are investing billions to increase the number and improve the technological capabilities of hundreds of Predator and Reaper drones, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) flying in the skies of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Operated for take-off and landing from in-theater bases, pilots stationed in Langley, Virginia at the CIA and in Indian Springs, Nevada operate the drones around the clock in the search for terrorists, Taliban, and other enemies of the United States. UAVs permit constant eye-in-the-sky observation of terrorists, largely invisible presence, and rapid kill capabilities. UAVs are part of a major change in battlefield operations now underway as American forces become leaner, more agile, and far more ubiquitous in trouble zones; depend on far fewer Americans in theater; and permit dogged pursuit of the enemy until it is eliminated.
Drones already crowd the skies over the northeastern border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan where Al-Qaeda leaders are believed camped. The military and intelligence communities are fast at work trying to expand the visual camera field. They are working to gather more data despite being overwhelmed already by the data drones retrieve. A single day of drone operations creates enough data to fill every CD and DVD ever created. Approximately nineteen specialists must work to evaluate intelligence derived from just one drone. The military and intelligence communities aim to develop software that will sift through the mountains of data for usable intelligence at a much faster rate, so that those called to evaluate the intelligence have a narrower field of relevant information to assess, and can better target drone operations.
In the near future, drones will crowd not only the air but also the land. Unmanned, camouflaged robotic artillery of different sizes and capabilities will crawl over enemy terrain and will be far more integrated with air and remote operations. For example, in addition to cameras capable of drawing near images of potential targets on the ground in a much larger swath than is now common, drones will employ more sophisticated eavesdropping equipment, will rely on multiple and varied weapon systems, will receive intelligence from and will deliver it to ground forces in-theater, will communicate select data from multiple air and land drones to remote pilots instantaneously, and will permit coordinated attacks by several drones in the air and on the land against single targets, ensuring application of immediate and overwhelming force when needed to eliminate an enemy fleeing assault in several directions.
Imagine a terrorist holed up with his cronies in some cave in the northeastern border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Assume that a UAV has been tracking the occasional movement of a suspect but the UAV pilot was only able to confirm the suspect’s terrorist status shortly before the terrorist entered the apparent safety of a deep rock dwelling. New forces will be able to launch from the drone or from air power in the region unmanned land rovers that will be able to encircle suspected encampments, conduct eavesdropping, and be guided into underground hide-outs to detonate weapons calculated to destroy or entomb the enemy without risking a single American life, all the while UAVs will fly overhead at some 30,000 to 40,000 feet, ready to unleash hellfire missiles if any terrorist reaches the surface. That truly horrific prospect will soon exist for those who would kill Americans.
The new world of military robotics is defining a way for the United States to seek out and destroy terrorist targets whenever they appear and wherever they are in the world. As the technology continues to become more sophisticated and operates unceasingly, terrorists will face their worst nightmare. They will be beset by thousands of intelligent kill machines that will endlessly track them until they are destroyed.
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Thanks to extraordinary drone technology, we are fast turning the table on terrorists, making them everywhere the hunted instead of opportunistic hunters and leaving them no safe haven. It is precisely this kind of relentless pursuit of the enemy that will do more to neutralize the threat of terror than any simply defensive means one might imagine.
© 2010 Jonathan W. Emord - All Rights Reserved