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The Drone: A Cost Effective Method to Fight a War in 21st Century

MG is a senior air warrior who is an alumnus of the Staff College and a notable writer on military history.




The drone is a cost-effective method of inflicting comprehensive damage to an enemy. It is a pilot-less aircraft that is radio controlled and carries a lethal arsenal of bombs or other incendiary material. The drone is the latest technological innovation in warfare and is a force multiplier. Most countries in the world would love to have a drone and India is no exception.

Drones have been part of warfare since the 19th century, arguably, when the Austrians used pilotless hot-air balloons to bomb Venice. Development of pilotless flying machines such as those operated today began almost as soon as the Wright brothers demonstrated powered flight with the first remote control planes developed during the First World War.

Aviation remained in its infancy till it bloomed in the Second World War. The Germans had a Headstart and launched the V2 rocket attacks on London but the war had been lost by then.

One major tactic that emerged during World War II is the Blitzkrieg or the lightning war concept. In fact, it meant a massive ground trust with armor supported by dive bombers that created a favorable air situation.

Had the start of the Cold War both Russian and American scientists what convinced that work with the fort without loss of human life by unmanned drones. These are radio-controlled machines that can fly low and are pretty small in size and thus not a viable target for enemy guns or aircraft. Many military papers were written on the subject and the Americans took the lead by making use of drones for pinpoint precession attacks. Israel which felt threatened by the Arab world was also able with the help of American technology to perfect some excellent drones.

The Americans and the Israelis were using drones for attacking individuals and terrorist leaders. But a new dimension was created only in the recent war between Azerbaijan and Armenia. In this war, a massive number of drones running into tens and hundreds were used by Azerbaijan against the tanks and artillery of Armenia. The effect was devastating and resulted in a complete route of the Armenia army. Suddenly it has dawned on most people in the world that this is an excellent cost-effective method of not only fighting a war but winning it.

Indian Drone

The Indian and Chinese armies adopted this new concept a little later mainly because there was an abundance of manpower with both countries. The Indians have now started laying stress on the manufacture of drones. DRDO (Defence Department of research and Development) is the apex organization that is conducting research in this field. The Indian effort is assisted by Israel and as per reports, the Indian drone should is ready for test trials by the end of the year. Russia and China are also in this field, but it will be some time before they can perfect one for combat duty. It is no surprise that the Iranians are also in this field trying to get their act going from pieces of a captured American drone.


The Drone as a Force Multiplier

Clausewitz in his principles of war has enunciated surprise and concentration of force as a principle of war. The drone effectively fulfills this axiom. It is a surprise weapon that can strike an enemy at its power and decision making center like a war council meeting. This can have a devastating effect and it is on record the Americans have been able to wipe out many top leaders in the echelons of the enemy forces like Taliban and al Qaeda. The Iranian warlord Suleiman who was operating in Iraq was taken out by a drone attack. The recent killing of the chief Iranian scientist carrying out research in the atom bomb was also assassinated by a procession attack from a drone most likely an Israeli one.

The real value of the drone has however come only in the recent conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Generals, the world over have realized that if you could release 1000 drones over an enemy the battle would be more than won.

It is also a weapon that is cost-effective. Its operation results in incalculable damage to an enemy with minimal loss of manpower and other factors. Thus a pilot-less drone can be an effective method, without putting soldiers at risk. A drone can achieve results quicker and is more effective than many platoons of soldiers who may be assigned for the same task.

The USA is successful in its fight against terror in the Middle East and NW Pakistan because of the drone attacks. India is also gearing to use the drone against Islamic militants holed up in the mountains of Kashmir. But it must be appreciated that the world over really never realized the potential of drones as an offensive weapon in a major conventional conflict. This realization has come now and the concept of war in the years to come is going to be a lot different.

The Drone and Collateral Damage

Many people are against the use of the drone as it may result in collateral damage by the killing of some people who may be in the vicinity of the terror leaders. This is something that has two sides of a coin, for most terror groups make civilians including women and children as a shield while conducting their meetings to plan attacks. They themselves have no compunction in killing civilians and children. An example is the suicide bombers being used by the Taliban and al Qaeda, some of whom are just children.

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Against such an enemy that has no principles, it is an act of god to use the drone against them. I am afraid collateral damage cannot be avoided. To date, a mere 5000 people have been killed in drone attacks, while dropping the A-bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima which killed 200,000 is justified on the ground that it brought Japan to the surrender table. Where does one draw the line?

There is a possibility in conventional war that masses of drones could be used to attack the enemy. The drone as we know is pilotless and relatively cheap to build and if a thousand drones are launched against the enemy and even if a hundred or 200 are shot down still you would have a massive number of missiles and rockets being rained on the enemy.


Last Word

The drone is being extensively used by the United States for a variety of tasks. It is used to hit targets in the restive northwest Frontier of Pakistan and Afghanistan. It is also in use in Yemen. The US security apparatus is also using the drone to spy on US citizens to detect potential terrorists and groups. . It is the weapon of the 21st century. The drone can however have severe limitations as it cannot by itself win a war.

The drone is good for precision target attacks, but to win the war the infantry soldier must hold the ground. In that respect, the infantry soldier remains the kingpin of any combat. The drones could destroy the tanks. soldiers, and guns but the infantry soldier will have to move in to occupy the land. This is precisely what happened in the recent conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia. After the headlong retreat of the Armenia army, the infantry of Azerbaijan moved in to occupy the areas held by Armenia.

There is presently no real defense against a swarm of drones attacking but I have a feeling that within a few seasons the scientists of the United States, China, and other countries will be able to come up with electronic measures to blunt drone attacks. The country with the superior technology will win the next war.


MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on December 29, 2020:

Osman, thank you for commenting

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on December 29, 2020:

When I was in the UAE I had purchased the photo drone which could go up to the height of 1000 feet and take excellent photographs. Comparatively the the technology is cheap. The Indian general as far as I understand had not caught on to electronic warfare and that is the reason they had not laid out the fiber cables in Ladakh which the Chinese had done it a year back. The Americans have been using the drone with telling effect and many leaders of the terrorists have been taken out by precession firing from drones. The drone technology has multiple uses and it is about time the Indian R and D got into the act. So far their output is pretty poor.

Osman Ghazi on December 29, 2020:


MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on December 29, 2020:

Thank you Tom. You have mentioned a hell of a lot of things to counter arm drones. That's going to cost a lot of money and I don't think the Indians have it. In contrast china has deep pockets and I understand they are now concentrating on more drones.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on December 29, 2020:

Thank you, Peggy ,it's so nice that you commented.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on December 29, 2020:

As you said in the end, developments in technology will determine winners and losers. This affects all aspects of life, not just warfare. I would like to think that technological advances with drones will be used more in peaceful pursuits in the years to come. That is already happening in some areas.

tom on December 29, 2020:

we need more low level qr sams ,manpads,quad barell guns,laser mountings,adges has gaps ,low levelad radars ,more awacs,indeaquate number of drones,need armed drones,spyder and s500 combination,mobile observer units .raf had observer corps

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on December 29, 2020:

R Mehra, thank you for reading and commenting

R Mehra on December 29, 2020:

The drone has opened up exciting possibilities in air warfare. it is the latest advent in technology for execution of remote control war and this is just the beginning and time to come we will be seeing many more innovations.

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