Drones are unmanned combat aerial vehicles that carry ordinances like missiles and bombs for deployment and strikes. Drones do not have an onboard pilot, and most are too small to allow that. Today, many countries across the world are harnessing drones to empower their military with a more sophisticated warfare technique. Learn about the countries leading the change in this article.
A Brief History Of Drone Warfare
The first mention of drones dates back to 1940 when Lee de Forest, an inventor, and engineer, presented an article on unmanned vehicles. The first tangible drone was assembled in 1973 by a Canadian Physicist and hobbyist John Stuart Foster who was able to make one that could stay airborne for 2hrs and could carry a 28-pound load. As it is with every significant invention, the military will always try to find ways of converting any useful technology into a weapon. It did not take long for the military to develop the technology into a lethal weapon that is now driving wars. Israel became the first country to utilize drones in combat in 1960 against Egypt. It was an unprecedented success that brought the world's attention to the new technology. The countries at the forefront of drone-led warfare include the following.
Future Leaders In Drone Warfare
United States Of America
After witnessing what drones can do in the Israel-Egypt war, America immediately set in motion to further build and develop its drone technology. Now the US is at the top of the world as the most advanced country in drone technology. Every American service units employ the use of drones for precise strikes and communications relay. Some of the most successful drone strikes include the ones used against Iraq, Pakistan terrorists, the Al Qaeda in Yemen, Syria, Somalia, and Afghanistan. The American drone stockpile is forecast to hit 1000 by the year 2028.
For a while now, China has tried to muscle itself to the top with varying degrees of success. Drone technology is one of the areas that China is trying to keep up with world leaders such as the USA. Massive investment in developing their drones has accelerated in the last decade in both state-funded defence enterprises and private contractors. The diversification has enabled Chinese military with so many options, which they are utilizing to counter terrorism within its borders. China is expected to have at least 68 heavy drones by 2028. China also is the leading manufacturer of drones in the world.
Russia lagged behind other military powerful nations to incorporate technology into their defences, and this changed in the early 2000s when they officially entered the golden age of drones. The Siberian region is a vast landmass that is hard to monitor and manage due to the extreme cold conditions. Drones have allowed Russia to accurately monitor the area as well as launch attacks against Ukrainian forces, although this is unconfirmed. Russia is projected to have at least 48 projects by 2028.
India is another populous country with a massive military. It has also been developing its long-range drone technology. In the 1990s, India used to source most of its drones from Israel, but they have been able to build their unmanned aerial vehicles locally. India currently has 100 drones in operation with another 54 planned to be added. Project Rostom is presently developing drones that travel at speeds of up to 125 miles per hour.
Australia unveiled a drone that was developed in secret by the Australian Air Force in collaboration with Boeing and the Australian Defense Department in a facility in Brisbane. The drone was the first locally-made drone, and it was the size of a traditional fighter jet. They have also been sourcing their standard drones from America, especially the on-demand MQ-9 Reaper. Australia plans to have 33 drones within the next decade.
The country was among the first casualties of drone warfare, and it was only practical that Egypt also acquired drones to be on a level footing with adversaries in the volatile Middle East region. The Egyptian army sources its Chengdu Wing Loong drone from China which was unveiled in October 2019. The drones are mainly used to attack rebel militias in North Sinai. Egypt plans to increase its drones to 33.
When Turkey unveiled its first drone prototype a decade ago, many people dismissed their efforts, but now their drone industry has grown so much that Turkey is exporting drones. Their most famous and highly sought Bayraktar TB2 drone has been used against Syrian Kurds against whom Turkey has been in a long-standing conflict. Turkey has almost 95 drones, with most of them locally developed.
Other heavily militarized nations that have been developing their drones include Malaysia, which has about 26 drones, Indonesia with about 24, and Israel, which has 20 drones and plans to add more in the future. Israel is best known as a significant exporter of drones as it was the first nation to weaponize unmanned aerial vehicles.
Benefits Of Using Drones
Armed conflicts usually result in huge damages and death, and as technological advances continue to expand, militaries around the world continue to come up with lethal ways of dealing with their enemies. The most obvious advantage of using drones is that it eliminates personnel loss as pilot soldiers who used to fly to battlefronts are now able to fight remotely without exposing themselves. Another benefit is the cost when compared to fighter jets that were bigger and required a lot of fuel and maintenance, coupled with the risk of crashes and capture by enemies. Drones are much smaller and can utilize solar energy on the go. Due to their smaller size and low noise, drones are good for reconnaissance missions as they can go unnoticed, and their superior data collecting abilities make them a cost-effective option. Without the need of human pilots, drones can operate for longer hours without any disruption, and controls can also be switched between personnel without the need for stopping the drone. Finally, the most crucial reason why drones are much better than fighter jets, is that their accuracy is unmatched. They collect precise data which leaves almost no room for mistakes once a strike is launched. They can pinpoint targets from long distance without being noticed.
Downsides Of Using Drones
Drone strikes have massive civilian casualties since no warning is ever issued before an attack, and neither can people hear them coming from a distance away. It is rare to find survivors after a drone strike. Drones have also reduced ethical decisions that are the pillars of humanity during conflicts. They have made warfare too easy, and once drones go fully autonomous, then decisions will be made by machines and not humans. Drones can also be hacked and taken over by the enemy, which makes them counter-productive in such situations. The current drones also have minimal abilities when faced with extreme weather conditions, and mechanical failure is never far away once they are faced with circumstances like extreme heat or extreme cold. Finally, the cost of developing, operating, and maintaining a drone is high. In the US, for instance, the MQ-1 program was designed at the cost of $2.38b, and it took 24 years. A single unit of an MQ-1 drone costs $4.03m. Add the cost of training pilots, engineers, and maintenance, and you are looking at huge budgets, and this is the main reason why few countries have operational drone programs.