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Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Drones and force projection...

 A three-year-old meme on Facebook shows how force projection has changed in the last few  decades:



Sucks to be him.


But it points out how drones are changing warfare, especially force projection. The United States (and to a lesser degree Great Britain and other allies) have used aircraft carriers to project power far over our shores to secure the sea lanes since the mid-20th century. This method cost a fortune (the new Ford Class carrier is 13 billion for the ship alone), complicated, requires other ships to form carrier fleets, and is becoming more problematic as other weapons are coming on to challenge these capital vessels. An open discussion these days, is the carrier today at the stage of the battleship a century ago? For my post, another discussion for another day.


Now I found this article very interesting, looking at the issue on how drones, and particularly drone sales, are shaping alliances and diplomacy.  


The Dawn of Drone Diplomacy


Unmanned Vehicles Are Upending the Arms Trade—and the Balance of Power

By Erik Lin-Greenberg December 20, 2022


Iranian-built drones now routinely puncture the skies over Kyiv. Elsewhere in Ukraine, Turkish- and American-manufactured drones help Ukrainian forces target Russian troops. These operations demonstrate the growing role of remote-controlled weapons in battle. The conflict also showcases how drone exports have increasingly become an instrument of diplomacy.


With drone use on the rise, states have capitalized on drone exports to increase their global clout. To be sure, this is part of an established trend: governments have long leveraged arms exports as a diplomatic tool. Beyond filling state coffers and defraying research and development costs, arms sales help states advance their foreign policy agendas. Selling or donating weapons to like-minded partners can be used to extract concessions, exert influence, counter rivals, and strengthen military ties. A new era of arms trade is emerging, in which new exporters such as Iran and Turkey are displacing traditional weapons suppliers and are using drone exports to extend influence beyond their borders. These exports threaten Washington’s influence and the security of its partners. To keep ahead, U.S. policymakers should help allies build drone programs while developing approaches to counter the threat of rival drones…


Drone diplomacy is on the rise because it meets a growing demand. International leaders are increasingly convinced that their defense and foreign policy ambitions hinge on possessing remote-controlled weapons. Drones have changed the character of modern conflict by allowing states to project power while minimizing risk to friendly personnel


Recent combat operations in the Ukraine are the best advertising for this relatively new industry, showing smaller nations how to engage at distance with little cost…


While the US initially dominated the market, it became a signer of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR, limiting sales of US drones, even to allies. China and Israel, not signers of the MTCR, quickly filled the void…


Drone sales help the supplier’s diplomacy by deepening ties with the client government, by enabling the buyer nation to challenge adversaries for low cost, and allowing seller counties to use drone sales to leverage buyer nations for other items…  


…By deepening ties with client states, countering rivals, and extracting quid pro quo concessions, drone diplomacy threatens regional stability and challenges the influence of established arms exporters such as the United States. Indeed, drone suppliers such as Iran routinely arm states such as Sudan, Syria, and Venezuela that were otherwise unable to acquire drones because of sanctions and other political roadblocks. Newly acquired drones allow these states to reignite frozen conflicts, violate human rights, and undercut internationally led conflict-resolution efforts. In recent years, activists and lawmakers criticized Turkey’s sale of TB2 drones to Ethiopia for enabling strikes that reportedly killed dozens of civilians...


And the Biden administration wants to loosen sanctions on Iran. Wait, did I say that? Yes, allowing them to continue to expand their sales to disabling regimes all over the world.


I won’t go as far as saying the carrier is at the end of its life, but it’s sailing into the sunset. As of right now, we use massive carrier task forces to project power. But a 2nd rate nation can field a few dozen drones and strike or recon a few dozen miles over the battlefield. When will they be able to develop/buy/deploy a few submarines that can launch single use drones and attack one-hundred miles deep into a country. When will that increase to five-hundred? One-thousand? And for the cost of a ten-thousand-dollar drone, eventually with artificial intelligence, not a 35-million-dollar airplane with a pilot. 


Better war through technology. We better be engaged now; our adversaries are already moving to fill the market. And a piece of paper like the Missile Technology Control Regime will be as effective at stopping future war as the 1922 Washington Naval Conference did in stopping World War II. 







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