Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Fundamentals, Not Magic

Drones: Still not wizard combat. Ever.

From comments to yesterday's post:

"Drones and AI can and most likely will be the deciding factor in the next WW. To ignore this fact puts us in the same position Poland was in when they met the advancing Nazi tanks while on horseback. I do think it would be easy to misunderstand drones and assume that they are super expensive and super susceptible to enemy fire and that is why they will fail and be useless in battle. Yes there are some drones like that. Now imagine a cheap tiny drone that can do only one thing and that is to search out and kill a single enemy soldier. Then imagine that China or Russia sends millions of these into battle. Or a small single purpose drone that simply hunts down and explodes ships, any ship it finds. And that the drone is used all over the world on day one minute one of WW 3 while the Russian or Chinese ships are all in port. Apply that same logic to drones designed to take down aircraft or land vehicles etc. In reality the problem of accurately understanding the possibilities drones bring to battle are only limited by your imagination and if you lack imagination you will correspondingly lack understanding of the potential threat." - Anonymous commenter 
Drones can be handy things. But at best, they are but a tool, not a magic wand.
This is why the military wants people in charge who can do mathematics in their head.
Not wizards and necromancers.

Drones work well when used against a disparate and unexpecting opposition. Against soft targets. Vulnerable and unsophisticated enemies. I've written at length about how much damage you can do to civilian targets with COTS drones, and year over year, the reality of that is proving the truth of the statements.

But most of our experience, or anyone else's, with drones, is against 19th (or 6th) century opponents, with no tech to speak of, and battle tactics from no more recently than 1900.

Peer-to-peer, not so much.

A drone that kills "any ship it finds" will wipe out your own fleet too. Even in port. Russia and China are totally dependent on imports and exports, whereas the U.S. is food and energy self-sufficient, and most of our trade goes on north and south, not east and west. Well-played.

You can use drones to assist in prosecuting the battle.
If you use more brains than most defense contractors have, and if they're built for the job right.
So that's two strikes of if against you before you start.

Try to remember that the best fiction is truer than most tech news stories.

Drones are not the Jedi Clone Army, nor ever will be in 10 lifetimes.
We're currently on the fifth or sixth generation of "fire-and-forget" weapons that still really aren't.
No one trusts them enough to depend on them as such, and when they try, they fail spectacularly. And that's before we have the Skynet discussion.

If a land droid was armed well enough to venture out on its own, it'd be a tank. Which you kill with AT weapons and defenses, or another tank. All of which have been around since 1917.

Putting a virtually unarmored machine out front with an MG and sensors just makes it, the weapons system, the data link, and the operator four points of failure. Add in the ordnance, parts, and fuel logistics, and you have three more points. Attacking all of them destroys that advantage; and at that point, if you don't have 5:1 or better advantage in the conventional attack, you're going to be eaten for lunch. Not metaphorically.

Intelligence from sky drones can be thwarted, spoofed, fooled, and avoided.
Keeping the enemy blind and confused while you execute your objectives is what war has been about since Sun Tzu. Drones can complicate that, but they also complicate the intelligence analysis problem for the other side. The only thing worse than too little intelligence is too much; ask the German Army how Patton's amphibious assault at the Pas De Calais worked out for them in 1944.

Drones alone or in concert will decide nothing.
What wins battles and wars is executing the fundamentals flawlessly.
Surprise, mass, economy of force, unity of command, secure interior lines, etc.

Cut off logistics, and disrupt command and communications, and you turn your enemy into Saddam and the Iraqi Army in 1991 and 2003.

Try to rule a hostile population through dependence on military power, and you end up like the U.S. Army in 1965-1973 and 2004-2019. (The dot-mil are slow learners, but not that slow; which is why I posit they'll either switch sides, or sit an internal conflict out ab initio, and wait to see who wins. If they don't do either, they'll cease to exist in about a month, and die on the vine from a death of ten thousand cuts.)

Try to rule a hostile well-armed civilian population, and you end up like the U.S. Army at the Little Big Horn in 1876.

I don't know about you, but if I ever have to grab a rifle and leave the house to take care of business, my death song has already been sung, and I'm not so worried about getting home to a wife and kids, and I'm going to make sure they don't get to do that either.

No quarter will be asked nor given, and there will be zero POW camps (or at least, not for very long) in the coming unpleasantness. It's going to become an unaffordable luxury.

Maybe folks will even be starting by taking out their opponents' homes and everything they take for granted first, to give them something else to think about before they suit up for work that morning.

80-90% of both sides in any war don't want to be there.
What's left is who gets it done.
And our 10% outnumbers their 10% about 100:1, and outguns them 24/7/365/ever.

Drone that.

Anonymous: Take off the hat, and lay off the egg nog.

Bonus comedy: If you've never seen someone get his foot stuck in a running wood chipper, then reach in with both hands to try and pull himself out, then fall head first into it, read the comments to this post, below, presumably by the same original Anonymous commenter. It's like playing poker with your sister's kids, combined with clubbing baby Harp seals.


Anonymous said...

"A drone that kills "any ship it finds" will wipe out your own fleet too. Even in port."

This is where imagination becomes important. I can easily set the scenario to do exactly what I described, i.e. destroy every ship in port or on the oceans EXCEPT my own countries ships. This seems so easy and doable that it makes no sense to argue with it. Deliver the drones by airplane, deliver in massive enough numbers such that no ship would be missed and only deploy them outside of the range of your own ports. Do it in much the same way as Pearl Harbor was carried out and you would catch the world flat footed. There would be no defense due to the manner of delivery and the surprise factor. It would take any nation years to rebuild a naval fleet and in that time they could be destroyed.

This same tactic could be used against all aircraft, all land vehicles, etc. The strategy could even be deployed within country. It seems obvious that some large percentage of the millions of Chinese and Russian "citizens" and immigrates to the U.S. are spies and sleepers. They have already invaded all that is necessary would be to get the drones to them. The bigger problem is complacency

Aesop said...

Imagination is how children play games with fungible and made-up rules; it is not how tacticians describe potential combat.

A drone big enough to assure destruction of capital ships is called an anti-ship cruise missile, and the size and cost to do what you childishly imagine is formidable, or we'd already have done it. Look up the sizes and market prices of a Tomahawk, Harpoon, Exocet, AS-anything, or Silkworm, and get back to us. You've essentially posited pulling the entire US Air Force out of your ass, because you say you can.
Here in the real world, you cannot simply wave your arms and command the broomsticks to rule the world just because you have an imaginary wizard cap.
That was the whole point of the post.

Google the surface area of the world's oceans, then tell me the requisite range to attack them comprehensively, and the size and cost of such a fleet of missiles, based on current technology. What you've pulled out of your ass in twenty seconds limited thought, cannot be accomplished, even if I had the top ten air and naval forces of the world, combined, and their annual budgets, at my personal disposal for a week. Let me know when that penny finally drops for you.

The same tactic in reality is what armies and defense departments have been trying to do for ages, and it's no more nor less likely simply because you slap "drone" on it. EVERY missile in current inventory is a "drone" to some extent. Maybe you missed that point back in the 1930s and 1940s when the technology was first developed, but it's nonetheless true.

The same tactic can be applied to anything, but we don't tend to let people ship TOW, Javelin, etc. missiles to their relatives here by the gross, let alone hundreds and thousands of torpedo sized objects.

Yes, I can make a $1K COTS drone carry a #1 thermite grenade that'll detonate a commercial oil tank.

The cost to do that for an armored division of main battle tanks is thus a "mere" tens of millions of dollars, because oil tanks are not battle tanks, and would take up several semi-trailers, plus launchers, and the wherewithal to get within range. I can't just shake them out of my handkerchief and tell them to conquer the world.

Kindly stop spinning bullshit, and wake TF up.
You're only impressing yourself, and it's a low bar.

Carl "Bear" Bussjaeger said...

Check out Marc Stiegler's 1988 SF novel "David's Sling" (I think it may be in the Baen free library) for an interesting take on drone warfare (though that's not what he called it then). I think he approached it in a way that could be possible. But 1) it's not the direction the US military is looking at, and 2) the computer tech still isn't up it. And even in the novel, it was far from perfect (for many of the reasons Aesop notes).

Phil said...

Merry Christmas.
There are only a few people who are going to get this message from me.
You are one of them.

Reltney McFee said...

Imagination, good.


Anonymous said...

That is exactly what the Polish generals said. "Horses and swords are the best way to fight. Who would put a artillery piece on a wheeled or tracked vehicle? Don't be silly."

Could you make a drone that would be able to seek out a ship and once it finds a target to submerse and attach itself well below the waterline and then with a shaped charge open up a 4 foot hole in the hull? Would two of these sink a large ship or at least make the ship unusable until repaired?

Could you make a drone with a M67 grenade attached that could seek out any vehicle on the ground including planes? With available AI and drones I can order from Amazon I could do that. Make a few million and defeat an entire army at 3 AM.

Can you make a drone that can recognize a human and create a light fragmentation explosive module to attach to it and send out a million or two million of them at a time to take down an army or destroy a large cities population?

The Army general who was an explosive expert in WW II advised Roosevelt that he was wasting his time on the A-bomb and as an expert knew it wouldn't work.

JFK once said that the experts were often wrong. They probably lacked imagination...

Anonymous said...

Half dozen cargo containers rigged to blow hatch and cargo of suicide drones pours out.... how many chinese boats are over here?

Felix Bellator said...

Okay, Mr. Imagination, how big is the drone needed to use a shaped-charge big enough to blow a four foot hole in a ship hull? How big a hole didn't sink the U.S.S. Cole? Or however many ships bombed or struck by torpedoes during WWII? Your imagination lacks a sense of scale off by an order of magnitude or two.

Okay, so someone destroys the entire U.S. Navy. Can you imagine the U.S. public saying, "Screw all y'all!" and calling for a retaliatory second strike? You do have a truly amazing imagination if you think this kind of action by an enemy would make any significant dent in the U.S. nuclear triad. You seem to imagine these fictitious drones of yours are Superman clones or something.

If the experts are often wrong and lack imagination, imagine how often an amateur like you, even with imagination, is wrong.

James M Dakin said...

A small point, as far as "energy and food independent". Not really. We still import 1/3 of our oil. Conventional oil-6mbpd, fracking 6. Use, 18. Most oil we "export" is imported crude, we refine it, then ship it back out. Since all our food requires oil, this makes our food security insecure. Add in, over half our artificial fertilizer comes from overseas. Now, add in the death of the PetroDollar. Every year, someone else drops the dollar as a oil purchasing currency. And we cannot go to war to stop them, anymore, after Iraq and Libya ( the last successful campaign ). Treasuries for oil was essentially free oil for debt. Now, hardly any other countries are buying MORE debt. Fracking growth has already peaked, this year. And a fracking well can lose up to 70% of its production after one year. Less wells on line equals falling production. Yes, there is a lot of waste in the system, and we could fall a ways before true shortages. If we had a functioning leadership that could eliminate the profit from the 1%. Good luck with that. Should I mention the liquidity crises that might prematurely tank the economy, ahead of running out of fracking oil or foreign oil?

Neil S. said...

Anonymous: you need to improve your historical literacy. You keep insisting that we are in the position of Poland in 1939, i.e., that Polish generals believed that cavalry was all that was needed and that tanks weren't necessary. You are, of course, wrong in believing that Poland didn't know they needed tanks. They had two armored brigades and were acquiring more, but hadn't gotten their industrial base ready by 1939. They also had the minor difficulty of having to deal with the Red Army invading the eastern half of their country at the same time.

In fact, the Wehrmacht wasn't particularly motorized relative to the Allied armies and had inferior tanks relative to the French at the start of the war. The fall of France, in fact, proves Aesop's point above. Even though the French had better equipment and strong defensive lines, they were out-maneuvered by German forces who were trained and expected to exercise individual initiative at the NCO level. The Germans were brilliant in the basics throughout the war.

You also clearly have no idea of the weakness of the charge in an M67 frag grenade. I've known them to be thrown into a room with two drugged-up jihadis and not kill either one. They're not going to suddenly start blowing aircraft in half.

Goose said...

"....... If I ever have to grab my rifle and leave the house....." If conducted on this soil it should be old men like me on the line. Too old to run or maneuver in small group tactics but willing to try to see to it that my children and grandchildren survive. One shot at 2-300 meters and crawl off for the next. Know I will not make it out of the mess but the cost of my murder should be as prohibitive as I can make it. Red flag me and I know a thousand other ways to make the govt wish they had not started no guns needed.

Sjonnar said...

"Google the surface area of the world's oceans, then tell me the requisite range to attack them comprehensively, and the size and cost of such a fleet of missiles, based on current technology."

I'll do that one.

Surface area of Earth's oceans: 139M square miles
Range of AGM-158C antiship cruise missile: 200 miles
Threat coverage of one missile: 125660 square miles


Number of AGM-185Cs required to cover all ocean area with no overlap: 1107
Unit price of AGM-158C: $3M
Cost to cover all ocean area: $3.321B. To have any given point on Earth's oceans covered by only a single missile.

Number of missiles in USN arsenal is unknown, but I'd bet money it's less than 1100.

Anonymous said...

Felix; the Cole did not sink AND it was useless as a ship for about two years, mission accomplished.

Neil: You missed the point, It isn’t about historical literacy. It is preparing to fight the next war and not the last one. Add in a dash of over confidence to that and you have a deadly mixture.
Yeah that must be the case I have no idea of the power of an M67 grenade . So elucidate it for me; Grenade 2 feet from roof of car or airplane cockpit, it goes off, will the driver and pilot be OK and will the car or plane still function normally???

Sjonnar: Take a look at this https://www.vesselfinder.com/ you will notice that most of the shipping follows set routes. This is not a difficult problem.
Yes the nice shiny missiles that the government contracts for are indeed expensive. But China makes cheap crap with slave labor and I bet they can turn out a million of these for $200 each.

Anonymous said...

@Goose; I'm withya
Other than our hosts, the only comment worth reading. Send the REST of these kids back to their basement room, Mom.

Aesop said...


We'll deal with you first, because you can apparently grasp basic mathematics.
Your numbers, in absolute terms, are correct, but in terms of reality, and setting up the problem properly, you've still screwed the pooch pretty hard.

I'll stipulate as fact that the LRASM range is 200NM, although it's probably farther.
Which gives you 125K mi² of coverage for a single missile. Unfortunately, that has to be divided in half for a shore launch, because half that circle is your own land area. If you place them optimally along the US coast, 200 mi. apart, you need 61 missiles to cover 61 half-circles, which gets you 61 half-circle coverage areas, with massive gaps where the arcs don't intersect.

So 125,660 x 1/2 x 61 = about 3.8m mi² of total coverage. Anything 201 miles off the coast or farther is out of range. So you're about 135M mi² of oceanic coverage short. The only way to cover 1100 separate areas would be to deploy 1100 platforms, each at ideal locations, and each would only be able to accommodate 1 target.

For reference, the entire US Navy currently deploys only 430 ships, total, and 44 of those have no offensive capability whatsoever larger than small arms.

So at 386 platforms, you're only about 2 entire navies short of 1100 platforms.
23 ships can deploy large numbers of aircraft, and another 75 or so can deploy one helicopter, but al of those are short legs platforms, so the aircraft carriers get you a hexagon pattern of 6 for 1, and the smaller vessels have 1-2 very short-range helicopters. But not all of any of them are at sea nor deployable at one time, so you're still a full navy short of enough coverage. (And at that, I'm spotting you the dead zones where the circles don't overlap, because at sea, all coverage is circular.) But we only have 293 ships actually battle-deployable right this minute, so you're really 3-4 navies short of a party.

And most of the oceans are more that 200 miles from land, and when we deploy our ships, it's in battle groups, not as solo efforts, so much of that coverage is massed in a dozen or so compact little blobs, and not spread out 400 miles sailing solo, so you're pretty much back to being 800 hulls short, i.e. you couldn't cover, at one shot per ship, all the world's oceans even if you had all of the rest of NATO, plus the US, and the Russian Navy to play with.

And you'd only be able to hit one ship apiece.

So you'd need three more navies, at least once, and more like 20,000 missiles, to pull this off.

And once you fire the first volley, the jig is up.

Aesop said...

And those battle groups tend to show up on radar and satellite coverage quite plainly, which means 10-20 countries know you're coming several days before you get anywhere.

The smallest ships practical for one spot coverage would be the Perry-class frigates.
They go for about $122M@. You need 700 more of them.
That's $85.4B just for the ships.
It'd take you a decade or two to build them.
And they need 176 crew members to run each one, so that's 123,200 sailors you don't have now either. On top of the 336K already there.
The Navy's personnel budget is $52B, so the additional manpower would cost another $25B.

At a mere 8 missiles per ship, to give you more capability than targetting one ship apiece, x 1100 ships, that's 8800 missiles, at $3M@, is $26.4B.
So in sum:
$85.4B = ships
$25B = crew
$26.4B = missiles

But wait, + budget for the rest of the Navy sitting around waiting the ten years to build those 700 additional ships for a decade, at $205B/yr (this years budget for the Navy)
Total cost for this scheme now runs $2.2138 Trillion,

But, OOPS!
There are 53,272 hulls in worldwide service, so you're going to need another 44,472 missiles, and you'll have to pack about 50 per ship.
So that's another $133.416B for the additional missiles.
We're now up to $2.347216 Trillion for this boondoggle.

And now the Perry-class frigates are too small for that many missiles apiece.
We're going to need to deploy 800 additional Arleigh Burke-class destroyers instead, which go for a paltry $1.843B@.
So our new ship cost is $1.4744Trillion.
The crew complement for the Burke DDGs is 303, so now we need 242,400 additional sailors to run them, which is an annual cost of another $40B.
New total cost 2.050T + 1.4744T + 159.816B =
Which is greater than the entire federal revenue for the United States government for 2018.

And that assumes 100% effectiveness from the missiles (75% would be considered wildly successful in reality) and I'm spotting you gratis the training, maintenance, and operating costs of the 800 additional destroyers for the ten years time (bare minimum) it would take to build up a navy 4 times the size of the current one.

Let me know when that mathematical reality sinks in.

Felix Bellator said...

@Anonymous: "Felix; the Cole did not sink..." That's what I said, dumbass. Your inability to read or answer the question, "How big a hole didn't sink the U.S.S. Cole?" points out your failure to grasp the scale of the problem.

Aesop said...


The above lesson in reality goes for you too, but you're plainly too bleeding stupid to grasp it, so you get a pass.

You should, by all means, continue to babble about how you can imagine pulling $3-4 trillion dollars out of your ass, to instantly sink 55,000 ships with a wave of your magic wand, and then go back to playing with soap cakes and rubber ducks in your bathtub, in between fart bubble NBC drills.

We won't bother to tally up what it would cost to non-magically take out somebody's tens of thousands of tanks and APCs, let alone MRAPs and prime movers, because you don't have enough toes and fingers, especially with some of them digging in your nose while you're doing all your imagining.

Be quiet now, grown-ups are talking.

For anyone curious:







Say, anyone want to spot Anonymous 3 or 4 Trillion dollars, so he can show us all how easy this drone warfare magic is?

If there's any money left over, he can use it for a blackboard to show us how to deconflict the control frequencies for 3,000,000 COTS drones with human recognition targeting + M67 frag grenades, to wipe out an entire city.

Compared to sinking 55,000+ cargo hulls overnight, then wiping out all land and air forces, which will obligingly just sit there unmoving during his attack, that should be child's play.

It's like someone gave Mini-Me his own keyboard and a secret lair.

Jack said...

I think anyone who puts too much stock in drones has played a little too much Black Ops 2. Story was already far fetched to begin with. Having a USS Obama and Madam President in 2025 is more believable than a drone army/air force in the millions.

Carl "Bear" Bussjaeger said...

Aesop, did I miss a point? I think your missile numbers are conservative. You should increase them 50-100% to allow for malfunctions and misses.

Yep, if it were as easy as a couple folks are claiming, we'd have done it already.

Aesop said...


No, I was being wildly optimistic in Anonymous' favor.
The easiest way to undo a foolish argument is to grant its entire premise, no matter how recockulous, and then simply illustrate it with facts.


The reality is, under actual conditions, you couldn't do 1/2 of what he imagines with 5x the US entire annual budget, a million minions, our military from the peak of the Cold War, and with a ten years' war.

What he's suggested isn't "imagination", it's simply ridiculous levels of fantasy and magical thinking.

50,000+ ocean surface targets would require 3x that many ASMs, each at $3m@.
And they weigh 2 metric tons apiece, and measure about 14' long, at nearly 3' in diameter. That would take 6250 standard freight rail cars if you could pack them in at 24 per car, which would be 63 100-car freight trains, which would be over 60 miles long, not counting locomotives.

So, as you can tell, Anonymous could pull that amount of money and material right out of his ass by "imagining".

O, if only the Pentagon could do magic like that!

You might as well "imagine" flying aircraft carriers from the Marvelverse, commanded by Iron Man and Captain America, and then tell me it's as easy as snapping your fingers, which is what he keeps on doing.

When somebody does that at age 3, it's childishly cute.
When they do it beyond the age of about 10, for purposes other than writing movie scripts and comic books, it's clinical psychosis.

Proof #7,083 that amateurs talk tactics, professionals talk logistics, and childish lunatics talk magical bullsh*t.

Sjonnar said...

@Aesop: You're really confused. I was arguing your side. Specifically, I was doing this:

"No, I was being wildly optimistic in Anonymous' favor.
The easiest way to undo a foolish argument is to grant its entire premise, no matter how recockulous, and then simply illustrate it with facts."

Minimum size and cost of "suicide drone" fleet to have every square inch of ocean threatened by one "drone" is 1107 "drones" and $3.3B. Ships not included because we were already imagining these magic drones as having the ability to self-deploy in place from cargo containers or WTF. We're gonna keep all our ships in port, remember? While we somehow deploy our drones out of range of our own ports.

And even your "realistic" version is way off the mark. The smallest vessel that can deploy the LRASM is the Burke-class destroyer. The Perrys are retired and didn't have the capability anyway. Ticonderogas, Burkes, the new Zumwalts, carriers via the FA-18. That's it. And shore launch via the B-1B and B-2, of course.

Cougfan said...

This is the most entertaining beat down I've seen in years.

Math's difficult for some people.

That's generally why they fail.

Aesop said...


I never assumed anything, least of all that you were arguing the other side, but as I said, you didn't set up the math problem correctly.

The short answer is that with a 200NM range missile, you can't cover much of anything, as in <1% of the total ocean surface. And even magic drones need magic launch platforms, even if we assume flying dragons and such.

So either 800+ additional ships, or missiles the size of ICBMs. Those won't be fitting inside cargo containers, and they won't be stealthy when they launch. Pretty much every G10 nation, plus Russia, China, and India, will see them going off from space, and they'll take half an hour to arrive. At which point the targets will be 10-20NM away from the impact point.

Unless we also assume magic guidance packages and magic robustly maneuvering RVs.

To do what was posited by Anonymous, he'd either need the quintuple-sized fleet I described, or a missile with intercontinental range. Which would each end up costing 10x as much as the LRASM, x 53,000+.
Current Trident II SLBM missiles went for $30M@, (40 years ago), and get you 7500NM range.
So now our magical drone fleet is only going to run $1.59Trillion, or about half the current federal budget, just for the missiles.

Launch platforms for 53000 of them would only require 2209 Ohio-class SSBNs, carrying 24 of them each, which only leaves us short by 2192, since we already have 18 of them. Which is only ten times the size of the entire Navy, at the moment. The Ohios cost only about $3B@ in 2018 dollars, so launch platforms would only run us an additional $6.576Quadrillion, or about the entire US GDP for the next 320 years, through about August of the year 2340. Give or take.
And to man those subs, we'll only need 342,395 highly trained nuke sub sailors, or IOW, just slightly more men than the entire active duty size of the entire US Navy, right now.

They'd only require 53000 train cars, which would be 530 trains, stretching a paltry 600+ miles, i.e. from Dallas to St. Louis.

Piece of cake, right? Anyone else notice the deafening silence from Mr. Imagination...?

Or has he switched to imagining that in 2340, we'll just deploy Capt. Picard and Commander Riker in the Enterpise D-class?
Inquiring minds would like to know.

{And BTW, the Perry-class still has bare few hulls active (6-7, when last I checked), and could carry the LRASM, but not nearly enough, as noted.}

I was trying to give Anonymous the widest latitude on each point, but even granting him ridiculously rosey projections, it's only about as possible as a goose laying golden eggs, i.e. a total flipping fairytale.

I'm sure he imagines he could do this with drones made from paper airplanes, carrying pixie dust warheads, that would home in and knock out a Nimitz-class CV or a supertanker, with only three flakes of essence of pixie.

Anonymous said...

"@Anonymous: "Felix; the Cole did not sink..." That's what I said, dumbass."

Do you always fall back on name calling when you lose the argument? The Cole didn't sink. The hole in the hull made it worthless. Your false argument that it must be sunk was foolish. I think you realized that and then felt the need to obfuscate with name calling. Grow up.

I understand that some don't see the possibilities. That's OK and if you have to make up fake arguments to "prove" yourself right then so be it. History is replete with Armies/generals who could not see the hand writing on the wall. So you will be in good company. But it's coming and you are blind to it. AI and robotics (that is what a drone is) will dominate the future battlefield. And it can be made cheaply. It is a mistake to underestimate it.

RandyGC said...

A couple of points (as someone that weaponeered actual anti-shipping missiles in the 80's):

Aesop's 75% success rate is pretty high given all the factors involved (probability of successful target acquisition, probability of successful launch, probability of successful engine and navigation systems in flight, probability of final target acquisition, probability of of hit, probability of proper fuse function, and a few others that I'm not going in to)

And that does not include the enemy getting a vote: EW, decoys (Hey! Drones!) evasive maneuvers, defensive missiles, sacrificial escorts, close in weapons systems, armor, damage control systems, ship design etc.

So, assume you need to launch 2-3 actual missiles per target to make sure you get at least one hit and hope it's a good one. You should actually double that since your launch sites/platforms aren't likely going to be around for a full up second strike either.

And you are going to need real actual warheads to do any damage, which means COTS drones just aren't a player. Adding AI to Anti-shipping missiles is being looked at, as well as ways to jam/spoof/kill them.

Same Same for attacking airfields (although at least Anonymous wasn't so brain dead as to suggest attacking runways). Planning for that was my bread and butter and even against cooperating opponents (CF: Iraqi Islamic Republic Air Force, Republic of Serbia AF) it ain't so simple as amateurs make it out to be.

I would also point out that just because it isn't being published on every .mil fan-boi website in the world doesn't mean that the US military doesn't have folks looking at the possibilities.

Prior to Gulf War I many of the "experts" of the mindset shown here were convinced (and tried to tell all of us) that our equipment and tactics were shit and that the superior (because simpler and more numerous) Soviet equipment and tactics used by the Iraqis ("battle hardened" after years of war against Iran, as opposed to the green troops sill demoralized by their defeat in Vietnam) were going to clean our clock with hundreds of thousands of body bags coming home.

Turns out that the Powers That Be (enough of them anyway) had been paying attention, and had worked out new technologies and the doctrines tactics to use them. Which is why the US victory was so "rapid" and "easy" (and why members of STAVKA were sending out for clean under wear every few hours or so during the "100 hour war").

Which is where, IMHO, Anonymous fails. He's got all the pretty toys and neat new ideas, but envisions the same doctrine and tactics used by the Imperial Japanese Navy to wipe out the Okinawa invasion fleet and bring the US to the negotiating table...

Aesop said...

True enough Randy, but once I'd gotten to sums in the Quadrillion dollar range, I figured the horse was so far past dead that beating it to molecules was the rhetorical equivalent of a nuclear seventh-strike capability. ;)

Aesop said...


"I understand that some don't see the possibilities. That's OK and if you have to make up fake arguments to "prove" yourself right then so be it. History is replete with Armies/generals who could not see the hand writing on the wall. So you will be in good company. But it's coming and you are blind to it. AI and robotics (that is what a drone is) will dominate the future battlefield. And it can be made cheaply. It is a mistake to underestimate it."

It's impossible to underestimate something so bereft of actual performance.
Show your work, or STFU. Hand-waving and claiming "it's coming" is recockulous when what you imagine to be magically possible isn't even breathing hard yet.

Kid, you've had your ass kicked around the block on this topic so many times there are ruts in the concrete.

You haven't got a thing to say that isn't pure gainsaying from imaginary nonsense pulled straight out of your ass, while ignoring entirely every salient fact germane to the discussion that's sailed right through your head. You haven't made a single supportable statement, and you haven't made any contribution to this subject other than as a handy punching bag, and pulling your pants down and slapping your own butt cheeks for everyone else's edification and entertainment. The traditional word for that role is "clown".

Lay on the mat and take the ten count, then go back and learn WTF you're talking about, on this or any other subject. Ten or twelve years of dedicated study would probably do the trick, once you grow up. Then you won't get a well-deserved PR-24 shampoo with a cluebat every time you pop off, but until you figure that out, you'd be best off signing your posts as either "Comedy Relief" or "Gilligan".

Anonymous said...

"What we have here, is a failure to communicate"

But actually there was some communication. For all the no believers in AI and drones the discussion has changed. For most it was an unknown unknown. They didn't even consider it. Now it is a known unknown. Now they simply deny it. That is progress. This way when some country uses AI and cheap drones for battlefield experience you won't say "whodda thunk". Now you will say I heard about this once but never really thought about it. Cool, huh!

Jack said...

"History is replete with Armies/generals who could not see the hand writing on the wall. So you will be in good company. But it's coming and you are blind to it. AI and robotics (that is what a drone is) will dominate the future battlefield. And it can be made cheaply. It is a mistake to underestimate it."

When and where? Tomorrow in Virginia? Ten years from now in (random sand pit)? A hundred years from now somewhere in Antarctica? A thousand years from now on Mars?

RandyGC said...

Aesop, beating Dead Horses was a specialty at Targeting School ;-)

Anonymous: There's a huge gap between looking at and considering rational responses to the realistic, near to mid-term threats from UAVs and AI enhanced weapon systems and going into a "Weesa Allsa Going to Die" panic by buying into a simplistic scenario written by someone that obviously "is neither a strategist, nor is he schooled in the operational arts, nor is he a tactician, nor is he a general, nor is he a soldier".

Anonymous said...

Jack said: "When and where..."

Exactly! No way to know. That is why you must understand the risk and maybe even use the technology.

RandyGC: "buying into a simplistic scenario written by someone that obviously "is neither a strategist, nor is he schooled in the operational arts, nor is he a tactician, nor is he a general, nor is he a soldier".

20 years in the military, thank you. But in fact you don't need even I second in the military to understand the utility and advantage of the combination of AI and drones. It would be great if all tacticians were always right or all Generals were always right. But history shows us that tacticians and generals are more often wrong than they are right. Which "expert" will be the next Custer? Well the one who claims that wasting their precious time on the capability of AI and drones is beneath them.

Aesop said...

I doubt that alleged career, but you've clearly never used your brain a day in your life.
Spinning bullshit isn't thinking, and writing D&D fairytales isn't understanding anything. You don't grasp the merest fundamentals of how combat works, let alone the physics of time and space. You use drones as shorthand for the word "magic".
But real life isn't a comic book.

And worse, you're too stupid to know what - and how much depth and breadth - you don't know you don't know.
This is why you're a cat toy for anyone with even a 6th grade grasp of the subject.

Einstein said intelligence is finite, but stupidity is boundless.
You're the exemplar of that truth.

I repeat, go away; grown ups are talking here.

I've written at length, over years, on what you can do with drones.
All of it is current capability.

You have yet to post a single referenced fact, and persist in blasting nothing but nonsense out of the straining elastic seams around your diaper.

Jack said...

"No way to know. That is why you must understand the risk and maybe even use the technology"

I'm willing to bet it won't be in my lifetime. I quit believing otherwise after reading about those new 5.56/20mm rifles,m storm pistols, and land warrior systems "the military" was adopting in 2002.

Felix Bellator said...

@Anonymous: Well, dumbass, I cannot lose an argument with you when you are not making one. Accusing someone of name calling is not winning an argument either. Losing an argument looks like not addressing the questions, not doing the math, and throwing out asinine statements accusing everyone else of not knowing what they are talking about.

You said, "I understand that some don't see the possibilities. That's OK and if you have to make up fake arguments to "prove" yourself right then so be it." Duh, we have all seen Star Wars, so we get the possibilities and the ideas. We also get the math and statistics which you have yet to counter. Now you are jumping off into saying we need to conduct risk analysis. So tell us, oh imaginative one, how do you go about conducting a risk analysis? At least dazzle us with your impressive, imaginative credentials.

Uncle Mikey said...

So all you have to do is put up the bat signal, then Optimus Prime, Captain Crunch, the Sta-puft Marshmallow Man and Godzilla show up and take care of it. You guys have no imagination. Come with me, and you'll see . . .

Anonymous said...

Drones may alter warfare but not alter its nature. No weapon has altered it. Some will point to nuclear weapons. Well the Romans destroyed Carthage completely without nuclear weapons and the Mongols left nothing in Baghdad but a pyramid of human skulls.

New technology alters tactics, but the principles of warfare remain the same. Doubt me, try reading Sun Tzu and tell me how wrong he is. Technology alters warfare temporarily till new options are developed to counter these new developments or defeat them. Drones will not not alter the balance of power anymore than cruise missiles did. If you are old enough I can remember the "intellectuals" who told us cruise missiles would end big ships or how portable anti tank systems ended the day of the tank. Apparently these superior minds had forgotten that the Germans had developed these systems in 1943. Their "cruise" missiles were defeated by electronic jamming ruining guidance rendering the Fritz X only partially effective after some spectacular successes. The Panzerfaust never did stop tanks, though once the threat was understood their effectiveness could be restrained.

This applied to radar, codes, magnetic torpedoes, even machine guns.

At the end of the day I fear a dedicated, ruthless enemy, who is willing to die for his cause even if armed with obsolete weapons far more than some scientifically advanced foe whose leadership overestimates its skill and strength and is back by a servile or feckless population. Consider how Hanoi triumphed over the USA and tell me about all those wonder weapons again. All the advantages the allies had did not alter them to Hitler massing 400,000 troops and 800 tanks for his last offensive in 1944 against the Western allies. Had Hitler had a better air force, the logistics, and an army at the same level of training as he had in 1940 perhaps he could have pulled off his offensive. The American use of the super secret proximity fuse did not stop the Germans, though it hurt them.

After dropping the two big ones on Japan suppose the emperor had decided it was his duty to go down fighting. The Americans didn't have a third bomb. Our intelligence regarding the Japanese defenses and capabilities were dismally wrong. I am sure the invasion would have succeeded. I am also sure that these errors would have caused a bloodbath like Tarawa multiplied a thousand fold.

In short technology isn't what we need be concerned about. I am more worried about a military that teaches gender awareness than developing core skills in its troops and believes diversity will serve its troop well in its darkest hours. Yeah tell that to the Japnese or Koreans who don't seem to share the same beliefs.

Anonymous said...

I guess anonymous doesn’t understand that the enemy gets a vote. Everyone has a plan until first contact. If we can counter battery a mortar before it hits the ground, does anon really think our, and a number of other militaries can’t find the signal origins of drone controllers? I can see value, and so can .mil planners, in drones, but it ain’t as direct, kinetic weapons. Seeing what’s over the next hill? Check. Panicking civilians? Check. Kill vehicle for armor or ships? Don’t plan on it. True story, marines had some new drones they were tasked with using to support the Bosnian peacekeeping efforts attached to our unit. They kept crashing the damn things at millions a pop. These could carry a ship killer, but your going to know it’s coming before it gets in range,

Aesop said...

@Anonymous 12:13

Actually, we had about half a dozen A-bombs on tap.
As it turned out, two was enough to get the job done.

The larger point remains.
Drones bring little earth-shattering to the table, as the tech has been around for about 70 years.

Like the Maginot Line, there are ten ways to get around what they bring.

People spinning fairytales out of their fourth point of contact, from a dearth of any grasp of reality, bring nothing but electrons killed for no good purpose.

Anonymous said...

"does anon really think our, and a number of other militaries can’t find the signal origins of drone controllers?"

You apparently do not understand AI. There will be no controller, the drone will be programmed to seek out a target and destroy it and itself in the process.

" I can see value, and so can .mil planners, in drones, but it ain’t as direct, kinetic weapons."

That is exactly the problem I am pointing out. You can't see the possibilities because you do not know what you do not know.

"but your going to know it’s coming before it gets in range"

Not a small drone. Also that is logically true of everything that can kill you but can you stop it. We all watched the planes hit the towers, what good did it do that we could see them coming???

Aesop said...

And you don't know jack about shit. Programming requires a processor, and guidance package, and sensors. These all require space and mass, the antithesis of small.
So that's your usual physics fail.

Claiming kinetic prowess requires a sufficient warhead, more space, more mass, more size. "Small" is becoming "school bus-sized" every time you wave your magic wand of ignorance.

And then you make the leap all the way to "767-sized". Well played.

The planes that killed the towers were two 767 variants, and their guidance packages were the antithesis of fire-and-forget, because they required a pair of not-so-smart bombs to guide them in on their entire profile.

The planes measured between 159 and 180 feet in length, and topped out at between 197 and 206 tons apiece, including 50 to 80 tons of JET A fuel, which was the only reason the worked at all, burning at up to 3800° F. Without that flame source, you get a hole, and some dead people at the impact point, but no building collapse.

Seeing them coming or not, had we wished to shoot them down, it would require simply having AA missiles no more recent than 1950s vintage. So, under the heading of "Duh!" that problem was solved decades before you were born.

So yet again, you keep arguing for tiny, uber-complicated, all-powerful drones, and then illustrating your argument with enormous, unarmed, and simple air intercept problems, and imagining that any military target would be so defenseless and unaware as a civilian skyscraper in a city in peacetime.

And you think you're going to attack anything military with something small, despite the obvious limitations that would place on kill power, range, sophistication, etc., as though tanks and naval ships weren't armored for a reason.

So yet again, we find out that a total failure to understand such obvious, simple, inescapable physics, logic, and common sense is kicking your ass from here to breakfast. Color me shocked.

And once again, you display to the entire internet that military common sense is not your forte, Ike.
Perhaps we ought to try a spelling bee, or something equally suited to such a world-class simpleton as yourself.

Visionary was purposing torpedo bombers to attack a fleet at anchor.
Imaginary is thinking you could do it with little green army men with autonomous guidance, and the ability to hurdle galaxies in a single bound.

Less AntMan, and more Tora!Tora!Tora! in what informs your streams of verbal diarrhea would make for a stellar leap in what you dribble out. Who knows but that in ten or twenty years of diligent effort, you might grasp what most sixth graders do about the topic you embarrass yourself on with every fresh attempt.

Don't quit your day job, Homer.
And stop drunk-posting.

Anonymous said...

me thinks thou doth protest too much.

There is zero doubt that this is doable and in fact it is being done right now. As for the size of the explosive it all depends on where it is placed. At this point you appear to have so much invested into proving someone, anyone, wrong that you can no longer see the forest and aren't even aware you are in the forest. So be it...

Aesop said...

Spewing horseshit and calling it gold isn't making your case, genius.

Show your work:
tell the class how small a warhead will take out a ship, or a tank.
Then explain to the rubes and newbs the physics and flight dynamics (lift, thrust, airframe structure) requisite to launch such a warhead a given distance.
And the guidance package and onboard power supply to make that all work.
Then break down the unit cost of that nominal fantasy.

I repeat: show your work.
Pure jackassical gainsaying, which is all you've done to date, is simply talking out the orifice at your other end. Zero credit given for trying to gas your way to credibility.

If you knew any of that, you'd be the modern-day Werner Von Braun of Lockheed, Boeing, Northrup-Grumman, Raytheon, or any other of 20 defense contractors doing world-class R&D.

Unfortunately for your wank dreams, a vivid imagination and a large comic book collection aren't the same as a degree in aeronautical engineering.

I've got close friends who possess the prerequisite skillsets you don't, do this for a living, have for decades, and/or write the textbooks and teach the coursework for this, and five seconds' time spent looking at your bilge says you're simply so full of shit your eyes are brown, and you don't know your ass from a hole in the ground.

Nothing you spew about is remotely possible, let alone plausible.
You're peddling comic book cartoons like they were reality.

Bullshit is not an acceptable substitute for brains.

Blow away, little fabulist dungmonger, and leave serious discussions to serious people.
You're just Gilligan, providing Comedy Relief.
And precious little of it.

Anonymous said...


Aesop said...

Network-run ass gas is still ass gas.

Showing stock footage and interspersing it with half a dozen goobers who don't know anything and didn't see anything isn't the same thing as information.
Might as well have given us a link to sightings of crop circles UFOs, Bigfoot, or the Loch Ness Monster.

Entire story was a waste of time, and a waste of air time, exactly equivalent to posting "Somebody somewhere thinks they saw something, with zero evidence or corroboration".
Wow, thanks for that nothingburger, geniuses.

That's a total link fail.

Anonymous said...

I fully understand that being cantankerous and rude is what you do. Don't get me wrong, I follow you to grab your quotes (well in addition to the other good stuff you have). So I am not offended or put off by any of your responses, keep doing you. However I would suggest that in addition to continuing to rail against my theory that you in your own private space consider the possibilities. Not that you, or I for that matter, can tell the powers that be what might be in the future. But rather that you can see the early signs, and there will be some.

Aesop said...

I'm not doing "rude".
I simply don't tolerate bullshit, nor suffer fools gladly.

You don't have "theory", you have a fairytale, based on nonsense.
You can't do the first part of any equation where reality is in play.
Thus anything you offer is simply comic book magical thinking, not serious discussion.

When you get that, you'll get why your twaddle is insulting to anyone with more intelligence than a fifth grader.

Go own the fail, and then do your homework, and learn to think.
All you're doing is beating yourself up.
Or off.

I can't say which.
The end result is the same, for everyone.

Anonymous said...

So just cantankerous then.

I do understand your position. Watching the bowl games with my wife she choose that camera view where you could not clearly see the runners knee hit the ground before the ball came loose to justify here belief that her team recovered the ball. My pointing out the other camera perspectives fell on deaf ears. You see what you want to see. I will finish (I'm sure you and your readers will be happy that I will finish) by saying that I hope our intelligence and military leaders are aware of the growing capacity of AI coupled with drones and how this could change a battlefield or world dominance. I have worked with computers my entire life and I'm fully aware of the potential AI represents. I spent 20 years in the Air Force and I am also fully aware of both the dedication of the military and the hubris of their leaders especially at the highest levels. I have a BS in math and an MBA in Computer management systems. My concern is not one of ignorance but of knowledge. But from your perspective it appears that I fumbled. Now we wait to see who is right. Will someone, some nation, some terror organization use AI and drones to make an attack? I don't know, but I do know it can be done and with the right commitment can be done most dramatically.
Happy new year and Make America Great Again.

Aesop said...

Drones have a capability.
So does AI.
They are both severely hampered by reality, unlike their abilities in the farthest reaches of your mind.

Neither are going to be Magic Beans for anyone.

If you've got the kind of experience you say, well and good.
But physics is still a thing, and so is finance, and logistics.
Your math background should have made this blisteringly obvious to you a week ago and more.

Waving one's hands and positing Magic Beans than can kill >50K ships worldwide at the wave of wand is fun and all, but practically speaking, farcically impossible.
The archtype for that is our Harpoon missile, Going for $1.2M@, we bought 7500 of them. For $9B,we had the capability, even assuming a ridiculous 100% success ratio, of taking out 1/10th of world shipping, but only on the part of the ocean we could get to within 25 miles of. IOW, we couldn't touch anything on 99% of the oceans at any given time. And for that pitifully small capability, they're each a foot across, 15 feet long, and weigh 3/4s of a ton each. You're not going to get 50 tons of missiles into your backpack anytime soon, nor has technology shrunken the warhead requisite to kill a major ship to 1/4 ounce, instead of 500 pounds.

You "imagined" you could magic wand wave a technological leap that simply does not exist, and at a tenfold increase in numbers (and probably more like 100-fold), while simultaneously requiring a tenfold increase in range, at minimum (again, 100-fold would be more likely) while simultaneously achieving a breakthrough of 32,000-fold shrinkage of explosives. And at an imaginary cost savings of 100,000-fold.

32000 X 100 x 100 x 100,000?
Tell us when you ever noted technology to get 3.4Trillion% better.

Playing this game up your alley, how long did it take to get from an IBM 701 series (1952ish) with 73K of memory, to a Cray supercomputer (2011) with 1.5Petabytes (10 to the 15th power) of memory, at a cost of $200M? 60 years, obviously. And it requires a building that covers a city block, enough power to run a small town.
So in computer terms, you'd have to get that Cray for $500 cash, and it should fit on your wristwatch, to be the sort of leap you imagine from a comparatively simple antiship missile that could be launched by the tens of thousands, at a size like a kite - or a bird - with a power sufficient to kill ships, with a range of hundreds to thousands of miles.

How many ways does one have to hammer home how recockulous these ideas are, in actual physical time and space, in anything less than a timeframe of less than centuries, and without recourse to magic and wand-waving?

Game. Set. Match. Times ten lifetimes.

Aesop said...

So is imagining that you could do the same thing to even one armored division, ever, least of all with anything you could buy by the tens of thousands.

Simply not possible, otherwise any one of ten nations would do it, and upset the balance of world power. But the mere attempt would bankrupt any ten of them, combined, as previously noted, and take a century, and the GDP of the planet through the year we first colonize the moons of Jupiter.

Guys in the 1950s thought Fire-and-forget missiles would make air combat maneuvering ("dogfighting") obsolete, because exactly such magic beans type of thinking.

It took us losing a lot of guys after they shot their whole wad of missiles for zero kills, and then getting hosed down by MiGs in a furball to find out magic beans were BS, get back to putting guns on fighter planes, and relearning dogfighting lessons first honed over the Western Front from 1916-1918.


These are examples that are accessible to me from bare memory and common sense in the time it to to type this (about 10 minutes), that you don't even know you don't even know, and they pound your imaginary guesswork flatter than hammered whale shit at the bottom of the Marianas Trench over and over and over again.

I'm cantankerous about reality.
Whatever you know, and think you know, is as nothing compared to reality that IS.

When I type "show your work", it isn't a clever snarky catch-phrase like "Learn to code, bro", I'm literally saying "Stop bullshitting, and explain yourself in detail".

You've had (and booted right out your ass, at the speed of explosive diarrhea) any ten or fifteen chances to do that, and you did it not one single fucking time, ever, on any point.
If that's not world-class jackassery, I don't know what is.
What's rude is not me pointing out your talking out your other end, it's you not even acknowledging the fact time after time after time.
One duck like that is childish evasiveness.
That many serial efforts is just being a thorough-going irredeemable fucktards, with the mental age of a two year old.

So hell yes, drones can be used to make an attack.
Especially by technologically unsophisticated terrorists, against soft targets, with COTS tech, for under $1M.
I've only written on this explicitly, on this very blog, half a dozen times, FFS.
But that does NOT, ergo, mean that state-level players can make a drone the size of the nugget in your kids diaper, for $1@, that will kill every AFV on any notional enemy's side, like Hydra wiping out Nick Fury's Marvelverse, with a pK of 100%, in the space of three scenes of Avengers:Total Farcical Bullshit Fantasy, no matter how many times you tell us you've written that screenplay in your head.

The former is real life 5 minutes ago (and I can point you to the real-world news stories), the latter is comic book bullshit that won't happen for centuries, even at current course and speed, and assuming you were playing Space Cowboys vs. Neanderthals.

So please, put the bong down, and come back to world of unenhanced reality.
I get that it's not as fun, but you won't walk into as many bullet trains face-first.

Phil said...

OMFG the hilarity.
I have been quietly keeping up with this thread for what, two weeks now?
It seems reality refuses to penetrate into the fantasy world of some self proclaimed experts.
Nowhere in these fever dreams have I seen mention of the effects of weather and or sea conditions and how they would affect these oh so relentless AI controlled mini drones. Someone please explain to me where this unlimited energy source comes from that would enable one of these electronic killer mosquitoes to travel hundreds of miles against a normal fifteen mile an hour headwind?
Can we just cut to the chase at this point and get right to SHARKS, WITH FRIKKIN" LASER BEAMS ON THEIR HEADS and be done with it?
Happy New Year Aesop.
SMFH, I gotta give you credit for your patience because I would have been done arguing with these dumbasses a long time ago.

Aesop said...

I pop all the bubbles on sheets of bubble wrap, for practice.

Anonymous said...

Just for giggles I'd love to see wood chipper anon describe this wonderful AI. Seems to me all this talk of AI bouncing around is more marketing than technical ability.

Saw a set up that was called AI to find optimal conditions for separation of analytes by High Pressure (or Performance) Liquid Chromatography (HPLC). The 'AI' can, with sufficient amount of correct input work out an optimal solution. However, it took all weekend. Not bad cause you get work done on 'off' days. However, a skilled chromatographer could do the same in the same or less amount of time. So much for the wonders of 'AI'.

But perhaps Anon has a line on real AI.. not simple minima and maxima finding calculations that can be set up in Excel.

Oh.. and the shotgun approach to 'kill all ships' shows your lack of imagination let alone tactical or strategic thinking skills. The whole point is to hit the enemy where it hurts the most and costs you the lease in $ and lives to make em say 'Uncle!'. Me thinks you need to reread Sun Tzu. Actually one does not 'read' Sun Tzu as much as one thinks about what he said and learns to apply the principle in multiple ways and areas.

But please Anon, carry on. I'm enjoying Aesop's wordsmithing!