Two New Articles at Pragati Magazine

My amigo Adam Elkus and I each have an article up at the newest issue of Pragati magazine. Adam is reviewing the Sanger book on Obama and national security and I tackle the strategic implications of drones and cyber warfare:

Adam Elkus – Confront, Conceal, Leak 

David Sanger’s Confront and Conceal is best used as a Rosetta stone for deciphering DC discourse. Its true utility lies not in its uneven discussion of Barack Obama’s national security decisions, but in the way it reveals both mundane and alarming traits of American foreign policy debate. Sanger’s obsession with a supposed “split” between values and interests, mistaken belief that international security should be conducted according to the Golden Rule, and exposure of sensitive leaks all tell a story about the state of national security debate in 21st century Washington. Although the message is muddied and the narrator unreliable, Confront and Conceal is gripping reading.

Sanger’s self-designated task is to illuminate, through judicious research and both on and off the record interviews, the Obama administration’s struggle to operationalise its new vision of foreign policy. Sanger is at his best when exploring the way high-level officials engage in bureaucratic judo. His Obama is a canny political operator that compensates for relative inexperience with self-awareness and vigor. Even in the face of strategic surprise and bureaucratic infighting, Obama keeps a firm hand on the steering wheel. Sanger aggressively promotes a reading of Obama as driven operator rather than spectator, a portrayal that rings true when compared to other popular accounts of Obama’s foreign policy leadership style…. 

Mark Safranski –Drone invasions and cyber dystopias 

….Of the two, drones have the older history, going back almost a century to the Great War where experiments in auto-piloted planes were financed by the US Navy, but for much of the twentieth century, military applications for drones (or “remotely piloted vehicles”) were sharply limited. The technological capabilities of drones always lagged far behind the advances in manned aircraft and they were extremely vulnerable to modern anti-aircraft systems, or in some cases, small arms fire. While drones had some marginal utility for battlefield surveillance or as decoys, during the Cold War they were never the primary collection tools for sensitive intelligence that the U-2 Blackbird, listening posts and spy satellites were.

Several factors in the twenty-first century have pushed drones to the forefront as a weapon of choice for the Pentagon and the militaries of major powers. First, has been the relative decline of the probability of major interstate war since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the corresponding rise of irregular warfare in the form of insurgency by terrorists, guerrillas and rebellious tribes. Generally, these low-tech combatants reside in poor and remote areas and lack the capacity to detect or defend against drones except by concealment. Secondly, drones offer a tremendous economic advantage and battlefield return on investment (ROI) per enemy killed over advanced fighter aircraft.  A new F-22 costs $150 million to buy and $45,000 an hour just to fly with a pilot whose training costs the USAF $2.6 million; a reusable, propeller-driven Predator only costs slightly over $4 million. About the price of two and half Tomahawk cruise missiles….

9 thoughts on “Two New Articles at Pragati Magazine”

  1. The Japanese Kamikazes were really the first drones in warfare. They were expendable and the pilots had minimal skills except to point the plane at the target. It didn’t require marksmanship or agility as a pilot. They wreaked enormous damage on the US fleet and could have broken up the invasion of the Japanese home islands.

  2. Well, there were also the Nazi V-1’s, which did not require a brainwashed cadet to fly. Most of the earlier WWI -1920’s drones were used as target practice for anti-aircraft training

  3. There were also some attempts to use radio-guided flying bombs to attack ships…I believe the Germans had some limited success with this. On the Allied side, the actress Hedy Lamarr was co-inventor of a radio control guidance system that used frequency hopping (controlled by player-piano type devices in both transmitter and receiver) to avoid jamming. It was never adopted by the US Navy, though frequency hopping later became an important technology.

  4. Michael Kennedy,

    The WW2 operational research by the US Navy on Kamikaze’s found the the most effective ones were flown by the best pilots.

    The difference in per pilot expended effectiveness between the Philippines Kamikaze campaign which was dominated by experienced pilots and the Okinawa that was dominated by untrained pilots was striking in that regard.

    The primary purpose undertrained teenager pilots was to fill the sky with targets so the few good pilots could get through.

    You could tell which were the trained Japanese pilots by how they attacked, because the attacking trained pilots fought as they were trained.

    Dive bomber pilots did steep diving attacks from altitude.

    Torpedo pilots came in on the deck.

    Fighter pilots came in low, popped up close, and did wing over dives into ships.

    Japanese Army engine pilots tended to do shallow dives from clouds, if they were not torpedo attack trained, which most IJA pilots weren’t and most IJN pilots were.

    One Japanese seaplane pilot flared for a landing during an attack on a USN Destroyer at Okinawa, to force his F4U Corsair pursuer to overshoot, then gunned his engine and struck the Destroyer!

    Untrained pilots were readily apparent in combat.

    If they didn’t crash, chicken out or get lost, the untrained pilots of the Japanese Army & Navy had extreme target fixation and lost control if they were startled badly or suffered battle damage.

  5. Grr…

    That should have read:

    “Japanese Army _TWIN ENGINE_ engine pilots tended to do shallow dives from clouds, if they were not torpedo attack trained, which most IJA pilots weren’t and most IJN pilots were.”

  6. Trent, by the last months of the war, Japan had few trained pilots. That was the story of the decoy force at Leyte Gulf. They had no pilots to fly the planes they had left, which were more than our estimates. After the war, about 12,000 Japanese planes were found hidden that could have been used by kamikazes. I agree that better trained pilots did better but there were very few of them. The Japanese navy pilot training was a brutal course and washed out many of those who tried. It produced excellent pilots, better then ours, but they could not replace them.

    Germany had a similar problem. Germany had super aces with 200 planes shot down but they flew until the war ended or they were killed. The Germans never got to suicide mission except a few of the SS and Hitler Youth. In fact, our POWs got excellent medical care from the Germans. The Japanese were all about atrocities. I disagree with MacArthur about invading the Philippines except for one consideration. All the Allied POWs would have been massacred. Whether the death total would have been the same is irrelevant. We could not leave them to their fate.

  7. Michael – there is a great book on a Ranger rescue mission called ,i>Ghost Soldiers about a daring raid on a POW camp days before the invasion. One thing that stood out fopr me in reading the book – of the 80,000 or so captured after Bataan, about 6,000 remained – the rest dead due to starvation and disease.

    The German POW camps was run by the Luftwaffe, if I am not mistaken. They were the least Nazified military branch.

    You all may find this article interesting – on a manned Japanese cruise missile

  8. Michael Kennedy,

    The Japanese most assuredly had trained pilots at the end of WW2.

    Their flight instructors.

    What they were missing more than anything else was trained mechanics and spare parts. The trained mechanics were starving behind American lines and the American fire bomb raids were destroying the Japanese spares distribution system via disrupting the paper work requests requisitioning spares.

    The Post War evaluations of Japanese Kamikaze planes in their cave hide outs by General Kenney’s Far Eastern Air Forces T-2 intelligence teams was that there were huge issues with operational availability of those planes.

    The Japanese would be unable to do really mass attacks of the scope of the Okinawa raids because of those operational issues and American countermeasures.

    The major telephone and teletype lines in Kyushu ran through the railway right of ways and bridges. The very bridges that were a priority target of the pre-landing aerial bombardment with VB-1 Azon and VB-3 Razon guided bombs.

    During the landing the American Naval forces would be heavily jamming Japanese aerial radar and radio to hide the landings as much as possible from Japanese aerial spotters. Special US Army signals corps units were to be set up on off shore captured islands to jam Japanese radars looking for ships in US Navy anchorages & landing beaches, which the Navy would cover with smoke every dawn and dusk.

    The Imperial Japanese lack of attention to operational/logistical details was set to bite them square in the behind there. There would be an on-going and continuous dribble of aerial Kamikaze attacks for weeks rather than the 10-day Ragnarok the Japanese had planned for in their Kestu-Go operations.

    They would have killed a lot of Americans, but no where near what they wanted to do.

  9. Bill,

    After the operational lessons of the USAAF anti – V-1 “Crossbow” campaign in France, these catapult launched MXY7-K2 Ohka Two Seat Trainers would have a hard time operating in daylight.

    There would have been US photographic air patrols every two hours over all the roads and rails in Kyushu plus lots of random staffings from standing combat air patrols leaving station.

    And anything lit up at night would have attracted the P-61 night fighter intruder patrols.

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