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Robotics The Military

Air Force Planning New Drone Fleet For Pakistan 240

mattnyc99 writes "With tensions high on the border, a new commander in Afghanistan, and complaints of civilian deaths from robotic US strikes in Pakistan raising anti-American sentiment, the Air Force is sketching out concepts for new robotic hitmen, reports Among the new drones (which are all very small) are the Suburb Warrior (loaded with four or five mini missiles for semi-urban environments), the Sniper targeting system ("that can lock on to multiple targets, allowing a single drone pilot to coordinate the attacks of a squadron of robots"), and a backup fleet of flying buggies that act as suicide-bomber snipers. From the article: 'Picking through the dozens of systems in this briefing, many of which will be flight-tested within five years, there's a clear set of goals: build smaller, even microscopic drones with smaller weapons that can hunt in swarms and engage targets in the close quarters of urban battlefields. And hunt as soon as possible.'"
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Air Force Planning New Drone Fleet For Pakistan

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  • by ickleberry ( 864871 ) <> on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @06:44PM (#28367383) Homepage
    War is just a silly game of 'who runs out of soldiers first' played between two governments. If soldiers can be replaced by robots I'm all for it
  • by GodfatherofSoul ( 174979 ) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @06:48PM (#28367413)
    The more "harmless" wars start to look, the easier it will be for politicians to convince the public to go to war. Look at how itchy a trigger finger our "all volunteer" army has given US Presidents. "What do I care? It's not MY kid."
  • by Darkness404 ( 1287218 ) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @06:52PM (#28367457)
    But losing robots isn't going to make a government quit, like losing so many human soldiers can.
  • by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @06:55PM (#28367493) Homepage Journal
    Civilian space development is just an excuse to do military development on the sly. Consider the Chinese manned space programme. Their Government wants the capability but not so they can plant a flag on the moon eventually.
  • by giorgist ( 1208992 ) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @06:55PM (#28367495)
    So with no soldiers to kill, it will be who runs out of money or civilians or infrastructure ...

    I agree it's better. Until now we were watching war on TV between mercenaries.
    Now we will hear our little Johnny at school got blasted away war may not be a great spectator sport.
  • by rastoboy29 ( 807168 ) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @06:56PM (#28367503) Homepage
    It's only a matter of time before anybody, anywhere in the world can be picked off by a robot without any warning.

    It's modern technology, Bobby!
  • by CosmicRabbit ( 1505129 ) <> on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @06:58PM (#28367511)
    Besides robots don't have feelings. They don't ever testify about the horrors of war, refuse to commit atrocities when ordered to do so, or have to deal with PTSD afterward.
  • by L3370 ( 1421413 ) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @06:58PM (#28367513)
    its also about material resources, not just bodies. a war between robot armies will be won by the one that has the most access raw materials metal, oil, coal, T-1000 morphing goo... etc.
  • by L3370 ( 1421413 ) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @07:05PM (#28367565)
    Its also worth noting that war has driven technological advances much faster than any other single reason, so I wouldn't go as far to say science has been wasted on war. One example...Emergency room trauma techniques and equipment were perfected on the battlefield. millions of lives have been saved because of the millions that were killed or maimed in war. some of the coolest gadgets we use today came from the research done in finding ways to kill eachother.
  • by snowraver1 ( 1052510 ) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @07:06PM (#28367583)
    I think the idea is to have robots kill people... This is basically nuclear warfare without the fallout. Nukes have a couple of problems. They cause fallout, massive civilian deaths, mutations to future births, etc. They are great, however, because they can be used to kill & deal enormous amounts of damage from afar, with no soldiers on the ground.

    Likewise with these drones and robots and what have you. The point, once again, is to make killing massive amounts of people as simple as pressing a button, with no soldiers on the ground. Sure, it's not as bad as nukes, but to me it seems like a technology that is as game changing and disruptive.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @07:14PM (#28367661)

    Most of these UAVs still require input from a human operator in order to receive authorization to fire. What happens when we fight anyone with moderate technical capabilities? The first thing that I would do when up against a drone army is to break out the RF jammer or a moderately powered microwave dish effectively denying the UAV access to the battlefield.

  • by Daimanta ( 1140543 ) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @07:23PM (#28367717) Journal

    "refuse to commit atrocities when ordered to do so"

    robots follow their programming. Wwhen they get the command to commit atrocities, they will do so without any hesitation, because machines do not hesitate.

  • by badboy_tw2002 ( 524611 ) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @07:29PM (#28367737)

    I'd say the large numbers of civilians killed in conflict since WWII would disagree with you. There's been a lot of examples throughout history of making states capitulate by attacking civilian populations, but the axis & allied carpet bombing campaigns in Europe really put the idea in motion that civilians were responsible for the war making machine, so to kill the machine you need to take out the capability of making tanks, bullets, ball bearings, gas, etc. Once you go that far, why stop at the factories? Why not bomb the workers in the factories directly at their homes.

    Having robots do the bombing doesn't change any of this, its just that one side has a lot less to lose.

  • by shutdown -p now ( 807394 ) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @07:43PM (#28367849) Journal

    Or the other option is we could stop killing each other.

    Sure we could. But I don't trust you, so I'm gonna have to ask you to drop the gun first. Once you do that, I'll drop my own, too... I promise! Honest!

  • by Ozlanthos ( 1172125 ) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @07:49PM (#28367895)
    Almost all scientific break-throughs/developments go through a clearly observable cycle. 1. Theoretical, 2. Experimental 3. Prototypical, 4. Militaristic 5. Commercial 6. Entertainment. Granted that a very few developments skipped a step or two, but for the most part, the cycle holds true. Which makes me long it will be until we can be watching drones "police" us on Cops????

  • by Paul Fernhout ( 109597 ) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @07:51PM (#28367903) Homepage

    The biggest issue of the 21st century is post-scarcity technology wielded by people still preoccupied with fighting over perceived scarcity.

    Nuclear power, biotech, AI, robotics, nanotech, the internet, and social bureaucracy -- each of these technologies could make the earth a paradise if developed for humane ends.

    Albert Einstein said: "The release of atom power has changed everything except our way of thinking...the solution to this problem lies in the heart of mankind. If only I had known, I should have become a watchmaker."

    The same is true for robotics, biotech, and the rest. Even smart networked watches. :-)

  • This stuff... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anachragnome ( 1008495 ) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @08:07PM (#28368025)

    This stuff needs to be treated like nuclear weapons in terms of international condemnation. It is much harder to determine if a rogue country is trying to build such technology and is therefore MORE dangerous then nuclear weapons.

    Drone weaponry, especially the microscopic crap they are dreaming about (but seriously working on), are just as dangerous as biological weaponry. Borders will mean nothing to the people that have this capability.

    I don't care if it IS us that will have this technology. It needs to be stopped before we have ourselves another Cold-War, or worse, a real war.

    I don't trust ANYONE with this tech.

  • by couchslug ( 175151 ) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @08:22PM (#28368157)

    "The first thing that I would do when up against a drone army is to break out the RF jammer or a moderately powered microwave dish effectively denying the UAV access to the battlefield."

    No chance UAV designers would take THAT into consideration! :)

  • Re:This stuff... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland&yahoo,com> on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @08:25PM (#28368181) Homepage Journal

    GO live in a cave.

    This tech works both ways.
    And they are controlled, so yeah, borders will matter.

  • by selven ( 1556643 ) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @09:13PM (#28368451)
    I think moral judgements should be done objectively, by people strategically thinking about how to minimize damage, not by people in the heat of the moment who refuse to shoot at a civilian but are perfectly fine with interrupting their food supply and killing hundreds of people that way.
  • by circletimessquare ( 444983 ) <circletimessquare&gmail,com> on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @09:23PM (#28368521) Homepage Journal

    all you have to do is:

    1. stop people believing in something
    2. stop people from having passions in their beliefs

    war and love are permanent aspects of mankind, two sides of a coin. you can't have one without the other. both are immutable unavoidable implications of having passion in something. we will never stop waging war, or love, as long as we exist as a species

  • by i_b_don ( 1049110 ) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @09:32PM (#28368577)

    "Almost all"??? Bullshit.

    Lets start listing breakthroughs and developments that aren't militarized first:

    heart surgery, anigioplasty, television, cellular phones, CAT scans, chemotherapy, vaccinations, dental implants, hearing aids, digital photography, digital video recording, dark matter, DNA, plate techtonics, AIDS medicine, gene therapy, mapping the human genome, HIV testing, the remote control, insulin, kidney dialysis, plasma television, flat panel television, MRIâ(TM)s, pacemakers, photovoltaic cells, antidepressants, robots in production lines, scanning electron microscopes, smoke detectors, the birth control pill, performing organ transplants, UPC codes, and Viagra

    In addition practically all modern electronics were not built with the military in mind nor were they initially used for military. This includes things like multi-million transistor processors, gigabit memory chips, high resolution flat panel displays, gigabit eithernet, etc. The military has a different set of requirements before it uses technology than corporations. They demand a higher level of stability and reliability than a commercial enterprise requires. As such a corporation is going to use the highest performance CPUâ(TM)s on their workstations and desktops while inside a nuclear sub theyâ(TM)re going to still be using Pentium IIâ(TM)s that have been thoroughly evaluated and proven to work.

    Commerce drives way more R&D development in this day and age than does the military. There are lots of exceptions because the military has a different set of requirements and therefore they research different things, but the time when the military drives "almost all scientific break-throughs" is long dead. The military still drives some scientific development, but itâ(TM)s a drop in the bucket compared to the rest of the scientific community.


  • Re:This stuff... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @09:37PM (#28368595)

    If you saw the numbers of mexicans pouring in to the US every day, you'd already know that borders mean nothing now.

  • by qbzzt ( 11136 ) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @10:10PM (#28368791)

    They don't ever testify about the horrors of war, refuse to commit atrocities when ordered to do so, or have to deal with PTSD afterward.

    Except these aren't robots - they're remote controlled. The controllers do see the horrors of war and can get PTSD even though their lives were not at risk. And ordering these remote controlled UAVs to commit atrocities seems like a way to make sure the court martial finds you guilty - their sensor input can probably be recorded for evidence.

  • by PhxBlue ( 562201 ) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @10:41PM (#28368987) Homepage Journal

    The first thing that I would do when up against a drone army is to break out the RF jammer or a moderately powered microwave dish effectively denying the UAV access to the battlefield.

    Which is why Air Force Space Command has spent money investing in Wideband Global SATCOM, Advanced Extremely High Frequency, etc. Spot beams, EHF and powerful transmitters make any signal to a UAV extremely difficult to jam.

  • by ArcherB ( 796902 ) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @10:49PM (#28369039) Journal

    1. stop people believing in something

    The only thing you have to stop people from believing in is their right to impose their beliefs on others. Whether it be Islamists trying to convert the world into a Sharia state, or the U.S. trying to 'help' foreign countries be democratic, no good comes of meddling in others' affairs. Sadly it's one of the most basic human endeavours.

    OK, but what do you do if a tyrannical government is forcing its "beliefs" on a powerless populace that doesn't want them? Do you stand by and watch innocent men, women and children be forced into state sponsored slavery and/or get slaughtered by the thousands or millions? Do you turn your head when genocide takes place even though you have the power to stop it?

    Most wars are not started by one state wanting to force its way of life on the population of another state. Most wars happen for resources and liberation. So when you say no good comes of meddling in others' affairs, I'll ask you to tell that to a holocaust survivor, or Rwandan refugee. Sometimes, war is not only necessary, but a good thing. Yes, war is hell, but sometimes it's better than the alternative.

  • by ArcherB ( 796902 ) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @12:10AM (#28369491) Journal

    Yeah, so how are north Korea, Rwanda, and Darfur these days? How about that Taliban? We don't seem to care that much about 'other' people.

    N. Korea, Rwanda and Darfur are all excellent examples of where we either didn't get involved or didn't finish the job. And yeah, they all suck. As for the Taliban, they are the guys that repressed the masses and harbored the guy that attacked us. So, the worse off the Taliban is, the better for us, and the better for the people of Afghanistan (most of them, anyway).

    So how about examples of countries where the US/UN intervened and saw the job through to completion? Japan and Germany are the first two that come to mind. The people of Iraq seem to be doing better, but that job is not finished yet. The Italians seem to enjoy their freedom. The Kuwaitis love us!

    Thanx for the examples of what happens when we don't finish the job.

    Oh, and I love your sig []:

    Pacifism. Pacifism is objectively pro-Fascist. This is elementary common sense. If you hamper the war effort of one side you automatically help that of the other. Nor is there any real way of remaining outside such a war as the present one. In practice, 'he that is not with me is against me'. The idea that you can somehow remain aloof from and superior to the struggle, while living on food which British sailors have to risk their lives to bring you, is a bourgeois illusion bred of money and security.


    (Read the whole thing. It's brilliant!)

  • by Hecatonchires ( 231908 ) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @12:29AM (#28369623) Homepage
    And they'll be conditioned in the same way a counter-strike player is to being teabagged after they die. They'll yell at the screen and have another caffeinated beverage. At the end of their shift, they'll walk out jostling shoulders, cracking their knuckles and necks, and joking about who's on the leaderboard. Hell, by the time its fully up and running, live modding of the video stream will be advanced enough to put a red halo around the bad guys feet (like in an RTS), a green around your side, and blue around allies. Maybe yellow around the french ^_-
  • by h4rm0ny ( 722443 ) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @02:10AM (#28370179) Journal

    Yep. It's even easier to dehumanize your enemy when they exist only on a computer screen. And dehumanizing your enemy is what it's all about. They're not "people", they're "terrorists" or whatever word you've conditioned people to use as a substitute for thought. The article says around 650 people have been assassinated in Pakistan by US forces so far. No trials, no declaration of warfare, not even a tactical need to seize a position. Just US drones flying into another country and shooting people who are inconvenient. Disgusting.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 18, 2009 @09:58AM (#28373349)
    If America invests in these types of weapons, you can bet China will too. These 'ethical' discussions will get a whole lot more xenophobic once another superpower uses them.

    And that's before a sufficiently capable power starts devising ways to assume control of their enemies' weapons.
  • by radtea ( 464814 ) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @11:26AM (#28374603)

    When a politician puts his own personal life on the line when he decides to do something nasty to another nation and decides that it is worth risking his personal life, it is vastly more likely that the cause is 'just'.

    You're not thinking this through. You're assuming we can have pretty much the same kind of social and political structures that we have now in a world where political assassination is pretty much consequence-free for the perpetrators.

    Take a look at English society during the first generation of the War of the Roses to get an idea of what the future might look like: the primary tool of war at that time was political assassination, the leaders of both sides knew it, and they still fought for a cause that to modern eyes looks almost completely pointless.

    Now imagine a world where it isn't just princes and presidents who have this technology, but triads and motorcycle gangs. Ask yourself, "What would Tony Soprano do?"

    The landscape will change. "God made man, Colt made men equal" is a bit of an overstatement, but it's not a huge surprise that democratic forms of government grew up in the West at about the same time firearms were becoming widely available.

    The technology of killing changes the social landscape, although how it does so depends on purely social factors as well. So don't assume the world of tomorrow will be "just like today, but with robotic assassination machines." The equilibrium will shift, and not necessarily for the better.

  • but you cherry pick the reasons that support your tired cynicism

    you have a prejudice, and you pick the reasons that support your prejudice, and you don't bother to examine alternate reasons, equally valid, and possibly arrive at alternate conclusions about what truly motivates nations and people in a dominant fashion

    you are a propaganda victim. propaganda never lies. it merely traffics in half-truths: small bits and pieces of the overall puzzle, examined in isolation, to arrive at conclusions that are out of whack, but supported by "the truth"

    you need to develop a wider perspective, consider deeper avenues of the context of situations you depend upon to support your mentality and opinions, and grow in intellectual honesty

    but right now you are just a tired crackpot hack

  • Re:This stuff... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by lennier ( 44736 ) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @06:17PM (#28381681) Homepage

    So then his drones will fight the government drones, and the TV newsdrones will be recording it, and then the SWAT drones will turn up, and then the blogger drones, and before you know it some smart-alec kid's wearing an EVA-01 suit and that's when things get *really* out of hand.

Logic is the chastity belt of the mind!