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15 May 2008


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Neil Richardson

To Curious:

"a UAV doesn't need to be high tech. It only need to fly undetected to drop the missle. With that basic task. It is possible to do it under $10~20K. It's only a question of electronic.

I really think, tank role will end much sooner than we want. Less than 15 yrs. Most likely against Iran/Hezbollah UAV."

The Hellfire which is operational with Predators weighs about 100lbs. I suppose they could try to couple it with a lighter warhead but then how do they implement the guidance system? WL SACLOS with a drone that small? How about the communcations link to the controller? How secure would the Iranian network be in the battlefield? In addition, a Predator requires a runway not to mention a sensor array that may or may not be available to the Iranians. If the Iranians had the resources and the productive capacity to leap ahead of the US and European arms industry in drone technology, I'd be duly impressed. Of course when you start adding up the cost (sensor array, the cost of secure com link, runway and support personnel and operators who'd be subject to interdiction from the USAF if not artillery and gunships), it might be just a bit more expensive than USD 10k-20k. And that's before figuring out how to get hold of wireless or laser SACLOS guided warheads which aren't cheap. Heck they may just think it makes more sense economically to use the good old mark I infantry to acquire targets and launch Kornets. Of course you're also assuming that the composite armor technology remains unchanged in the next 10 to 15 years. That's very unlikely. As far as the PLA is concerned, they've taken a slightly more conventional approach to defeat US armor namely Type 99 main battle tank


Kornet E weight about 60lbs. And the russian tested it in Iraq against M1A1. (By now, jsut about anybody with paper and pencil now what M1A1 looks like in various radar profile. They only need to goto Iraqi junk yard.)


"How about the communcations link to the controller? How secure would the Iranian network be in the battlefield?"

It doesn't need to be very secure. They are fighting home turf. They only need to figure out where the tank are and start dropping the anti tank missiles

for eg. They can make the UAV so cheap it runs on AM/FM/GSM/WiFi frequency hopping. What we gonna do? start listening to all AM/FM/GSM/WiFi frequencies? We gonna jammed up the entire super computer in the world and we still not gonna find anything. Are we going to fly a $2M jet fighter that cost $1500/hrs to operate to chase a $15,000 UAV? you are kidding right? they already win before they start fighting.

ON top of that the Iranian can blanket their entire country with flagpole/antenna as transmitter for their UAV. They can turn several building in a village into giant array antenna to listen to puny UAV transmitter. (again, what we gonna do? start bombing every antenna that transmit in common wireless frequencies to control those drones? We'll go bankrupt dropping those expensive bombs. )

this is how they can do it on the cheap:

- send scout UAV. This is heavier with electronic/TV transmission. Find tank, figure out formation, find support vehicles in the formation.

2. second wave (dumb UAV) Your average microwave oven will have more electronic than this. Its sole job is to follow where the scout UAV send them and drop the smart ammunition. (I am pretty sure the russian will teach the Iranian a thing or two about fire and forget anti tank missile)

The dumb UAV then go home to pre determined spot with radio off (basically just crash land and wait till somebody pick it up and refurbish)

Remember the Iranian is fighting home turf, they can have as many antennas, as many cable/fiber optics and as much power supply they want.

Hell they can fly a common cellphone with digicam and they have all the information they need of tank formation and location to send the dumb UAV. A tank formation can only go so fast. 20 minutes after observation, the whole brigade will still lumbering along in the same spot.

They already know what humvee, M1A1 or tanker look like. They don't need super fancy electronic. Hell stuff a laptop in a UAV and you got a super weapon comparatively speaking. (the laptop doesn't need power supply, and fairly cheap)

All the UAV need to do is fly over tank formation, find a tank, drop the missile. The missile will take care the rest. heck, the UAV can even borrow the missile camera and sensor while flying.

It only need to be as smart as a toaster.


Ok. here is a scenario that should give all tank strategist a pause for Iranian scenario.

suppose we do traditional tank invasion against Iran.

Iran reacts. They bomb all nearby air strips. (so we lost considerable air support. Their UAV now can fly free.)

Inside Iran, large tank division is on the move. Iran sends scout UAV. They know exact number of tank, exact location and direction.

Iran send swarm of drone. not just 5-10, but 300-400 drones. waves after waves, since they are so cheap to make.

structure of attack

1. scout UAV leader (this one is to take a picture of target formation, send the image to targeting officers, targeting officers mark the vehicles and assign it to bomber UAV)

2. scout UAV, then send signal to bomber UAV via standard short range wifi the targets map. bomber UAV start chasing targets.

so, as you can see the bomber UAV doesn't need to be very smart. all it needs to do is a very brief secure, short distant communication to a) follow the scout leader b) receive and process targeting information c)drop the payload d) go home on its own. these UAV will be so dumb, it's practically jammed resistance. (there is nothing to jam and hijack)

It's basic WWII bomber strategy, except done semi automatically.

any fancy RC plane club can do this.


I don't buy the 'one missile will kill a tank/ship' as an argument.

One well placed bullet will kill a soldier. But does the presence of snipers invalidate the concept of infantry?

Neil Richardson

"It's basic WWII bomber strategy, except done semi automatically.

any fancy RC plane club can do this."

Well maybe I'm just an uninformed Luddite (or perhaps someone who hasn't flipped through a copy of Popular Mechanics in some years) and perhaps you're right. But since we're straying into pop netcentric warfare territory, I'll bow out of this.

IMHO 1) I cannot possibly see an actual invasion of Iran in which the USAF wouldn't conduct a system-wide air campaign (see John A. Warden's argument) where we wouldn't paralyze their electric power grid. And it tends to be quite overwhelming as 1991 demonstrated. And this cellular phone based netcentric warfare on the cheap is something the PLA has been toying around openly in their professional journals. We'll have to see, but it seems they're hedging their bet toward ASAT and cyberwarfare as they also see the danger of premising the design on the good will of the adversary not to attack C4I and infrastructure.

2) It would be dereliction of duty on the part of a planner if he doesn't plan for a EW phase and prep the battlespace. It's been done for decades and that's what I meant when I questioned the security of com link. 3) We do have something called tactical ADA you know. The swarm of "cheap" drones (I can see a booming ultralite industry in Iraq) might be useful if the fire-and-forget technology is reliable. Care to guess what the range and accuracy rate of a Javelin (which is far more reliable than the usual run of Russian hardware) or a Spike might be? And those work from stable platforms namely stationary soldier or a tripod. Just a bit harder to believe that they'd achieve pK high enough IMHO when you've got a jerry rigged drone. But then again what do I know?

4) Finally, it's a faulty assumption to think that a particular HEAT round will always work against all variations of composite armor which is evolving. I'm fairly certain the Iraqis were very unpleasantly shocked by the DU package on M1A1s in 1991. And these are mere passive measures. Depending on what the FCS program yields in terms of active protection system (Heck the Israelis tried to spread out the cost and achieve some economy of scale by trying to get the DOD to adopt Trophy APS), I'd venture to guess that combined with training (eg Sagger dance), the survival rate for the 21st century US horse cavalry to be pretty good as long as the Iranians don't try an EMP attack by detonating one above their home territory.


It is not Saddam's tank, scud or his republican guards that gives us trouble, but IED and rag tag guerilla army. Scenario above is a simple possibility where Iran can deliver huge number of anti tank missiles and rain it over out tank formation. It won't take them decades, but years to achieve if they want.

1) There is no reason why a cheap UAV cannot carry multi fruequency (FM/GMS/WiFi) and do frequency hopping. The technology is off the shelf, cheap and effective for the simple task.

a) they only need to hide the lead UAV control links, And that can easily be achieved by using public frequency that we cannot possibly scan using our 'ears' without flooding the entire computer system with useless information. (How much information does a UAV need if one already has a flight plan loaded? ocassional location check and check in upon arrival? So that takes care of your question how secure a UAV piloting com link needs to be. It's trivial. There is no need whatsoever to continuously control the UAV.)

b) How hard is it to create a link that works only at 100-200 feet between lead UAV and dumb bomber drone? (use short burst FM combined with IR receiver, and make them only able to talk from very narrow angle within flight formation. Do frequency hopping) If the whole set up is created so that no receiver can accept anything from above, we can't do a thing! No EW from above. All those fancy plane jammer won't do a thing. If something tries to jam from the ground, start dropping the bomb. It's the juicy target.)

"2) It would be dereliction of duty on the part of a planner if he doesn't plan for a EW phase and prep the battlespace." "... when you've got a jerry rigged drone."

Yeah well, we are in Iraq mess right? so much for planning. ... We already have UAV that can launch anti tank for simple targets. I will put my money on UAV team against any tank division. At our level of UAV tech, we can win against any straight up open desert tank battle before lunch. Anyway, the question is can the Iranian do it in short time?

"Care to guess what the range and accuracy rate of a Javelin (which is far more reliable than the usual run of Russian hardware) or a Spike might be?"

about a mile +/- half miles. And as far as I know, tank radar can't detect well design UAV from that range. By the time a UAV unloads, it's too late. We are talking about anti tank missile counter measure. that isn't a drone problem.

"4) Finally, it's a faulty assumption to think that a particular HEAT"

It doesn't matter. If the entire rig is accurate enough to kill all support vehicles (fuel supply, humvee, etc.) The tanks are useless piece of metal after 300 miles.

secondly, the main point, it forces tanks to put on ever thicker and heavier armor. which is tank weakest point. It's too heavy already.

How hard is it to find a 60 tons of metal in the middle of desert? Fly an infrared camera at early evening and start bombing. that's basic law of physic. There isn't a single thing one can do about it.


Okay I hope this link will finally put beyond reasonable doubt the capability of a UAV to deliver 100 lbs payload undetected within a mile of a tank. (or just act as a spotter for bomber UAV.)

Tank losts. End of story.

PS. the chinese has a copy of this. Since Iran can build helicopter, I am pretty sure they are more than capable cloning this too.


Cold War Zoomie

Okay I hope this link will finally put beyond reasonable doubt the capability of a UAV to deliver 100 lbs payload undetected within a mile of a tank.

There are all sorts of "signatures" out there in the electromagnetic spectrum - it's not all about emissions from the radios. Don't underestimate our ability to detect these UAVs and possibly the people who launch them based on a whole host of "noises."

As for the radio component, we were plucking out Soviet spread spectrum transmissions in the 1980s. Signal processing capabilities are much, much, much greater now than back then. All those PhDs at NSA and in industry aren't sitting around twiddling their thumbs all day.

Sure, some may get through at first. But those successes would be short lived.

A UAV is not the same as an IED.


UAV has some IED characteristic. It's cheap, flexible and effective.

radio signature. Of course everything has profile. But what can be done about it? The point of cheap UAV, the counter measure are all much more expensive. It is hard to detect UAV and do something about it.

Go ask around, what it takes to create simple "Harpy" like UAV specifically to attack M1 exhaust pipe.

And this type of technology is within Iranian technological capability. It's nothing exotic. They don't have to create general purpose all condition missiles, only single task in one type of combat condition.


"4th Generation Warfare? What about 5th and 6th Generation?"

Col., sir : I'm lost...


Malaya - but it was an ethnic Chinese-led insurgency

Then there is the Philippines (the Huks) under Magsaysay's leadership.


I had understood that strategic military planning in the abstract is a futile exercise. You need a "preferred" enemy. Many see China as that enemy - at the 'macro' level. The positing of Russia is a politically driven bogeyman - as General Pavel, head of NATO's Military Committee, admitted last week.

I don't see how China fits into Gates' scheme of things - unless he is breaking from what was the DoD implicit consensus when he ran the place.
As to insurgencies, that is a generic type - albeit with important variations case-by-case. Why have we spent tens of billions on building up Special Forces into a 75,000 army within an army unless we had a good idea of when we might call on it and how we might use it? There is an obvious answer; and since the master builder is now President of the entire University of Texas system, I'd be tempted to ask him if I hadn't been declared persona non grata around here.



Strategic military planning in the abstract does not take place in DoD in the sense that the military defines the term. Such strategic planning as the military does takes place within the four corners of grand strategy and national purpose as defined by the elected government. pl

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