NATO military bets drones will soon be ‘as important as artillery’ on the battlefield
The US military recently conducted an exercise involving a “swarm” of 40 quadcopter drones equipped with cameras, lasers and lethal munitions. As the British military tests similar drone tactics, the Pentagon believes these inexpensive aircraft will dominate the battlefield when “the next war” bursts.
Video posted to Twitter by Brigadier General Curt Taylor of the Army National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., on Sunday shows the swarm of drones flying in formation, before a mock attack on a position defended by the 11th Division armored cavalry.
The drones flew over what appeared to be a mock-up of an urban environment, and the video was apparently shot during an exercise involving nearly 7,000 soldiers, Taylor explained in a separate tweet.
At sunrise this morning a swarm of 40 quadcopters all equipped with cameras, MILES and lethal ammunition capable of being launched ahead of the 11th ACR attack on a defense prepared by 1AD. Drones will be as important in the first battle of the next war as artillery is today. pic.twitter.com/zPQ2I8SoqN
— NTC Lead 6 (@NTCLead6) September 11, 2022
“Drones will be as important in the first battle of the next war as artillery is today,” Taylor said.
Inexpensive quadcopter drones have been deployed in eastern Ukraine, with kyiv forces and troops from the Donbas republics using the remote-controlled aircraft to drop grenades and mortars on each other. Russian forces have also used such drones to observe and direct artillery fire.
In addition, the United States and the United Kingdom have supplied Ukraine with “Switchblade” stray munitions, more commonly known as “suicide” or “kamikaze” drones. These semi-autonomous vehicles can fly over a battlefield before dive-bombing enemies below.
However, Russia and Ukraine are still largely dependent on artillery in the ongoing conflict – and despite the range of high-tech weapons provided by the West to Kyiv, Moscow forces are deploying 15 pieces of artillery for each of the Ukrainians, the deputy head of Ukraine’s military intelligence, Vadim Skibitsky, said in June.
Nevertheless, the UK is also betting on drones as potential game changers on the battlefield of the future. The British military announced last week that it had successfully tested swarms of drones over a training area at Salisbury Plain. With an operator piloting up to six drones using artificial intelligence, the test was described by the military as a “breakthrough in technology and innovation.”