Monday, February 12, 2018

Curious dreams

It's been a while since I've had a cold. The sore throat hit on Thursday afternoon although it lasted less than a day. By Friday afternoon I was wiped and retired to bed, where I remained for the next 24 hours. The virus makes you weary: your consciousness diminishes, you doze, you have strange, obsessional dreams.

I dreamt about weaponizing drones to drop grenades .. but that's already been done.
"Guerrillas have been using commercial drones since 2015. Islamic State (IS), one of the groups active in Syria, makes extensive use of quadcopters to drop grenades. In 2017 alone the group posted videos of over 200 attacks."
The Economist this week continues:
"Small drones are surprisingly hard targets, however. Iraqi forces in Mosul used to joke that trying to deal with an IS drone attack was like being at a wedding celebration: everyone fired their Kalashnikovs into the air with no effect.

A recent American army manual describes small drones as “very difficult to defeat using direct fire weapons”. A single rifle bullet is likely to miss. A shotgun would work, but only at close range, and would mean that squaddies had to carry around an extra weapon all the time on the off chance of a drone attack. Also, since drones are not of standard sizes, the range to one is hard to estimate.

The manual therefore suggests that rather than aiming directly at a drone, the entire squad should fire their weapons at a fixed point ahead of it, hoping to bring the craft down with a curtain of fire. The manual also advises commanders that the best course of action may be “immediate relocation of the unit to a safer location”. ...

"A similar problem applies at sea, where billion-dollar ships might have their defences overwhelmed by squadrons of cheap, jerry-built drones. The mainstay of American naval air defence is Aegis, an orchestrated arrangement of radars, computers, missiles and cannons. The short-range element of Aegis is a Dalek-like, rapid-fire cannon called Phalanx, which spits out 75 rounds a second and can shoot down incoming cruise missiles. This will not cope well with lots of small drones, though.

The navy is now upgrading Aegis’s software to handle multiple simultaneous incoming targets by scheduling bursts of fire to destroy as many members of a swarm as possible. It is doubtful, however, whether one gun could account for more than a handful of attackers coming in from all directions at once. An unclassified study suggests that it could be overwhelmed by as few as eight. [!]"
My other dreams were reminiscences of Herman Kahn's legendary "On Thermonuclear War";

Amazon link

and a similarly-chilling and brilliant "Fail-Safe", Eugene Burdick's and Harvey Wheeler's dramatic account of an American nuclear bomber squadron which is mistakenly directed to target Moscow. Due to an equipment malfunction, they can't be recalled.

It does not end well.

Amazon link

Thankfully, now I'm recovering: all those fever-dreams must surely be receding.

But .. a month ago, I wrote this spoof-ish piece arguing that due to shortfalls in conventional military provisioning, the UK will (or should) end up emulating Russia's 'small-nuke warfighting doctrine' (as memorably described in "War With Russia" by General Sir Richard Shirreff) - rather than the current MAD posture.

Well, 2017 came and went ...

Obviously this is politically unsayable by any conceivable British administration .. but then I read that the Americans plan to do exactly that - and they even have a big enough military already.

Since the Brits tend to do stuff for the Americans which they find politically difficult, some new (multi-user?) development contracts could be incoming for the MoD .. .


  1. I read recently that "Drone Swarms" have already been used in Syria (against the Russians) by someone. The purpose of a "Drone Swarm" is to overwhelm *any* defence/radar system (etc) by massive quantity, rather than by individual Drone strength.

    Currently reading "2020: World of War".

    1. The Economist covered this recent, rather low-tech, attack in the first part of the article (which I didn't quote).

      "2020: World of War" sounds interesting. I'll give it a look.


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