Hidden in Plain Sight: The Drones Are Watching
All wars provide some technology jumps. That is why they are useful. In WW1, the tank, was the new technology that changed the war once it was perfected. In WW2, it was the tank designs of the Germans and Russians that had a huge impact on the war that spawned many other weapon systems. It was also the rocket and get aircraft that was a quantum leap in technology, and of course, the atomic bomb, that gave birth to the nuclear age. In the Vietnam war, it was the evolution of techniques and adaptation to existing weapons, such as napalm, chemical defoliants. The 1991 Gulf War brought us the new fast, laser M1 tank, making the old T72 Soviet tank seem like a relic. The Iraqis did not even see their enemy. The war in Afghanistan, despite its controversy, also has yielded unique devices and weapons when fighting guerrilla style warfare: Drones.
Drones are the modern version of a Forward Air Controller or spotter aircraft used in all wars. The difference is these are unmanned and can fly for long periods at 15-20,000 ft. and using cameras are able to zoom in and observe the enemy and attack without them even having a clue that is occurring. They are nearly invisible to the naked eye at such heights due to their small size.
In Afghanistan, the drones most commonly in use are the Reaper and Predator. Both are similar in size and both can fire missiles on targets as many have. The newest drone is actually from the pages WW1, called Aerostat, it is what was called an "observation balloon" in WW1. The difference is that the modern version floats above at 15,000 ft. tied to a single cable. Attached is a 360 degree camera that is always operating and can observe anyone within 20 miles of it. Suspicious activities are seen and perhaps a Reaper will then fire a missile to destroy the target. The zoom capability allows the camera to see a license plate. These ballons are 200 ft. long and 65 ft. wide. They can remain aloft for months. There are many currently in use along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. The RQ-170 Sentinal was used to spy on Osama Bin Laden while in Pakistan.
Drones are everywhere. Ten years ago, the US military had only 50, today, over 7000. Coming very soon are incredible drones, like the Hummingbird. It is only 4 inches long with a 6 inch wing span and a tiny camera and weighs less than one ounce. This baby flies at 11 mph and can perch on a windowsill, or hover over a target. Soon, soldiers will be able to carry drones into battle and launch them like a paper airplane, this is called Raven. This is 3 ft. long and is only five pounds.A soldier would simply assemble it and toss it. It would then fly to its target area and video would be returned to the viewer. Incredible. By 2030, drones will be as small as a dragonfly.