Singer (2009) wired for war?

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Singer (2009) wired for war?

  1. 1. Wired for War? Robots and Military DoctrineBy P . W . S i n g e r Marines in Iraq employ remote-controlled robot to detect improvised explosive devices and weapons caches U.S. Marine Corps (William Skelton)104     JFQ  /  issue 52, 1st quarter 2009 ndupres s . ndu. edu
  2. 2. SINGERT he growth in our use of war. And it is even using the technology in “behind” the technology in how it conceptu- unmanned systems has taken growing quantities (the number of unmanned alizes its use in the field, especially in ignoring place so rapidly that we often ground systems in Iraq today is just above the robots’ growing smarts and autonomy: “They forget how far we have come in number of tanks the British had at the end of still think of robots as RC [remote control]just a short time. While U.S. forces went into World War I). But the United States does not cars.”4 Similarly, at Foster-Miller (the teamIraq with only a handful of drones in the air (all yet have an overall doctrine on how to use behind the TALON and SWORDS), execu-of V Corps had just one), by the end of 2008, them or how they fit together. tives point to the lack of an overall plan forthere were 5,331 unmanned aircraft systems “There is no guiding pattern, no guiding support structures as evidence of the gap.in the American inventory, from vigilant vision,” is the assessment of Colonel Robert They note that there is “nothing yet on logis-Global Hawks and armed Predators that circle Bateman, an Army officer in the Pentagon’s tics to support or maintain robots. . . . Thethousands of feet overhead to tiny Ravens Net Assessment office tasked with this area. Army is just bootstrapping it.”5that peer over the next city block. A similar A survey of U.S. military officers taken byexplosion happened on the ground, where Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency The Mothership Has Landedzero unmanned ground vehicles were used in a (DARPA) researchers backs him up. When the Developing the right doctrine for usingtactical sense during the 2003 invasion; by the officers were questioned about robots’ future in unmanned systems is thus essential to theend of 2008, the overall inventory crossed the war, they identified developing a strategy and future of the force. If the U.S. military gets12,000 mark, with the first generation of armed doctrine as the third least important aspect to it right, it will win the wars of tomorrow. Ifground robotics arriving that year as well. figure out (only ahead of solving inter-Service it does not, it might instead be on the way toAnd notably, these are just the first generation, rivalry and allaying allies’ concerns).1 One building what one Army officer called “themuch like the iPod, already outdated by the commentator described how the military’s Maginot Line of the 21st century.”6time they hit the marketplace and battlespace. process of purchasing systems, despite not Akin to the intense interwar doctrinal In many ways, the most apt historic par- having fully developed operational plans for debates over how to use new technologies suchallel to this era may well turn out to be World them, “smacked of attention deficit disorder.”2 as tanks and airplanes, there is not yet agree-War I. Back then, strange, exciting new tech- The issue is not that we are not buying ment on how best to fight with unmannednologies, which had been science fiction a few these systems or arguing over who controls systems. But the contours are coming to light.years earlier, were introduced and then used them, but rather that we are not dealing Much as early armor proponents argued overin greater numbers on the battlefield. They with the broader question of where and whether tanks should only support infantrydid not really change the fundamentals of thewar, and in many ways the technology wasbalky and fighting remained frustrating. But robot executives complain that the military is “behind” thethese early models did prove useful enough technology in how it conceptualizes its use in the field,that it was clear that the new technologies especially in ignoring robots’ growing autonomywere not going away and militaries had betterfigure out how to use them most effectively. It how it all fits together. As an Army sergeant versus being massed together, or the debatealso became clear with such new technologies complained, “Every time we turn around over aviation’s strategic versus tactical roles,that their effects would ripple out, reshaping they are putting some new technology in our there appear to be two directions in whichareas that range from the experience of the hands.” When his unit in Iraq was given a the doctrines of unmanned systems mightsoldier at war and how the media reports Raven unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), no shake out, with a degree of tension betweenwar to asking troubling new questions about one instructed them on how, when, or where the operating concepts. The first is the idea ofthe ethics and laws of war. Much the same is best to use it, or how it integrated into broader the mothership, perhaps best illustrated by thejust starting to happen with our unmanned operations. So his unit tried the drone out on tack the U.S. Navy is unconsciously movingsystems today. their own, putting a sticker on it that said in toward with unmanned systems at sea. Arabic, “Reward if you return to U.S. base.” The sea is becoming a much moreDoctrine, Schmoctrine A few days later, they “lost it somewhere in dangerous place for navies in the 21st century. Beyond these major questions of what Iraq” and never saw the drone again. (In 2008, Drawing comparisons to the problems thathappens when the robots of science fiction two U.S.-made Ravens were found hidden in traditional armies are facing with insurgen-become political reality over the next few Iraqi insurgent caches, which not only points cies on the land, Admiral Vern Clerk, formerdecades, there is a worry that force planners to how our adversaries are exploring these Chief of Naval Operations, believes that “themust start to pay attention to doctrine. A technologies, but also shows that insurgents most significant threat to naval vessels todayconcern is that the United States is in a posi- operate under a “finders keepers” ethic).3 is the asymmetric threat.”7 The United Statestion similar to the British toward the end of The makers of these systems concur. may have the largest blue water fleet in theWorld War I. It has developed an exciting new iRobot executives (the team behind the world, numbering just under 300 ships, buttechnology, which may well be the future of Packbot) complain that the military is actually the overall numbers are no longer on its side. Seventy different nations now possess overP.W. Singer is Senior Fellow and Director of the 21st Century Defense Initiative at the Brookings Institution. 75,000 antiship missiles, made all the moreThis article is derived from his upcoming book Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st deadly through “faster speeds, greater stealthCentury (Penguin, 2009).n d u p res s .ndu.edu issue 52, 1st quarter 2009  /  JFQ     105
  3. 3. FEATURES | Robots and Military Doctrinecapabilities, and more accurate, GPS [global prototype ship in the series is only about one- competitor” that followed the mode of fight-positioning system]-enhanced targeting.”8 fourth the size of the previous equivalent ship’s ing an asymmetric war with submarines, The dangers are even greater in the crew. But less important than the automation cruise missiles, and antiship ballistic missilesbrown water close to shore. Here, small, fast of the ship itself is the concept of change it rep- (that is, China), Navy planners hit upon amotor boats, like those that attacked the USS resents. Besides the crew on board, there is also novel solution. Because unmanned planesCole, can hide among regular traffic and dart a crew on shore, sitting at computer cubicles take up less deck space and have far greaterin and out. Relatively cheap diesel-powered and providing support from thousands of miles endurance and range than manned planes,submarines can silently hide among water away.10 The LCS has a modular plug-and-play they reversed the ratio, offloading all butcurrents and thermal layers. More than 300 capacity, allowing various unmanned systems 12 of the manned planes and loading on 84varieties of undersea mines are available on and the control stations to be swapped in and unmanned planes. Their “spot on, almostthe world market today, ranging from those out, depending on the mission. visionary” idea reportedly tripled the strikethat detonate by simple contact to a new If the ship is clearing sea lanes of mines, power of the carrier and gave it a reach that ageneration of smart mines, stealthy robotic it might pack onboard a set of mine-hunting standard mix of F–35s and F–18s would lack.11systems equipped with tiny motors that robotic mini-subs. If the ship is patrolling a As UAVs shrink in size, even more dronesallow them to shift positions, so as to create a harbor, it might carry mini-motorboats that could fly off such flattops. In 2005, one ofmoving minefield. would scatter about, inspecting any suspicious the largest aircraft carriers in the world, the As evidenced by the intense work with ships. Or, if it needs to patrol a wider area, it USS Nimitz, tested Wasp Micro Air Vehicles,robotics at the Office of Naval Research, might carry a few UAVs. Each of these drones drones that are only 13 inches long.12the Navy is increasingly turning toward is controlled by crew sitting at control module The same developments with mother-unmanned systems to face this dangerous stations, who themselves only join the ship ship concepts are starting to take place underenvironment. Describing the “great promise” for the time needed. The manned ship really the sea. In 2007, a Navy attack sub shot athat unmanned systems hold for naval is a sort of moving mothership, hosting and small robotic sub out of its torpedo tubes,warfare, one report told how “we are just controlling an agile network of unmanned which then carried out a mission. The roboticbeginning to understand how to use and build systems that multiply its reach and power. mini-sub drove back to the mother subma-these vehicles. The concepts of operations The mothership concept is not just rine. A robotic arm then extended out of theare in their infancy, as is the technology. The planned for new, specially built ships like the tube and pulled the baby sub back inside,Navy must think about how to exploit the LCS. Older ships all the way up to aircraftunmanned concepts and integrate them into carriers might be converted to this mode. the Navy’s current plan forthe manned operations.”9 Already serving as a sort of mothership for One of the early ideas for trying to take manned planes, the aircraft carrier would aircraft carriers entails addingthese technologies out to sea comes in the add up to 12 unmanned planes to each carrier up to 12 unmanned planes toform of the Navy’s littoral combat ship (LCS) under the Navy’s current plan. This number each carrierconcept. Much smaller and faster than the should grow if we are interested in actualwarships used now, the ships are to be incred- combat effectiveness. In a 2006 wargame, whereupon the crew downloaded its data andibly automated. For example, the crew on the which simulated a battle with a “near-peer fueled it back up for another launch. It all sounds simple enough, but the test of a robotic underwater launch-and-recovery system represented “a critical next step for the U.S. Navy and opens the door for a whole new set of advanced submarine missions,” according to one report.13 The challenge the Navy is facing in undersea warfare is that potential rivals such as China, Iran, and North Korea have diesel subs that remain absolutely quiet. When these subs hide in littoral waters close to shore, many advantages held by America’s nuclear subs disappear. Unmanned systems, particularly those snuck in by a fellow submarine, “turn the asymmetry around by doing [with unmanned craft] what no human would do.” For example, U.S. Navy (Chad J. McNeeley) sonar waves are the traditional way to find foes under the sea. But these active sensors are akin ADM Mullen observes robot used to detect to using a flashlight in the dark. They help us and destroy roadside bombs during visit to find what we are looking for, but they also let exercise Mojave Viper everyone nearby know exactly where we are.106     JFQ  /  issue 52, 1st quarter 2009 ndupres s . ndu. edu
  4. 4. SINGERManned submarines instead usually quietly Rethinking War with Mother “concentrated” together as Mahan wanted,listen for their foes, waiting for them to make a Such motherships will entail a signifi- but rather would be made up of many tinynoise first. By contrast, unmanned systems can cant doctrinal shift in how militaries fight. constellations of smaller, often unmannedbe sent on missions and blast out their sonar, One report explained that its effect at sea systems, linked back to their host mother-actively searching for the diesel subs hiding would be as big a transformation as the shift ships. These ships, in turn, might be muchbelow. An enemy might be able to strike back, to aircraft carriers, projecting that it would smaller than Mahan’s capital ships of the past.but it would only reveal its presence and not be the biggest “fork in the road” for the U.S.kill any Sailors. Navy in the 21st century.18 Having its own fleet of tiny subs also Naval war doctrine, for example, has ships will not bemultiplies the reach of a submarine. For long been influenced by the thinking of the “concentrated” together asexample, a mother-submarine able to send out American Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan Mahan wanted, but ratherjust a dozen tiny subs can search a grid the (1840–1914). Mahan did not have a distin- be made up of many tinysize of the Persian Gulf in a little over a day. guished career at sea (he reputedly would get constellations of smaller, oftenA submarine launching a UAV that can fly in seasick even on a pond), but in 1890 he wroteand out of the water (like Lockheed Martin’s The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, unmanned systemsCormorant design) extends the mothership’s which soon changed the history of war at sea.reach farther, even ashore. Navies, Mahan argued, were what shaped With Mahan’s vision looking less appli- Such capabilities will lead to new oper- whether a nation became great (an argument cable to modern wars and technology, a newating concepts. One naval officer talked about likely to appeal to any sailor). In turn, the thinker on 21st-century naval war doctrinehow the robotic mini-subs would be like the battles that mattered were the big showdowns may have to come into vogue in planning. Theunmanned “whiskers.” He continued, “They of fleets at sea, “cataclysmic clashes of capital only twist is that he was born just 14 yearswould act as ‘force multipliers,’ taking care of ships concentrated in deep blue water.”19 after Mahan.programmable tasks and freeing up manned Mahan’s prescripts for war quickly became Sir Julian Stafford Corbett (1854–1922)warships to take on more complex ones. And the doctrine of the U.S. Navy, guiding Teddy was a British novelist turned naval historian.they could be sent on the riskiest missions, to Roosevelt to build a “Great White Fleet” of Notably, Corbett was a friend and ally ofhelp keep Sailors and Marines out of harm’s battleships at the turn of the 20th century and naval reformer Admiral John “Jackie” Fisher,way.” 14 For example, the robotic subs could shaping the strategy the Navy used to fight the who introduced such new developmentsbe sent in to clear minefields from below, lurk great battles in the Pacific in World War II, as as dreadnaughts, submarines, and aircraftaround enemy harbors, or track enemy subs well as how it planned to fight the Soviets if the carriers into the Royal Navy. While he andas they leave port. Cold War ever turned hot. Mahan lived in the same era, Corbett took a By pushing its robotic whiskers (and The future of war at sea, however, bodes completely different tack toward war at sea.“teeth,” as the systems can also be armed) to look less and less like what Mahan envis- They both saw the sea as a critical chokepointfarther away from the body, the mothership aged. With the new asymmetric threats and to a nation’s survival, but Corbett thought thatdoes not even have to be a warship itself. For unmanned responses, any future confronta- the idea of concentrating all ships together inexample, with foreign nations increasingly tions will not merely take place between the hope of one big battle was “a kind of shib-unwilling to host U.S. bases ashore, the Navy two fleets, made up of the biggest ships, boleth” that would do more harm than good.is moving to a doctrinal concept of seabasing. concentrated together into one place. More- The principle of concentration, he declared,These would be large container ships that act over, where ships fight will not simply be the was “a truism—no one would dispute it. As alike a floating harbor. But such ships are slow, blue waters far from shore; these battles are canon of practical strategy, it is untrue.”20ungainly, and certainly not stealthy; hence, predicted to take place closer to shore. The In his masterwork on naval war doctrine,they are vulnerable to attack. A plan to protect fleet would comprise not a number of ships modestly titled Some Principles of Maritimethem is called Sea Sentry.15 The seabase wouldnot only provide a supply station for visiting Technicians observe UH–19XRW Hoverwing during testingships and troops ashore, but also host its ownprotective screen of unmanned boats, drones,and mini-subs. Similar plans are being devel-oped for other vulnerable targets at sea, suchas civilian merchant ships, oil tankers, andeven oil rigs.16 The concept of the mothership is notlimited to the sea. For example, one firm inOhio has fitted out a propeller-powered C–130cargo plane so it can not only launch UAVs,but also recover them in the air. The dronesfly in and out of the cargo bay in the back,turning the plane into an aircraft carrier thatis actually airborne.17 U.S. Navy (John Joyce)n d u p res s .ndu.edu issue 52, 1st quarter 2009  /  JFQ     107
  5. 5. FEATURES | Robots and Military DoctrineStrategy, Corbett opined that the idea of typical scenario that might take place in such then, as more and more U-boats arrived onputting all one’s ships together into one place a model applied to war in the air: “An [enemy] the scene, overwhelm them. And it is a styledid not induce all enemies into one big battle. air defense system pops up, and I click on a of fighting that is fairly effective. In a RANDOnly the foe that thought it would win such UCAS [unmanned combat air system] icon study of historic battles going back to the timea battle would enter it. Any other sensible foe and drag it over and click. The UCAS throttles of Alexander the Great, the side using swarmwould just avoid the big battle and disperse to over and jams it, blows it up, or whatever.”22 tactics won 61 percent of the battles.24attack the other places where the strong fleet This philosophy of unmanned war is Notably, 40 percent of these wins werewas not (a theory that was borne out later by very mechanical, almost Newtonian, and battles that took place in cities. Perhaps becausethe German strategy in World War II). More- certainly not one in which the robots will have of this historic success of urban swarms, thisover, the more a fleet concentrated in one place, much autonomy. It is not, however, the only same style of fighting is increasingly used bythe harder it would be to keep its location possible direction that we might see doctrines insurgents in today’s asymmetric wars. Fromconcealed. So the only thing Mahan’s big fleet of war move in, much as there were multiple the “Black Hawk Down” battle in Somaliadoctrine accomplishes in an asymmetric war, choices on how to use tanks and airplanes (1993) and the battles of Grozny in ChechnyaCorbett felt, is to make the enemy’s job easier. after World War I. Places such as DARPA, (1994, 1996) to the battles of Baghdad (2003, Instead, argued Corbett, the fleet should the Office of Naval Research, and the Marine 2004) and Fallujah (2004), the usual mode isspread out and focus on protecting shipping Corps Warfighting Laboratory are also that insurgents hide out in small, dispersedlanes, blockading supply routes, and generally looking at “biological systems inspiration” for bands until they think they can overwhelmmenacing the enemy at as many locales as how robot doctrine might take advantage of some exposed unit. The various bands, each ofpossible. Concentrations of a few battleships which often has its own commander, then comewere not the way to go. Rather, much like how together from various directions and try to rather than being centrallythe Royal Navy policed the world’s oceans encircle, isolate, and overwhelm the enemy unit.during the 1700 and 1800s, it was better to controlled, swarms are This echoes T.E. Lawrence’s account of how hishave a large number of tiny constellations made up of highly mobile, Arab raiders in World War I used their mobility,of mixed ships, large and small, each able to individually autonomous parts speed, and surprise to become “an influence, aoperate independently. In short, it is a doc- thing invulnerable, intangible, without front ortrine far more apt for motherships. their growing technologic smarts and auton- back, drifting about like a gas.”25 Even more shocking at the time, Corbett omy. As one analyst pointed out, “If you look Swarms, whether of buzzing bees oremphasized that a navy should think about at nature’s most efficient predators, most of insurgents with AK–47s, are made up ofnot just operations in the blue waters in the them don’t hunt by themselves. They hunt in independent parts and have no one centralmiddle of the ocean, but also what role it could packs. They hunt in groups. And the military leader or controller. So the self-organizationplay in supporting operations on land. Offers is hoping their robots can do the same.”23 of these groupings is a key to how the wholeone biographer, “Well before it was fashion- The main doctrinal concept that is works. The beauty of the swarm, and why it isable, [Corbett] stressed the interrelationship emerging from these programs is an alternative so appealing for unmanned war, is how it canbetween navies and armies.”21 This seems much to motherships called swarming. Rather than perform incredibly complex tasks by each partmore attuned to the role of the U.S. Navy today, being centrally controlled, swarms are made following incredibly simple rules.which must figure out not merely how to deter up of highly mobile, individually autonomous A good example is a flock of birds. Hun-major state conflict and protect shipping lanes, parts. Like birds in a flock or wolves on a dreds of birds can move together almost asbut also how to aid the fight on the land (for hunt, each decides what to do on its own, but if they have a single bird in charge, speedinginstance, it carried out over half of the 15,000 somehow still manages to organize into highly in one direction, then turning in unison andairstrikes during the 2003 invasion of Iraq). effective groups. After the hunt, they disperse. flying off in a different direction and at a dif- Mahan won the first round in the 20th Individually, each part is weak, but the overall ferent speed, without any bird bumping intocentury, but Corbett’s doctrine may well come effect of the swarm can be powerful. the other. They do not just operate this waytrue through 21st-century technology. Swarming does not only happen in for what one can think of as tactical opera- nature. In war, it is actually akin to how the tions, but also at the strategic level, with flocksSwarming the Future Parthians, Huns, Mongols, and other mass migrating in unison over thousands of miles. The concept of motherships comes with armies of horsemen would fight. They would As one Army colonel asks, “Obviouslya certain built-in irony, however. It entails a spread out over vast areas until they found the birds lack published doctrine and aredispersion, rather than concentration, of fire- the foe, and then encircle them, usually not receiving instructions from their flightpower. But the power of decision in this doc- wiping them out by firing huge numbers of leader, so how can they accomplish the kindtrinal concept is still highly centralized. Like arrows into the foe’s huddled army. Similarly, of self-organization necessary for flocking?”26the spokes in a wheel, the various unmanned the Germans organized their U-boats into The answer actually comes from a researcher,systems may be far more spread out, but they “wolfpacks” during the Battle of the Atlantic Craig Reynolds, who built a program for whatare always linked back to the persons sitting in World War II. Each submarine would he called “boids,” or artificial birds.27 As aninside the mothership. It is a top-down, “point individually scour the ocean for convoys of Army report on the experience described, alland click” model of war, where it is always merchant ships to attack. Once one U-boat the boids needed to do to organize themselvesclear who is in charge. General Ronald Keys, found the convoy, all the others would con- together as a flock was for each individual tothe Air Force chief of air combat, describes a verge, first pecking away at the defenses, and follow three simple rules: “1. Separation: Don’t108     JFQ  /  issue 52, 1st quarter 2009 ndupres s . ndu. edu
  6. 6. SINGERget too close to any object, including other While each PRAWN would be very but concentrate firepower, while mothershipsboids; 2. Alignment: Try to match the speed simple, and almost dumb (indeed, their are centralized but disperse firepower. If weand direction of nearby boids; and 3. Cohe- artificial intelligence would be less than imagine a system of motherships laid out on asion: Head for the perceived center of mass of the systems already on the market today), big operational map, it would look like a seriesthe boids in your immediate neighborhood.”28 the sum of their swarm would be far more of hubs, each with spokes extending. LikeThis basic boid system worked so well that it effective than any single system. Why drive a checker pieces, each of these mothership hubswas also used in the movie Batman Returns to single SWORDS or Packbot into a building, could be moved around the map by a humancreate the realistic bat sequences. room by room, to see if an enemy is hiding commander, much as each of their tiny robotic Just as birds and boids follow simple rules there, when a soldier could let loose a swarm spokes could be pointed and clicked into placeto carry out complex operations, so might an of tiny robots that would scramble out and by the operators sitting inside the motherships.unmanned swarm in war. Each system would automatically search on their own? With swarms, the map would instead look likebe given a few operating orders and let loose, a meshwork of nodes. It would almost appeareach robot acting on its own, but also in col- Mom against the Bees like drawing lines between the stars in thelaboration with all the others. The direction of Swarms are thus the conceptual opposite galaxy or a “map” of all the sites in the Internet.the swarm could be roughly guided by giving of motherships, despite both using unmanned Every tiny node would be linked with everythe robots a series of objectives ranked in pri- systems. Swarms are decentralized in control other node, either directly or indirectly. Whereority, such as a list of targets given point-valuerankings. For instance, much like a bird mighthave preferences between eating a bug or a robots would be given simple rules, which mimic birds thatSaltine cracker, a robot’s operating code might flock or ants that forage for foodnote that taking out an enemy tank is moreuseful than taking out an enemy outhouse. The Small unmanned ground vehicle scans rangeswarm would then follow Napoleon’s simple during training exercise for Army Future Combat Systemscredo about what works best in war: “March tothe sound of the guns.” The Santa Fe Institute carried out a studyon these proliferated autonomous weapons(PRAWNS), which shows how this conceptmight work in robotic warfare (LockheedMartin has a similar program on robot swarmsfunded by DARPA, called the “Wolves ofWar”).29 Very basic unmanned weapons woulduse simple sensors to find enemy targets, anautomatic targeting recognition algorithm to U.S. Army (Stephen Baack)identify them, and easy communications suchas radio and infrared (as the scientists thoughtthe military’s current idea of using the Internetto coordinate operations was flawed becausethe Internet would be too easy to jam) to passon information about what the other robots in Airmen carry experimental T–16 UAV to landingthe swarm were seeing and doing. The robots spot during exercise Northern Edge 2008would be given simple rules, which mimic birdsthat flock or ants that forage for food. As thePRAWNS spread around in an almost randomsearch, they would broadcast to the group anyenemy targets they find. Swarms would thenform to attack the targets. But each individualrobot would have knowledge of how many 354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs (Jonathan Snyder)fellow robots were attacking the same target,so if there were already too many PRAWNSattacking one target, the other systems wouldmove on to search for new targets. In much thesame way as ants have different types (soldiersand workers) operating in their swarms, theindividual PRAWNS might also carry differentweapons or sensors, allowing them to matchthemselves to the needs of the overall swarm.30n d u p res s .ndu.edu issue 52, 1st quarter 2009  /  JFQ     109
  7. 7. FEATURES | Robots and Military Doctrinethe linkages cluster together is where the action French in the interwar years, America’s Armed 13 “Boeing Achieves First Submergedin battle would be taking place, but these clus- Forces could make choices that seem brilliant at Unmanned Undersea Vehicle Recovery by aters could rapidly shift and move. the time but later prove utterly wrong. Submarine,” press release, November 26, 2007, available at <www.boeing.com/news/releases/2007/ Every doctrine would seem to have its Indeed, just as the optimum with tanks q4/071126b_nr.html>.advantages and disadvantages. The mother- turned out to be combined arms units, the 14 Carl Posey, “Robot Submarines Go to War.ship style of operations has specific roles choices may also mix and mingle. The con- Part 2: The Navy’s AUVs,” Popular Science, Marchfor specific units, as well as central lines of cepts of swarms and motherships could be 2003, available at <www.popsci.com/popsci/scienccommunications. Chop off one limb and the blended, with human commanders inserting e/6327359b9fa84010vgnvcm1000004eecbccdrcrd.task might not get done. By contrast, self- themselves at the points where swarms start to html>.organizing entities such as swarms come with cluster. It would not be the same as the direct 15 Michael Fetsch, Chris Mailey, and Sarabuilt-in redundancies. Swarms are made up control of the mothership’s hub and spoke Wallace, “UV Sentry,” paper presented at the Associa-of a multitude of units, each acting in paral- system, but it would still be a flexible way to tion for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International,lel, so there is no one chain of command, make sure the leader was influencing events at 34th Annual Symposium and Exhibition, Washington,communications link, or supply line to chop. the major point of action. DC, August 6–9, 2007. 16 Lok.Attacking a swarm is akin to going after bees Whatever doctrine prevails, it is clear 17 David Pugliese, “Launch and Recover UAVwith a sword. Similarly, swarms are constantly that the American military must begin to think System Tested,” Defense News, February 19, 2007, 14.acting, reacting, and adapting, so they have about the consequences of a 21st-century battle- 18 LaCroix and Blickstein, ix.a feature of perpetual novelty built in. It is field in which it is sending out fewer humans 19 Ibid.hard to predict exactly what they will do next, and more robots. Just as the technologies and 20 See “Julian Corbett,” Wikipedia, availablewhich can be a very good thing in war. modes of wars are changing, so must our con- at <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julian_Corbett>. The disadvantages of swarm systems cepts of how to fight and win them. JFQ Quotation from Robert Cowley and Geoffrey Parker,are almost the inverse. Swarms may not be Reader’s Companion to Military History (Boston:predictable to the enemy, but neither are they Notes Houghton Mifflin, 2004).exactly controllable or predictable for the side 21 Frank G. Hoffman, “The Fleet We Need: Ausing them, which can lead to unexpected 1 Robert Finkelstein and James Albus, Look at Alternative—and Affordable—Futures for “Technology Assessment of Autonomous Intel- the U.S. Navy,” Armed Forces Journal (August 2006),results. Instead of being able to point and ligent Bipedal and Other Legged Robots,” Defense 49.click and get the immediate action desired, Advanced Research Projects Agency, 2004. 22 David A. Fulghum and Michael J. Fabey,a swarm takes action on its own, which may “F–22: Unseen and Lethal,” Aviation Week & Space 2 Bill Sweetman, “UCAVs Offer Fast Track tonot always be exactly where and when the Stealth, Long Range, and Carrier Operations,” Jane’s Technology 166, no. 2 (2007), 46.human commander wants it. International Defence Review 40 (2007), 41. 23 Noah Shachtman, quoted in the Discovery The above is almost like what Gandhi 3 U.S. Army Soldier, interview by author, Military Channel documentary Warbots, which airedsaid while sitting on the side of the road Washington, DC, November 2, 2006; “American January 26, 2006.as a crowd went by. “There go my people. I Drone Discovered in Baghdad Cache,” June 20, 2008, 24 Sean J.A. Edwards, “Swarming and the Futuremust get up and follow them, for I am their available at <http://blog.wired.com/defense/2008/06/ of Warfare,” Ph.D. diss., Pardee RAND Graduateleader!”31 The human commander’s job with insurgents-unma.html>. School, 2005, 83.a swarm will be to set the right goals and 4 iRobot executive, interview by author, Novem- 25 Ibid., 64. ber 16, 2006. 26 Thomas K. Adams, “The Real Military Revo-objectives. They may even place a few limits 5 Foster-Miller executive, interview by author, lution,” Parameters 30, no. 3 (2000).on such things as the “radius of coopera- November 17, 2006. 27 Craig W. Reynolds, “An Evolved, Vision-basedtion” of the units. Then, other than perhaps Model of Obstacle Avoidance Behavior,” in Proceed- 6 John A. Gentry, “Doomed to Fail: America’sparceling out reserves and updating the Blind Faith in Military Technology,” Parameters 32, ings, ed. C. Langton (Redwood City, CA: Addison-point values on each of the enemy’s target no. 4 (2002), 88. Wesley, 1994).types to reflect changing needs, the human 7 Joris Janssen Lok, “Navies Look for Ways to 28 Adams.commanders would, as Naval Postgraduate Tackle the Ever-changing Close-in Threat,” Jane’s 29 “UCAR—The Next Generation of UnmannedSchool expert John Arquilla describes it, International Defence Review 37 (2004). Aerial Vehicles,” August 17, 2003, available at <www.“basically stay the hell out of the way of the 8 Max Boot, “The Paradox of Military Technol- gizmag.com/go/2118/>.swarm.”32 This type of truly “decentralized ogy,” The New Atlantis 14 (2006), available at <www. 30 Dave Frelinger et al., Proliferated Autonomousdecision making,” says one Marine general, thenewatlantis.com/archive/14/boot.htm>. Weapons: An Example of Cooperative Behavior, Docu- 9 F.W. LaCroix and Irving N. Blickstein, Forks mented Briefing (Santa Monica, CA: RAND, 1998), 6.“flies in the face of the American way of war. in the Road for the U.S. Navy (Santa Monica, CA: 31 Gregory A. Jackson, “‘Follow the Money’ and. . . But it works.”33 RAND, 2003), ix. Other Unsolicited Advice for CIOs,” Cause and Effect 10 Scott Truver, “Mix and Match,” Jane’s Defence 22, no. 1 (1999). Whether it is motherships, swarms, or Weekly, March 16, 2005, 24. 32 As quoted in Joel Garreau, Radical Evolution:some other concept of organizing for war that 11 Bill Sweetman, “U.S. Finally Looks Beyond the The Promise and Peril of Enhancing Our Minds, Ourwe have not yet seen, it is still unclear what doc- B–2 for Long-Range Strike Capability,” Jane’s Interna- Bodies—And What it Means to Be Human (Newtrines the U.S. military will ultimately choose tional Defence Review 39 (2006), 44. York: Doubleday, 2005), 217.to organize its robots around. In turn, it is also 12 Christian Lowe, “Itsy-bitsy Drone,” April 33 U.S. Marine Corps general, interview byunclear which doctrine will prove to be the best, 5, 2005, available at <www.defensetech.org/ author, January 16, 2007.as it is fully possible that, like the British and archives/001467.html>.110     JFQ  /  issue 52, 1st quarter 2009 ndupres s . ndu. edu

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