In an Era of Cheap Drones, US Can’t Afford Exquisite Weapons

Various technological advances are about to make hundred-drone swarms a reality, and a nightmare for today’s top-of-the-line weapons

Even as the world is experiencing a proliferation of smart, small, and inexpensive products in a widening range of fields, the Department of Defense continues to pursue a buying strategy of fewer but more exquisite systems. Our budget debate needs to shift. Rather than simply arguing about more money for legacy systems, we need to think through how we will gradually phase them out over the next decades while using the savings to shift to a new approach to war.

  • Wow.The warfare of the future, with all sorts of drones. Terrorists will become even more dangerous once they get hold of this technology. Frightening.

  • Exile1981

    So at 16.9 million for a Reaper drone, designed to kill a tank.

    Or for the same price you could swarm a battlefield with small drones with cheap cameras and a thermite grenade each – at about 2k each. So you could have 8450 micro drones for one reaper.

  • FactsWillOut

    “Quantity has a quality all its own”

  • Brett_McS

    I can see that this could actually be a good thing.

    For example, miniature submarine drones are being developed that will make boomer submarines obsolete by removing their ability to hide.

  • Hard Little Machine

    The F-35 was sold with the premise that it WAS cheap, cheaper than the F-22 which Obama killed off. It was touted as cost effective because it would be a one-sized fits all weapons platform for everything. But setting aside the fact that’s rather bad at every roll it’s supposed to fill, it’s the most terrifically flawed overpriced bloated program in US history. Not even the Navy’s abandoned A-12 program which sunk 2 billion dollars (1990 dollars) to produce zero planes was this bad. Now the F-35 is officially 7 years, informally 12 years, behind schedule and the program director admits that not only can’t it carry half the ordnance it was designed to, it will be at least 4 more years before it can. At that point, the flyaway cost is expected to climb to $220 million dollars per plane with an operational cost in excess of $40,000 per hour, down from $67,000 per hour for FY2014 (because of ongoing development costs).

    And remember, it was sold as a solution on the cheap.

  • Hard Little Machine

    BTW battlefield management of 100x as many moving parts is about a million times more complex than the job at hand today. The only way to use a huge # of small cheap ‘screamers’ is to make them completely autonomous.

    Skynet is aware.