Is Pakistan Ready for High-Tech Warfare?


Unmanned Aerial Vehicles or Drones designed and manufactured in Pakistan have been making news since IDEAS 2008 event in November of last year. Also in the news has been the growing reliance on armed drones (aka predators) by Americans in Afghanistan and Pakistan's FATA region to target militants with increasing casualties. This post is an attempt to put these headlines in perspective for those interested in the 21st century high tech warfare.

Back in 1970, the U.S. Army Gen. William Westmoreland is reported to have said: “On the battlefield of the future, enemy forces will be located, tracked and targeted almost instantaneously through the use of data links, computer-assisted intelligence and automated fire control. … I am confident the American people expect this country to take full advantage of its technology–to welcome and applaud the developments that will replace wherever possible the man with the machine.” Is this vision from the 1970s being realized today?

The basic strategies and thought processes are the same but the methods of Sun Tzu or Carl von Clausewitz or WW2 are long gone as the modern battlefields evolve. There are still tactics such as the use of decoys, deception and the element of surprise, but today the remote-controlled Unmanned Combat Air Vehicles (UCAVs), high-tech guidance and targeting systems, mobile missile launchers and anti-aircraft systems are some of the most sophisticated technologies on the planet.

Reflecting the modern realities, the US military is targeting its recruiting efforts on a generation of Americans that has grown up with computer-based video games. The recently opened Army Experience Center in Philadelphia is a fitting counterpart to the retail experience: 14,500 square feet of mostly shoot-’em-up video games and three full-scale simulators, including an AH-64 Apache Longbow helicopter, an armed Humvee and a Black Hawk copter with M4 carbine assault rifles. For those who want to take the experience deeper, the center has 22 recruiters, according to a report in the New York Times.

On a practical level, thousands of miles away from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, American remote pilots in Nevada fly armed drones and target the perceived enemy with deadly force. In front of the remote human pilots is a live video from the Predator's camera, thousands of feet above ground. Buildings and trucks come into view. They zoom in and out, put the cross-hairs on the targets and fire missiles with ease, killing dozens on the ground.

Beyond Nevada,at Djibouti's Camp Le Monier, CIA agents and special forces troops - about 1500 personnel in all - have opened a wide-ranging but little-reported front in President George W. Bush's so-called "war on terror".

This high-tech, not-so-covert battle is part of a broader US effort against suspected terrorists. It surfaces frequently, with news of air strikes on suspected Taliban forces in Afghanistan or al Qaeda operatives in Yemen. Such warfare places heavy reliance on the accuracy and breadth of human intelligence on the ground. In Afghanistan, failure of such intelligence has often led to growing friendly fire incidents and increasing civilian casualties.

In addition to human intelligence on the ground, there is need for Electronic Warfare Support (ES). ES in military terms, is the passive detection of signals in order to detect and locate threats or target location, information necessary to conduct Electronic Attack (EA). By comparison, Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) is the related process of analyzing and identifying the intercepted frequencies (e.g. as a cell phone or RADAR). SIGINT is a combination of ELINT, COMINT, and MASINT.

On the military strategy and planning front, wargames are a subgenre of strategy video games that emphasize strategic or tactical warfare on a map. Computer wargames are generally classified based on whether a game is turn-based or real-time and whether the game's focus is upon military strategy or tactics. These distinctions divide computer wargames into four categories: real-time strategy, real-time tactics, turn-based strategy, and turn-based tactics. Wargaming is an essential part of any high-tech military campaign.

Given the nature of the broad shift to high-tech warfare in the battlefields of the world, it is understandable that Pakistan's military is beginning to take it seriously. All three Pakistani military branches have sought to build UAV capabilities. The Army has considerably increased its UAV inventory; the Air Force has formed two UAV squadrons (with the intention of fielding up to six); and the Navy tested the Schiebel Camcopter S-100 rotary UAV from a frigate in March, Defense News reports. Karachi-based Integrated Dynamics, the designer and manufacturer of drones for Pakistan Army and Air Force, actually exports its Border Eagle surveillance drone to the United States for border patrol duties. The company also makes drones for the turbojet-powered Tornado decoy, which can fly up to 200 kilometers, and emit false radar signals to confuse enemy air defenses into thinking they are attacking aircraft.

Pakistan's traditional rival India is pursuing relationships with Israel and UK to acquire UAVs. All of India's current UAV needs are met by Israel, and this partnership will ensure that will continue to be the case for at least the near future.

Related Links:

Pakistani Drones in America

India Sets Up UAV Technology Center

India, Israel UAV Partnership

New York Times

NPR Radio

Electronic Warfare

Wargames

America's High-tech Warfare

It's not Your Father's Military

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