Military Review English Edition November-December 2015 - Page 71

UAS THREAT technological advances—was a leader in revolutionizing the offensive use of UASs to support land power during its campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, it now must show at least as much leadership by allocating resources to defend itself against the growing threat of UASs, or, at some point, the Nation will be unpleasantly and tragically surprised. This article will provide six recommendations for assuming such a leadership role by adopting a joint approach for implementing counter-UAS (C-UAS) operations. Background and Context Much of the contemporary attention on UASs in the media and from the public is focused on the commercialization of unmanned capabilities, the legality and impact on the laws of warfare stemming from the use of UASs against terrorists, and calls to stem the proliferation of this growing technological capability in general. Although these are all important discussions, missing from the discourse on UASs is the critical discussion of how to defend against a UAS attack or against a persistent enemy intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance threat from this technology. While the United States has successfully employed UASs to support its strategic objectives basically unchallenged in both Iraq and Afghanistan for more than ten years, many nations and nonstate actors have been acquiring the ability to field their own UASs as a result of the proliferation of new technology in the field. This means many already have the ability to employ them against the United States and its allies. Consequently, the limited U.S. capability to neutralize UASs guided by sophisticated surveillance technology and equipped with weapons that are accurate at a distance—especially at the tactical and operational levels of warfare—is already a serious vulnerability that should be addressed in policy similar to that concerning UAS use in the offensive.1 Improved technology associated with the application of UASs on the battlefield has already caused changes that will have a long-term impact on the future application of military power. For example, reputedly covert targeted strikes against terrorist targets are now relatively common practice. Such will continue to be the norm on future battlefields. However, the transition of UASs from covert action to more conventional applications by the United States MILITARY REVIEW  November-December 2015 and its adversaries poses an important question: Are U.S. forces trained, equipped, and organized to successfully defend the Nation against UAS infiltrations and attacks? Currently the answer is no. Consequently, as a matter of prudent policy, it is imperative that the United States develop a credible capability to counter the use of UASs against its forces and its allies.2 Technological improvements support the growth and proliferation of a commercial market that desires to exploit the capabilities of UASs.3 According to the Teal Group’s 2014 market study, “the overall UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] electronics market is the world’s fastest-growing aerospace payload market, with spending on UAVs to nearly double over the next decade from current worldwide UAV expenditures of $6.4 billion annually to $11.5 billion, totaling almost $91 billion in the next ten years.”4 Such investment will add to the existing four thousand different unmanned aircraft platforms in circulation in the global market and to the number of countries (already at seventy-six) known or suspected to have military UASs.5 Moreover, sources of demand for UASs are shifting. It is projected that at least one-quarter of that demand will come from outside the United States by 2023.6 This rapid global proliferation of UAS capabilities will have a direct impact on U.S. operational accessibility (the ability to project military force into an operational area with sufficient freedom of action to accomplish the mission) in future operations.7 Preparing for a Growing Threat Current service and joint C-UAS capabilities cannot protect U.S. forces. As a result, the United States may have already lost much of its freedom of action to operate and maintain operational dominance over an adversary possessing an unexpectedly sophisticated UAS capability. This lack of C-UAS capabilities also means a greater likelihood for increased casualties and a lower probability for mission success. In other words, if proper steps are not taken to develop robust C-UAS capabilities, the president and Congress may find themselves in the not-too-distant future with significantly less flexibility in their options during a crisis, and thus they may feel unduly hesitant to use ground forces at critical times due to the higher level of risk. More limited options for using force will directly 65