By Rob Morgan
The Times is often a source of sound information on military developments, and, in late October, it carried an article by Shashank Joshi, the defence editor of The Economist magazine. Entitled “Attack of the drones shouldn’t kill off tanks,” it considers some recent developments in warfare which certainly have relevance for wargamers. He describes “cheap Turkish drones” mauling enemy tanks and weapons in Libya and Syria, and quotes independent estimates that these drones combined with Israeli “loitering munitions” had destroyed or disabled more than 160 Armenian tanks. The source reports that on one single day earlier in October, in Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenia lost 50 AFVs.
Joshi makes a sound proposition for the capabilities of the new generation of drones, facing expensive, but small fleets of jets and squadrons of armour which are usually designed to take out similar opposition to themselves, and not bat away small hordes of cheap “bugs.” The emphasis is on the fact that air defence remains vital in modern wars, and that size still matters and technology doesn’t always substitute for mass.
Losses are a big problem for the sleek modern army and air force. Drones, of course, being expendable, are inevitably produced in large numbers. The article writer makes two interesting points: First, in 2018, Norway lost the frigate Helge Ingstad in a serious collision with a Maltese tanker off Bergen. The strength of the Norwegian frigate fleet was reduced by a fifth. Cost of repairs is given as $1.4 billion. He also states that no US soldier has been killed by any sort of enemy aircraft since Korea, and that no Western army has faced a credible aerial threat for decades. Mortars have been far more of a threat.
An interesting article, and one which certainly gives food for thought in wargames terms. I actually have a “drone army” but it’s purely Science Fiction, and vaguely based in a scenario centuries ahead, not one happening this very week on the borders of Europe.
Does anyone know of a modern warfare rule set for drones?