General, Research, Technology

Can drones be weapons of mass destruction? New - yes.

We used to call it weapons of mass destructionsomething that can cause massive damage to everything that is in the area of ​​its application. For example, a machine gun does not kill indiscriminately, but a bomb or gas can. Also, weapons of mass destruction are what will fall under international regulation. Simply put, we are used to thinking that this is a very terrible weapon, which is something in a single copy. That's just a weapon of mass destruction can be the simplicity of a drone, if you collect several tens or hundreds of them. Some armies of the world are now working on such weapons, and here's why.

Drones can be peaceful, or they can be military.


  • 1 Drones in battle
  • 2 Can a drone be a mass weapon
  • 3 Characteristics of combat drones
  • 4 Effectiveness of combat drones
  • 5 Can a swarm of drones be considered a weapon of mass destruction
  • 6 When will combat drones appear?

Drones in battle

Common weapons in large-scale combat includea lot of everything - from knives to missiles with homing systems. For example, to shoot down an airplane, a missile with the ability to automatically follow the target would be an excellent choice. But such a missile is impossible when two soldiers collide inside a building.

Recently in combat conditions more and more oftendrones are used. These may be vehicles designed for reconnaissance, or there may be those that must attack themselves. The American army is now working on the use of not only one or several drones in battle, but a whole "swarm" of such machines. They will be able to effectively clear the territory and it will be difficult for them to oppose something, because a missile can be shot down from an anti-missile system, and it is much more difficult to fight with a hundred drones. The question is, can this be considered a weapon of mass destruction and should prohibitive measures be introduced for its use?

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First you need to answer the question, how willsuch drones work. The fact that there is no pilot inside does not mean that the car is completely autonomous. It can be completely controlled by a person, corrected by his commands, or really be completely autonomous, performing a task previously loaded into it.

Can a drone be a mass weapon?

Analyst Zach Kallenborn, expert inunmanned systems and weapons of mass destruction, describes a type of swarm he calls "armed fully autonomous drone swarm" or AFADS. Once launched, AFADS will detect, identify and attack targets without human intervention. Kallenborn claims that the AFADS-type swarm is a genuine weapon of mass destruction because of the amount of damage it can do and its inability to distinguish civilians from military targets. Simply put, like a big bomb, such a group of drones will clear the area and leave nothing alive on it.

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Such drones may sound like science fiction. But with modern technology, it doesn't look unrealistic. Even “civilian” drones are already able to communicate with each other and perform collective tasks, such as irrigating fields or sanitizing territories.

So drones can be taught to fly toplanned square, activate the target search system (people, tanks, cars, weapons) and attack the found objects. This is how the CBU-105 bomb works. Approaching the target, she “scatters” 40 minibombs, which find targets and destroy them. In 2003, such weapons were successfully used by the American army to destroy Iraqi tank columns.

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Characteristics of combat drones

The cluster swarm should be much more efficient. Each drone will have a payload capacity of up to 150 kilograms. This will make it possible to equip it with GMLRS missiles with a range of up to 70 kilometers, or even ATACMS missiles with a range of up to 270 kilometers.

The drones were originally supposed to bedelivered to the target using a rocket. It will unfold on the approach, scattering drones around the area in special aerodynamic covers. After slowing down, the drones themselves had to continue flying. Later, this idea was abandoned in favor of the more classical use of drones.

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The creator of the drone swarm is famous for hiswork with Honeywell on the T-Hawk drone used in Iraq in 2007. For its characteristic shape, it was fondly called the "flying beer barrel". The T-Hawk has no external propellers and is driven by fans inside the fuselage. At the moment, the companies involved in the development do not comment on the development of the new weapon.

T-Hauk. Such drones will make up a swarm.

The effectiveness of combat drones

The cluster swarm of drones will be much moremore effective than the CBU-105 multiple missile for two reasons. Firstly, the CBU-105 can only hit targets within a radius of several hundred meters, and a cluster swarm can easily cover an area of ​​tens of square kilometers.

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Secondly, the bombs fired by CBU-105 canconflict with each other if they find one goal. They do not communicate with themselves and 40 bombs can hit only 5-10 targets. The rest will be either out of reach, or several bombs will fall on them. In the case of a swarm of drones, they will “communicate” with each other and clearly assign targets. As a result, 50 drones will hit 50 targets. That is, it is only due to drones with missiles that an entire armored division can be stopped.

Can a swarm of drones be considered a weapon of mass destruction?

Zach Cullenborn believes that the attribution of the drone swarmto weapons of mass destruction may depend on what kind of weapons they have. Callenborn says a rough rule of thumb is that a swarm of ammunition equivalent to a thousand M67 hand grenades is likely to be classified as a weapon of mass destruction. In this case, such weapons may be regulated by international law.

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When it comes to such a serious weapon,regulation can be a good idea, as drones can easily confuse a tank convoy with a convoy carrying refugee buses. Of course, mistakes happen in war, but we need to figure out how to make them as few as possible.

This is also a type of combat drones, particularly for reconnaissance.

Recognition of a new weapon as a weapon of massdefeat can be complicated due to the fact that everything is clear with a missile or a bomb - they are always the same. A swarm of drones can consist of dozens of machines, or maybe hundreds. These are completely different numbers and different firepower.

When will combat drones appear?

First tests and work in the air for the systemthe drone swarm has already been completed. The deployment system, flights, automatic navigation and target search have been worked out. In fact, it remains only to begin the third stage of tests for direct combat use and to adopt the systems into service with the US Army.

USA is not the only player in this field and,maybe not even a leader. Turkey has already deployed a small number of tactical drones "Kargu" on the Syrian border. They are currently being piloted remotely, but the manufacturers claim that the system has the ability to independently complete the task. It would be illogical to assume that such systems are not being developed in Russia and China.

If such a system appears only in onecountries, international regulators may not be connected, but if everyone has the technology in one form or another, then it will definitely be necessary to introduce some norms. Otherwise, there may be too many victims.