Operating Low-Cost, Reusable Unmanned Aerial Vehicles in Contested Environments: Preliminary Evaluation of Operational Concepts
RAND PROJECT AIR FORCE SANTA MONICA CA SANTA MONICA United States
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The U.S. approach to conducting large-scale military power-projection operations is being rendered untenable by adversary states that are fielding a range of new air, sea, land, space, counterspace, cyber, and electronic-jamming capabilities. Large inventories of accurate, conventionally armed ballistic and cruise missiles pose a particular challenge to forward forces and bases. In wargames featuring such threats, Blue teams are consistently confronted with the challenge of generating combat power while under attack and reaching into the contested zones created by the adversary capabilities and then trying to locate, engage, and damage or destroy attacking forces at sea and on land during the opening days of a conflict. One promising approach to addressing this need is the proliferated employment into the contested battlespace of small, inexpensive, unmanned aerial vehicles UAVs to perform a variety of functions, including intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance ISR position, navigation, and timing PNT communications and strike. The low-cost attritable aircraft technology L-CAAT concept aims to provide one means for realizing this approach. This report describes such an approach, evaluates its possible effectiveness, and identifies topics for further analysis. If U.S. and allied forces can make large numbers of small vehicles work together, and if these platforms can overwhelm or otherwise evade enemy defenses and countermeasures, they have the potential to transform potentially vulnerable kill chains into a targeting mesh. The metaphor is apt because unlike a chainwhich can be rendered useless by the failure of one linka mesh can retain structural integrity even when multiple elements fail.
- Pilotless Aircraft
- Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics