Rethinking Warfare in the Age of Drones and AI

We talk about the future of warfare, but the future is already here. Yet, we base our approach to warfare on the past. Big tanks, ships, and aircraft have the most significant value. We see this when European armies buy large tanks and other large terrestrial vehicles to face the no longer unrealistic threat of a direct conflict with Russia. All this, although over 30 ships of Russia's Black Sea Fleet - a third of the entire fleet - have been destroyed this past year by a country that doesn't have anything near a typical navy anymore. These ships were all destroyed by Ukrainian drones.

Some countries, such as Austria, ordered tanks with defence technology against drones, a clear understanding that drone warfare is part of the battlefield; however, we misunderstand the full scale of this battlefield. A drone here and there is exciting, but we'll have thousands of drones swarming and attacking targets soon. Traditional military technology is as useless in defending against this as civilians with baseball bats defending themselves against hordes of zombies. These civilians have a higher chance of success because their targets are the same size as they are and much slower.

Large weapons systems, as we see in the current war in Ukraine, are struggling with locking in on fast-moving small maritime drones. When I served in the IDF, I remember that tanks struggled with urban warfare. The tank is fantastic if the mission is to blow up and destroy everything in sight. But if the mission is to single out the enemy targets while avoiding civilian casualties and the destruction of civilian infrastructure, then they're useless.

But even on a battlefield where these considerations have no priority, such as with an enemy who has no concern about civilians and civilian infrastructure, a tank cannot effectively fight a drone, whether airborne or terrestrial. It's like an elephant trying to step on a mouse. And this will be even more problematic once we replace drones with AI self-deployed and "thinking" weapons. They do not have such worries about injury and death, emotions and hesitation. They do not hold an image of their loved ones back home.

War is here to stay for a long time. Still, the participation of humanoids will decrease, not because of some moral decision-making - even though this will be a selling point - but because of the lack of human efficiency.

My grandfather built Spitfires and Wellington bombers in WWII. He hated flying; it terrified him, but he understood the importance of what he was creating. I doubt he realised that the skies over Europe would be filled with these planes, the scale of it all until he finally saw it. Just as now, we don't understand the scale of what we will witness in our lifetime. Skies filled with thousands of drones not only creating beautiful dragons for festivities but coming down on us with destruction.

It is time to rethink warfare and embrace the new reality that small, self-learning, self-deployed AI weapons systems are the future and drones are only the stepping stone.

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