UAVs And The Future Development of the Infantry
By Colonel Awadhesh Kumar, Special Forces
Unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology is developing at a rapid pace and so militaries all over the World have started thinking regarding their utilization in combat at the infantry unit and sub unit level. In the foreseeable future drones will start affecting the infantry tactics at the unit level.
Drones will take on the burden of forward recce and surveillance tasks and reduce the risk during actual patrolling and ambushes. An effective real time view of no mans land, own minefields and areas ahead of forward defended localities will be available to the battalion commander holding defences and also to those preparing for an attack.
Thus drones will not only reduce the risks involved in various activities,but armed versions will be effective in carrying out offensive strikes too at Company and Battalion level or to provoke the enemy for reactions. Along with the advantages there will also be the threat of enemy drones both armed and unarmed.
However what has to be ensured while evolving new tactics and techniques is that the already overloaded infantry is not yet further overloaded physically. It will be the infantry man who will be carrying the equipment on his back, launching and using and then retrieving it too for next use.
Thus care will have to be taken that neither his mobility nor his fire power is reduced in anyway.
Also the size and composition of infantry platoon / Company may change with addition of DRONE MAN and may be his partner the ANTI DRONE MAN. These were the dilemma when Rocket Launchers / anti tank missiles and portable air defence missiles were being introduced at the infantry company level.
Infantry Commanders at all levels have to put their head and first listen to the Section, Platoon and Company Commanders in detail and then only decide whether UAVs and anti-UAV technology is going to increase the Infantry Combat potential or will be counterproductive by reducing available fire power at the Platoon/ Company level. The additional load on the supply and repair chain and thus on the logistical tail of the Formation too will need a detailed working out.
By now with all the night vision devices, range finders and what not, the need of and the load of batteries/ power packs themselves must have increased considerably. The cost of replacing and maintaining these assets may also be very high.
“ A miniature helicopter with video cameras has been developed specially for infantry to see enemy units from the air.The platform weighs less than 250gm, and it can “can shoot live video with either a daylight imager or infrared, has a range of a little less than a mile and can fly for 25 minutes at a speed of 13 mph.”
Naturally once introduced, such items will be given down to Section level then the chances of them getting lost due to crashes / going out of range or captured becomes high. There may be own sensitive data on these systems and they may be leveraged by the enemy.
Now along with light and efficient drones, armed/ unarmed, are also coming up fast the anti drones or counter drone systems. Drone killers are coming up in various avatars like rifles or rifle attachments or frequency jammers.
Though it is no easy task, as there are new types of drones that can operate without radiofrequency command-and-control links by using automated target recognition and tracking, obstacle avoidance, and other capabilities enabled by software.
However to have these systems too with the fighting troops, there has to be allocation of space and weight to this kit. This may even require additional manpower to carry the apparatus, no matter how light it is. if a soldier has to carry a UAV kit …..the platform itself, a control system, power supply and so on…. then what part of a kit will a soldier leave behind?
The drone/ anti drone technology will affect the infantry sooner than later, as small drones and nano-drones are beginning to be integrated into units. UAV military technology will affect the future of warfare, especially in the areas of logistics, medical evacuation, reconnaissance, and offensive support. They may start playing a much greater role in asymmetrical warfare, as even the terrorists / insurgents will have their cheaper / improvised versions in plenty.