Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey bristles when he hears someone use the word drone

ABOARD A U.S. MILITARY AIRCRAFT, May 22, 2014 – Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey bristles when he hears someone use the word drone.

“You will never hear me use the word ‘drone,’ and you’ll never hear me use the term ‘unmanned aerial systems,’” the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said today. “Because they are not. They are remotely piloted aircraft.”

Dempsey spoke to Reuters and American Forces Press Service on his way back to Washington from Brussels and the 171st Chiefs of Defense Meeting at NATO headquarters.

The American people seem to have the image of robots “flying around semi-autonomously making their own decisions and conducting kinetic strikes without oversight by responsible human beings,” he said. “It’s not like that at all.”

There are more than 80 people for each remotely piloted vehicle, he said. They operate and maintain the aircraft, and analyze the information gathered. “It’s so important for us to remember that there is a man or woman in the loop,” he said.

And, whether a service member uses a bayonet or a remotely piloted aircraft with a Hellfire missile, “the ethical application of force applies,” Dempsey emphasized.

The law of armed conflict, the principles of war, U.S. ethics and legal bases apply no matter what the weapon, the chairman reiterated. “So, when we introduce remotely piloted aircraft into a theater in a Title 10 role, we apply the same standards,” he said.

The standards are predicated on the near-certainty of the effect — is the weapon going to do what the operators need it to do? Military personnel always assess the risk of collateral damage on people or buildings. And, “we ensure that we are achieving an effect with the appropriate behavior for the United States of America,” Dempsey said.

Remotely piloted aircraft are “a valid, useful and responsible military instrument in the way we use them,” he said. “So long as we continue to think of them that way and so long as we continue to use them in a transparent … ethical way, then I have no concerns about their use.”

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @garamoneAFPS)

By Jim Garamone

American Forces Press Service

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Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey
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Photo Essay

U.S. Working to Preserve Drone Dominance

Drone operators like these at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada… Ethan Miller / Getty Images

The U.S. military is worried about being attacked by foreign drones—and about protecting the airmen operating ours

Some things never change in war. It began with rocks among cavemen, until one of them sharpened his stone, creating a better weapon. That, in turn, spawned the shield.

The same thing is happening now with drones. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles—they go by a variety of names inside the U.S. military—came into their own following 9/11. Once outfitted with Hellfire missiles and other weaponry, they created a new kind of war.

They lurked out of sight and sound, some killing in an instant when the trigger was pulled, perhaps on the other side of the world. For more than a decade, U.S. drones stood pretty much alone at the top of the hunter-killer pyramid.

Well, one thing is sure: the rest of the world, including the bad guys, aren’t standing still.

A Predator drone flies over Afghanistan. Veronique de Viguerie / Getty Images

That’s got the Army—you know, the guys most likely to be attacked by enemy drones—a little concerned. “U.S. forces will be increasingly threatened by reconnaissance and armed Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) in the near and far future,” the service says, detailing a two-day session on the topic in Huntsville, Ala., later this month. Written proposals on ways to defeat enemy drones were due April 1.

“All levels of detection, decision, and defeat should be considered when developing and proposing a capability,” the Army says. Since the Army calls drones “UAVs,” it only makes sense that it calls its yet-to-be-perfected drone-killing technologies “CUAS,” for Counter Unmanned Aerial System capabilities.

“Engagement options should consider the echelon of employment, air and ground coordination measures, prevention of civilian casualties, fratricide, cost per engagement, and the number of engagements possible in a surge application,” the Army says. “Both kinetic and non-kinetic solutions are encouraged” (“Kinetic” means destruction by physical collision, like the 20-pound warhead on an AGM-114Hellfire. “Non-kinetic” means a way of defeating a drone using electronic warfare or other ways of keeping an incoming drone away from its target).

“Only U.S. based and owned companies are eligible to respond,” the Army says. “Foreign participation is not authorized for this effort.”

Meanwhile, the Air Force wants to construct an “RPA Mission Control Complex Physical Protection System” around its drone operations at Creech Air Force Base outside Las Vegas. (The Air Force prefers to call its drones RPAs—Remotely-Piloted Aircraft—emphasizing that a person remains in control, even if not in the cockpit).

The northeast corner of Creech is where airmen sit at desks and control many of the MQ-1 Predators and MQ-9 Reapers that have been flying over Afghanistan and Iraq for the past decade.

The service is seeking someone to build an “Intrusion Detection System (IDS) Sensor Platform Fence” at Creech. “The project,” it adds, “will include construction of circulation control fences within the Mission Complex secured area to provide secondary security and compartmentalize access at seven (7) Base-identified critical facilities and areas.”

Such a fence, of course, will help stop intruders on the ground. But it won’t be much help against…drones.i

Source: Times