Pivotal Moment In History: Oct. 18=Predator Day

      • For those of you just tuning in, a Predator is an unmanned aircraft, 27 feet long with a 48 foot wingspan. In previous US military actions it was used as a reconnaisance aircraft only. It can be pre-programmed to fly a set course or be controlled from ground or satellite-based signals, and can stay aloft for as long as 40 hours.
  • The St Louis Post-Dispatch reported Friday, October 19 in a story from Associated Press (“U.S. uses armed, unmanned spy plane in combat missions over Afghanistan”) that a defense official speaking on the condition of anonymity said that some in use were armed with Hellfire antitank missiles. The Pentagon publicly refused to comment particularly on if the Predators had been used to attack anything yet.
    This would seem to me to be a very important day in history, on par with the first military use of firearms. Remote-controlled war engines have long been a staple of science fiction that appears to have come true. I also note that the success or failure of this vehicle is almost certain to have an enormous impact on the future of US military forces, even if nobody involved is mentioning it now.
    -Was this a historical occasion or not? - MC

I would think it would be more noteworthy the first time a robot spy plane was able to use its missiles to actually defend itself from attack on the ground, and the Air Force ain’t saying precisely when that was.


So if you want a “red letter day”, it doesn’t look like October 18 is it.

As for simply “equipping” them, it looks like that happened some time ago.

I was just wondering earlier today how long it will be until the US will be able fight a war from their Lazyboy’s.

… and how long before our robots develop their own intelligence, turn on their makers, and enslave us all?! :eek:

Some of us have been tuned in for several years. Where have you been? Here are some eye-openers for you.

1- Decision on Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) is pending announcement anyday now. Either Lockheed or Boeing will be chosen to build the last manned combat aircraft to be developed by the U.S military. Beyond JSF, the Air Force and the Navy have been designing UCAV (Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle) for several years. For details, plans and congressional funding on UCAV check this. Boeing and Northrop Grumman already have developed prototypes. UCAVs will be able to perform dog fights in addition to firing missiles. The General Atomics’ UAV (Unmanned Aerial vehicle) sighted by OP can only fire missiles.

2- DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Project Agency) has been funding advanced UAV development for years. They are now developing a miniaturized UAV with a size of a fly or a bee. Just go to Google search and type DARPA UAV. Note that if we had these miniature UAVs today, we could send a flock of them to various caves and tents in Afghanistan and hear exactly what is going on.

3- Beyond the current state of technology in UCAVs and UAVs, there is a recent book by Michael Ignatieff called “Virtual War”. It discusses the moral dilemma and illusions of winning a war fought with UCAVs and remotely controlled precision weapons. A very informative and thoughtful book.

I think the precedent set by this kind of thing is frightening, even if you rule out the Terminator scenario, what’s frightening is that one of the things that holds us back from conflict is the idea of our boys being away from home and in harms way. If we can fight from a bunker in Jumakenkaka Iowa then that’s pretty scary. Then again I guess it’s not a whole lot different than the stealths that can hit without much danger to the pilot.


      • What I meant was “the first time a remotely piloted vehicle used weapons against other people”. I had not read of RPV’s being placed in use armed before, not that the Pentagon would have exactly come out and said. The observation that the info was given in anonymity would seem to indicate that this is the first time.
  • It’s very much different: currently, most of the logistics of waging war concern supporting soldiers in the field. - MC

The concept of using unmanned drones to gather military intelligence is almost twenty years old. One of the first uses of this technology was in the Bekah Valley. The Israelis would fly one of these RPV’s (Remotely Piloted Vehicles) through the area a tactical fighter squadron was about to patrol or prosecute. The RPV would gather the signatures of radar and microwave guided SAM or antiaircraft installations. The lock-on frequencies were detected and transmitted via telemetry to the home base.

This data was programmed into the jammer pods of the Elint craft and also used to provide target information for source guided missiles. Upon entering the theater, the jets would first release a salvo of source guided missiles against the batteries and emitters previously monitored by the RPV and then proceed relatively unscathed. Sadly, this is old news.

As to any of these RPV craft releasing their own ordnance, that is news of some sort. The source for this information is from an 1980’s edition of the “Old Crows” periodical dealing with Elint, jamming and masking techniques. The “Old Crows” got their start dumping tin foil confetti “chaff” out of bombers in WWII.

This isn’t ever likely to change, unless we do wind up with a horde of Ahnuld clones stomping around. RPV drones cannot take and hold ground; they cannot take prisoners or rescue hostages; they cannot be our sole defense against enemy troops. We’ll always need groundpounders to suit up and put themselves in harm’s way.

That having been said, armed drones are k3wl. The idea of our adversaries having to shoot down Cox model airplanes or get spanked makes me all warm and giggly inside.

**Crude –
This isn’t ever likely to change, unless we do wind up with a horde of Ahnuld clones stomping around.

I could imagine being able to do alot more with remote and AI devices. We don’t need robotic humanoids. How about something like them little remote control helicopters loaded up with all sorts of weapons, sensors, gps, stabilization software, etc … . Give them sufficient energy packs or methods to refuel and they would be awesome. Never have to sleep, eat, step on twigs, worry about being killed.

Any of you military types know of stuff like this in the works?

This is historical is the same sense that Marconi’s first radio transmission was: not of any practical importance, but indicative of immense practical importance. As it stands now, US pilots haven’t really been in “true” combat situations since the Vietnam war, and even there they had a very lopsided kill ratio. So having planes attacking targets without putting pilots at risk is nothing new. If we ever get into a war with a country capable of presenting a substantial resistence to our airforce, these planes would make a difference. But I’m not sure if there are any such countries.

Can you explain how Predator changes that?

Well, theoretically, if we wanted to, and wanted to spend the money, we could have a military composed of nothing but missile-packing robot drones, making infantry obsolete.

FYI: Firebee drones were armed with Mavericks and used to some extent in Vietnam. This isn’t new. It’s just that now they’re starting to really be practical.

The key term to pay attention to is not “unmanned” but “remotely-piloted”. This things are no more autonomous than a plane with autopilot.

Has anyone here read Danny Dunn, Invisible Boy? It’s a young adult SF novel (late 50’s, IIRC) about a robot dragonfly, which is flown via a sort of virtual reality “telepresence” system.

Clearly, though, the next step is to equip bee-sized UAV’s with stingers full of saxitoxin or botulism toxin. I imagine that the executive order against assassinations might be revoked once we are able to safely and reliably kill anyone, anywhere.


Serious answer: Yes, ROVs are an old concept, but this pushes the envelope.
Preferred answer: Where does Bill Maher stand on the Predator?

New gun that looks suspiciously like the ones in “Aliens.”
Directed energy weapons

I have nothing to say but, October 18th is my birthday!

Wow, something potentially historically important occured on my birthday, while I’m alive no less. Even if it ends up being but a footnote type historic event.


Holy sh!t, that thing makes my friend’s 30mm Browning Automatic Rifle look like a slingshot!

I want it, I want it, I want it, I want it, I want it!

PS: Happy birthday, Sterling North!

I’ve read it! That book inspired a lot of fantasies. Even though it’s probably been close to 20 years since I read it, I can still recall lots of details - they developed the transistor that allowed them to miniturize the technology by accident in a lab fire, the probe’s wings were really antennae, it flew by means of tiny fans behind vents, and somehow the operator could feel things through the control rig when he used the mechanical limbs on the dragonfly probe.

Well, yeah, but how about remotely-operated robot drone groundpounders? Can we get those Star Wars Episode 1 battledroids up and running pretty soon?