ISSUE 53 WINTER 2006-07

Peace Matters Index

new kind of warfare

ONLINE contents

- turn off the lights
- mince pies and missiles
- making room for peace
- in harm’s way
- positive response to conflict
- action for peace where you live
- playtime in the Lotz ghetto
- new kind of warfare

- compled issue pdf

By 2015, the US Department of Defense plans that one third of its fighting force will be composed of robots, part of a $127bn project known as Future Combat Systems, a change that is part of the largest technology project in US history.

The US army has already some 20 remotely controlled Unmanned Ground Systems that can be controlled by a laptop from a mile away. According to the US Army's Joint Robotics Program Master Plan ‘what we're doing with unmanned ground and air vehicles is really bringing movies like Star Wars to reality’. The US military has 2,500 uncrewed systems operating in conflicts around the world. But is it Star Wars or I, Robot that the US is bringing to reality?

The US is not alone. 32 countries are now working on the development of uncrewed systems. In the UK, Qinetiq, the former Defence Research Agency, confirmed that it has developed remote bulldozers and that its technology could be installed in tanks - they have also built a robot fighter plane. When flown on test flights, the fighter is accompanied by two crewed fighters, whose role is to shoot it down if it malfunctions.

Commenting on the use of UAVs in Iraq and Afghanistan Bob Quinn, at Foster-Miller who manufacture the ‘Talon’ said ‘These robots will continue to evolve. The concept now is to introduce a range of human sensors, so that we can convey the impression to the operator that they are actually there, so that they can talk, smell and see.’

The Pentagon is not keen to address the moral and legal issues that such weapons pose. ‘There is a difference’, says John Pike of the Federation of American Scientists, ‘between soldiers and soldiers in the movies. On the battlefield, half of the soldiers don't aim their weapons at people because they don't want to hurt them or they don't want to give them cause to hurt them. The robots that are under development can sense, direct and fire dispassionately and are being pointed by people who don't have to worry about being shot at.’ The introduction of robot forces, he adds, ‘is raising some very difficult issues that the DoD has not thought through, and those are about hearts and minds. Warfare until now has been about the sacrifice of blood or treasure and the US has chosen to sacrifice treasure to avoid body bags.’

UAVs will be flying over Britain by the end of the decade. Alistair Darling has launched the £32m Astraea project to help realize this hazardous project. Clearly CCTV is not good enough to keep an eye on us.


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