Printer-friendly versionSend to friendPDF version

Behind the Certain!


"No Disassemble!"

— Filed under: Politics & Government
Flank photo of Johnny 5 robot from the Short C...

Image via Wikipedia

As an aviation enthusiast I have been aware of the development of the increasing autonomy of military technology for a number of years. In the apparent pursuit of making life easier for pilots by decreasing their workload has morphed into a sinister beast however and we are at the point where a number of seemingly disparate technological military advances could converge and make sci-fi like future conflicts a reality.

What follows is a run-down of the areas I find a concern.


UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle)/Unmanned Aircraft Systems technology is a relatively new direction, where the pilots fly the aircraft as though are on board (following all rules of the air) themselves but are actually in front of a screen flying the aircraft remotely. Initially UAV’s were envisaged as a means of assisting the air power forces by providing “spy” roles such as finding targets and relaying the info to the correct arm of the air power wing and then providing imagery of the aftermath of any strike operations. The most developed UAV is the RQ-1 Predator, initially designed for reconnaissance purposes. In the winter 2000-2001 (post 9/11) tests were conducted with the view of arming Predators with Hellfire missiles (a lightweight but highly effective and accurate missile as used on AH64 Apachehelicopters), these tests culminated in the successful test attack on a stationary tank with 3 missiles. The head of the CIA at the time after seeing how successfully the Predators reconnaissance of Afghanistan was vocal in his support of the arming programme and had the updates accelerated so as to target Osama Bin Laden.  The armed version was re-designated MQ-1 and software and technological upgrades are frequently applied. They have launched hundreds of attacks during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom with some moderate success; however a large number have been destroyed for varying reasons. The Bae System Taranisis the latest development in UAV, it even looks nasty!


Unmanned Ground Vehicles are the land based equivalent of the above. To date other than remotely controlled bomb disposal robots or those designed to minimise risks to troops none are in operational service. However the race is on and gluts of projects are vying for attention from the world’s military organisations. The US is leading the way with the larger projects, whodathunkit?  The most impressive being the CRUSHER, GLADIATOR, TALON, APDand the very sinister yet captivating BIG DOG(and in fact anything from Boston Dynamics.


RCWS (Remote Controlled Weapons Systems) are a line up of stationary gun turrets which, during their initial phase are controlled by a human far away on a computer screen.  The Israeli defence company Rafael Advanced Defence Systems are currently installing their design, the Sentry-Techalong the Gaza Strip.

If you good reader, have clicked on any of the links within this column you may have spotted a word which you may think I should have mentioned. It’s the binding thing that all of the advances mentioned strive to achieve and the thing that strikes fear into me...

... AUTONOMOUS! That’s right, well done. Tell them what they could have won Bob!

 Lockheed Martin conducted a programme in 2008 in which a manned F-16 VISTAaircraft performed an autonomous landing (the most important and until now “human” part of a flight). This is the reason the Predator has a control room. The worlds speeding clamour to obtain military dominance through the use of autonomous robots until very recently has been consigned to Sci-Fi movies such as Terminator and Short Circuit. Well. It’s here folks. Where it will lead us who knows? But the fact that it is here suggests a complete degradation of ethical responsibility. The autonomous systems for UAV’s are only a small step from the “manpower saving” technologies that exist in modern military aviation today. The autonomous systems for UGV’s is slightly more disturbing, the “unit” has to live and roam around it’s theatre so as to develop a knowledge of the environment it is in so it can operate accordingly. Both air and land units will actually designate their own targets also. Considering we can’t manage to get that right now though I can’t imagine how catastrophic the results of that particular avenue of advancement will be.

We are entering a time where all whims are catered for at the touch of a button without a thought. We don’t question anything anymore because we just don’t care. Just as long as we are entertained by mind numbing arseholes on our screens and fame seeking corporate whore plebs in our newspapers. If anything this economic mess our masters have placed us in should sharpen our resolve and re-ignite our distrust of those who wish to rule. The stakes are higher now than they were during the cold war ten-fold. More countries have more nuclear capabilities for a start.

The human ethical element of warfare has always brought about situations whereby a catastrophic escalation could be avoided; just ask the lovelorn troubadour that is James Blunt.

With autonomous military equipment that ability to judge what’s best will be lost. What else will be lost? Guilt? Responsibility? Culpability? Damn right. We have that now with Predator pilots who just see targets as a blip or a bunch of congregated pixels in human form on a screen. Along with a joystick or in the event of the use of games console controllers on UGV’s the screen in front of them appears to be nothing more than a computer game with top notch graphics!

And what about our eyes? Opened more and more vivid depictions of violence day to day on TV or in film and computer games, our eyes lie to our subconscious all the time. We are becoming numbed to the actual reality of man’s inhumanity to man. Is this part of our master’s plan?

Who knows good reader? Do you?

PS. I’m not even touching the militarisation of space. Why? Because I’ve tried and the information out there is scant at the very least and spuriously loose at best. When the info is there I’ll update, but you can imagine the implications of autonomous space militarisation.

Related articles

Winston Smith's picture

Falcon HTV-2

Here's some recent news regarding the militarization of space. Check out the new Falcon HTV-2 experimental superweapon, designed to strike from space within an hour:

DaveR's picture

off the grid

It's all really troubling, but what's the average person to do? How can we even hope to fight back or protect ourselves? All the more reason to go 'off the grid' while you still can.

Hewy's picture


HTV-2 is still in the development stage and failed on re-entry.

It's big brother though, currently touted as a replacement for the space shuttle but still shrouded in mystery has completed a fully autonomous space flight including landing

And russia have a hiccup 2 days later

Winston Smith's picture

Big Dog

I think the best way to describe that Big Dog thing is "creepy". If anyone wants to see, watch this video and you'll agree, although it's also a bit fascinating.

Hewy's picture

Please find time to watch these.

As for those who "contributed" to Kuncen's sister article on the matter of DIY UAV's. Your contempt was overshadowed by your fear. Knowledge does dispel fear, in as much as ignorance is bliss. As stated these articles are meant to provoke debate and the fact that you resorted to personal insult suggests you fear more than the writer of the article, hence... You know nothing! 

Embrace this fact. It will do your stress levels a world of good. The Wired for War film exposes the reality.

Kuncen's picture

Cheetah bot

Here comes the Cheetah bot, faster than any human and able to spin on a dime....


Hewy's picture

First seaborn laser test.

Check it oot. Unimpressive whizz bangs but a major leap forward. Guns can be heard and reacted to. Lasers can't.

Winston Smith's picture

I know I shouldn't, but I

I know I shouldn't, but I can't help but like this laser stuff.  Maybe it'll be more accurate than conventional weapons?  That said, the megawatt one mentioned at the end of the article scared me.  Able to cut through 2000 feet of steel per second?  Who would need that?

Hewy's picture

Exactamundo dude!

My thoughts exactly. Because the US is developing the stuff I have a feeling they will be the first to use it. It could start a new cold war. Like any empire holding on to power they seem to be designing more and more sinister weapons and weapons platforms. The more autonomy the less scope for recourse should oh i don't know a random city full of civilians be annhialated by "accident". We are very sorry but the machine went wrong... erm... we did a good job installing a self destruct system which kicked in before it went apeshit and wiped out the whole of "insert country name here"... so well done us... yay... we'll come and rebuild your country for a fee. And we'll use our own companies, so you'll owe them too. Very sorry. Won't happen again....!

At least we'll save the planet by not making armoury out of metal and stuff tho... so yay to us again! Ooooh! Look at it shine!

So on and so forth!

Kuncen's picture

"Not available in your area."

"Not available in your area."  D'oh.  Must be a copyright issue or something.  What was it?


Hewy's picture


It was a TV program on the perceived drop in manufacturing in the UK over the last 20 odd years. It aimed to dispel the myth by saying although the UK makes very little now it is spearheading technologies, including unmanned autonomous UAV's and had a large piece on the BAE SYSTEMS MANTIS. Which is feeding information to the rest of the industry. Very interesting and although the program did play slightly on the obvious trepidation associated with this technology it didn't have teeth enough to ask the what if's? Still interesting though.


Kuncen's picture

6 shocking ways robots are already becoming human

Here's something interesting from a source I wouldn't have expected.  Sure, it's written in a humorous fashion, but the facts are still solid.