A militarily useful, less ethically challenged use of drones (that might save US pilots from getting beheaded)
Caveat: I don’t know much about military targeting systems. I’ve assumed/inferred that targeting small, moving vehicles (that presumably don’t give a strong radar or infrared signal) is not easy – you need a human spotter/aimer. Also, for all I know, something like this already exists, though I’ve never heard of it.
I’m extremely leery about the use of drones to assassinate people. Though targeting is not public knowledge, we all know about collateral damage, the likely futility of believing that you can kill leaders faster than they can be replaced, etc. Terrorist strength is much greater now, than before the advent of the drone killing machines, so it strains credulity to give them any sort of positive credit for making the world safer than it would have been, otherwise.
However, the current chaos in Iraq, where ISIS dudes roaming about with weaponized jeeps, and threatening beheadings, crucifixions, and even genocide, suggests a militarily useful, and less ethically challenged use, for drones. Especially in the current situation, where insertion of US ground troops is undesirable, and getting a pilot shot down, captured, and perhaps beheaded would be a disaster (if for no other reason than it would invite large scale escalation of US military forces).
Basically, my idea is to use the drone (pilots) as spotters/aimers, but the ordinance is fired from manned US fighter/bombers flying at a safe distance. The missiles are fired in the general direction of the drones, but as they approach the drones, control is ‘handed off’, like a baton, to the drone. The drone pilot will have been keeping the weaponized jeep in his sights during the whole time.
While this would work well against stationary targets, with drone pilots half a world away, from observing the approximately 3 second delay in satellite communications in news programs like CNN, I have to assume that this won’t work for moving targets, like jeeps. If a jeep is going 60 mph, that’s 88 feet per second. You probably wouldn’t want to miss by more than 8 feet, say, to you need to have maximum time delays of order 1/10th second.
The speed of light in a vacuum is about 300 million meters/second. In 1/10th of a second, you’d need a straight line proximity of 30 million meters (in a vacuum). The earth’s diameter is about 13 million meters, so the circumference is about pi times that, or 40 million meters.
The previous paragraphs suggest that satellite transmissions, overall, move considerably slower that the speed of light in a vacuum. Regardless, I’m not going to take the time to look into this, further, but it seems obvious that putting drone pilots in AWACS planes, for example, in the theater of operations, but still at safe distances, would allow sufficiently proximal targetting of mobile targets, like our ISIS friends – err, fiends – in jeeps. Even if overall ‘speed of signal’ is 30x slower than the speed of light in a vacuum, 1/30th the circumference of the earth still amounts to a large, safe distance.
Also, the drones could completely drop armamanets, and thus stay in the air, longer.