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By Arie Egozi
It’s a turning point in history. A changed world. Humans vs Robots.
The Middle East has become one of the largest “war laboratories” in the world. Wars fought in the region put to real test many innovative weapon systems like unmanned air systems (UAS) . The developments in the region do not give any hope that the lab will be closed in the coming future, and that leaves us with the potential to follow some trends that will be part of any future war in the region and very likely elsewhere in the world.
One question that comes to mind when evaluating the efforts of “war scientists” is the role of humans in many combat operations on land, in the air and in the sea. Is it possible to allow a robot, a machine, even a very sophisticated one, to perform tasks as well as a skilled and trained human? The first reaction to such a question is no. But looking around, this conviction becomes weaker and weaker.
The new Israeli UAS that fly high in the Middle East skies are autonomous to a surprising degree. Four clicks on the computer mouse in the ground station of the Israeli airforce’s new Heron-TP “Eitan” strategic UAS, cause the big platform with a wingspan of a Boeing 737, to taxi out from its hangar, reach the threshold of the runway and takeoff. The flight to the area of interest is also autonomous.
And while these robots in the sky do the job along the Israeli borders and far beyond, they sometimes “talk” with other “family members”: An unmanned vehicle developed by a joint company of Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and Elbit Systems called G-nius.
In such growing harmony between unmanned platform , it is the right time to look at the role of unmanned combat platforms in the Middle East where low intensity combat (LIC) can in no time become full out wars.
LIC is always mentioned together with what is referred to as collateral damage. Are these automated remote controlled platforms, some of them very deadly, reliable enough to operate in the heavily populated areas?
The armies go on that path very slowly. Trust here will be built gradually. Technically, the experts say unmanned combat platforms can be used without causing problems that are related to autonomous vehicles performing rather than human soldiers. The state of mind is not yet ripe, but it is going in the directions of using unmanned platforms in combat. Israel has never reacted to reports from Gaza about Israeli UAS armed with missiles that perform pinpoint attacks. But experts assume that while the world is moving towards combat unmanned air vehicles (UCAV’S), Israel, a leading manufacturer of UAS, is not staying behind.