Bad Idea: UAVs Aren’t Usable in Contested Environments

Photo Credit: U.S. Air Froce/Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson
The conventional wisdom is that existing unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), especially non-stealthy, long endurance platforms such as the MQ-9 Reaper, MQ-1C Grey Eagle, and RQ-4 Global Hawk, are not capable of operating in a contested environment. This belief has led to these platforms being written off when considering a hypothetical contingency scenario against a near-peer adversary with modern air defense systems. These UAS are often used for operations where persistent surveillance and strike capabilities are needed, increasing their vulnerability to detection and destruction by a wide range of anti-aircraft systems including relatively rudimentary anti-aircraft artillery for medium to low altitude UAS like the MQ-9 and MQ-1. UAS also lack the structural reinforcement and highly redundant flight systems found on many manned aircraft. As a result…

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