Flying Killer Robots That See Through Walls

Sorry for the light pace of posting. Pressing matters have intervened. With Paul out of town, it’s just a case of bad timing. But I’ll take a break for a little shameless self-promotion.

Newspapers aren’t dead yet. Sunday’s _LA Times_ has a “good article by Greg Miller”:,3,2931937,full.story that explains the stepped-up pace of UAV warfare in Pakistan since last August, and why “the U.S. Intelligence Community is pleased with the results”:

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Why bring this up in an arms-control blog? Simple. Every successful UAV strike in the deadly serious Game of Whac-A-Mole on Terrorism, or GWAMOT, places another question mark — preceded by the letters “WTF” — over the proposed “Conventional Trident Modification”: This would be a non-nuclear submarine-launched ballistic missile for employment against “fleeting targets” like high-value terrorists or suddenly detected WMD shipments. According to the “report”: of “a panel of the National Academies of Science”:, the initial version of CTM would not be able to destroy or disable hardened military targets, so it’s more or less an SLBM with Osama’s name on it.

One of the advantages of using UAVs is that you can see what are you shooting at before you shoot. This won’t prevent all disasters and tragedies, but it helps. The advantage of CTM, by contrast, is that it can strike essentially anywhere in the world on no notice, even when the flying killer robots, with all their fancy sensors, aren’t in the neighborhood.

In other words, even if you lack much confidence about what the target is, CTM means you can annihilate it just the same. Among other things, this creates exceptional opportunities for any Central Asian hill chieftain with a satellite phone, a taste for “Uncle Sugar’s benjamins”:, and a grudge against the neighboring village. Or perhaps I should say _an exceptional opportunity_, because after the results hit the newspapers, it’s liable to have been a one-time offer only.

(Bonus! Shameless other-promotion: Ted Postol gave a presentation addressing these matters to the aforementioned panel, but I’m having a hard time finding it for some reason. Bill Roggio tracks the robot war in Pakistan “very”: “closely”: [Update: “More from Roggio”:] )

Here comes the self-promotion part: I had an “article”: in the Jan./Feb. _Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists_ exploring this and other aspects of the “conventional prompt global strike” proposal. The good news is, the misguided missile program doesn’t seem to be going anywhere fast.

In case you’re wondering, the reference to seeing through walls is drawn from an earlier _LA Times_ story, “here”:, concerning sensors carried by newer Predator UAVs.

Final note: I hope that no one takes offense from my jocular tone when discussing this really grim stuff. It’s a coping mechanism. Now, just to lighten things up a little more, here’s a “musical bonus”:

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