A US Department of Defense planning document released last week contains a vignette showing how unmanned systems could be deployed in a future conflict with a fictitious enemy state resembling in some ways Iran.
The DOD’s “Unmanned Systems Integrated Roadmap” for Fiscal 2013-2038 lays out a vision for the evolution of unmanned systems and autonomous technology over the next 25 years, proposing such new devices as air-dropped “attach bots” to track vehicles.
However, the roadmap also includes a vignette that offers of glimpse of how unmanned systems may evolve over the next several years, revealing new technologies, functions and roles in an operational setting.
The vignette describes the enemy as a state called Norachi, which like Iran is suspected of hiding a nuclear weapons programme. Norachi also has a coastline and mountainous inland, and it maintains a difficult relationship with the West.
The standoff with the USA begins in 2020 when Norachi expels an International Atomic Energy Agency inspection team. The UN responds by banning the sale of goods, including oil, to Norachi and asks for US and allied help in supporting the sanctions.
In 2006, the UN Security Council targeted Iran’s oil, gas and petrochemicals industries and banned the export of refined oil after the country refused to stop enriching uranium.
The US military uses long-endurance and aircraft carrier-based unmanned aircraft to “survey the land and sea approaches to” Norachi, while a tiny “bird-like vehicle is deployed to conduct an overwatch of” a key nuclear facility by perching on a nearby power line.
Unmanned aircraft armed with low-powered lasers also help drive solar-paneled unmanned ground vehicles secretly deployed to the area.
As the US-led surveillance noose tightens, Norachi tries to win allies through nuclear proliferation. However, an allied network of air and ground sensors detects an unusual number of Norachi vehicles leaving a nuclear site, so the U.S. dispatches an aerial strike team to intercept them.
The force includes drones providing “tactical intelligence communication relay, jamming support, and strike support” to (lower caps) joint strike fighters attacking the Norachi convoy.
The operational vignette concludes with a convoy being intercepted and a special extraction team on the ground loading the nuclear material “on unmanned vertical-lift transports.” Round the clock surveillance of Norachi roads and sea lanes continues.