Friday, June 29, 2012

Contractors Overhead

Australia has hired an Israeli company to provide drone support for ground operations in Afghanistan:

For the last three years, the RAAF (Royal Australian Air Force) has been leasing Israeli Heron Shoval UAVs for use in Afghanistan. The RAAF actually rents the Herons by the hour, and in the last three years have bought 10,000 hours of flight time, using 19 Herons. Total cost per hour in the air for a Heron is over $20,000. That includes the services of ten people per UAV as operators (of the aircraft and equipment onboard) as well as ground support personnel. ...

About half the time RAAF Herons were used for surveillance of a village or remote compound to determine if the Taliban were operating there and if the place was worth a visit by ground troops. The rest of the time Herons were directly supporting ground troops. While the Herons were not armed, the UAV operators called in warplanes (with missiles and smart bombs), artillery or American UAVs that carried missiles.

There is still hesitation to use private military assets if they do the shooting. Somehow, a contractor designating a target but letting someone in a uniform pull the trigger on the bomb or shell that does the killing is OK.

It will be interesting to see who first lets the contractor pull the trigger too, either by arming the drones or by having contractor artillery on the ground as part of the private drone force package.

Private warfare may be driven forward by global budget problems that reduce resources available for defense but which do not lessen defense needs. Will a small country decide that their infantry formations can be motorized light infantry suitable for domestic disaster relief and civil unrest missions without artillery assets that are then rented along with their drone spotters in time of war?

Why yes, now that you mention it, you can buy a collection of posts from The Dignified Rant on this subject.