Seraphic Secret has just returned from a four-day trip to Israel, where we attended our niece Ariella’s wedding. We then spent a lovely and peaceful Shabbat with beloved cousins in Mitzpe Netofa, a yishuv in the upper Galilee.
We are beyond jet-lagged. In fact, semi-comatose.
But before collapsing in a cranky heap, we’d like to post a few thoughts on Gaza, Operation Pillar of Defense, and the implications for the future of warfare between Western democracies and Islamist terrorists and terrorist states.
To determine where Israeli military doctrine is heading in terms of asymmetrical warfare, you can go to the glossy think-tanks and listen to a bunch of smart but usually clueless eggheads. Or you can sit down with a few scary-smart, articulate young men who are about to enter elite cyber-units within the Israeli military.
Seraphic Secret chose the latter.
These young men leave us with one overriding image: the primacy of drones.
While the number of drones the IDF used in their precision strikes in Gaza during Operation Pillar of Defense is highly classified, we believe that an overwhelming number of sorties were carried out by unmanned drones.
Said one scary-smart young man:
“Drones are more precise than pilots and they carry a bigger payload.”
“But surely drones can’t entirely replace a highly-trained pilot,” I said.
“No, not entirely. But the pilot will see his role diminished in the years to come. Advanced jets have simply become too expensive, almost too complex. Training pilots takes years and costs a fortune. Drones are much cheaper and the pilots are geeky kids with joysticks who flew simulators and played video games as children. The F15 is obsolete. How long can we keep replacing parts in the F16? And the Americans don’t seem to know what they’re doing with the F35.
“Look, we built the Merkava tank all by ourselves, and it’s perfect for our type of warfare. We can’t build an advanced fighter jet. But we can build excellent drones.”
As always in Israel, the conversation turned to Iran, the center of gravity for all things terrorist.
We wondered: “Can drones take out the Iranian nuclear program?”
Said our scary-smart young friend: “Absolutely. They can stay in the air far longer than a fighter jet. They carry a bigger payload. We don’t have to worry about refueling, and even more important, we don’t have to worry about losing a pilot. Without a pilot, we eliminate all the support and rescue teams that add to the complexity of any mission. Plus, we can can program the drone to self-destruct if necessary.”
“But what about invisibility? Can drones trick radar in order to penetrate hostile air space?
“Okay, that is a problem. But we can solve it in several ways. First, of course, we jam their defenses. Then we can fly drones just a few feet off the ground, thereby evading radar. We can write topographic programs for the entire flight. Very cool stuff. ”
Finally, the $64,000 question:
“Do you think the raid on Iran will be led by drones?”
The next time you see a kid flying a model airplane or obsessively working the joystick of a killer video game, be aware that you are looking at the warrior of the future.