Tomorrow's New York Times Magazine has a long story on drones, focusing in on the UCAV (unmanned combat aerial vehicle).It's a schizophrenic piece, at times cold-eyed about the robots' limitations ("a MIG-29 would use them for target practice"), and at others filled with the gee-whiz boosterism you would have expected from an Internet-bubble edition of Fast Company:
If the UCAV program succeeds, it could lead us to a distant point on the horizon where no Americans in uniform will ever again fight on the battlefield -- automated submarines launching cruise missiles, divisions of unmanned ground vehicles racing toward enemy capitals... Everything they see and do will be displayed and controlled from plasma screens at headquarters.Maybe a couple of PR people at Boeing, the UCAV's maker, believe this. But each and every one of Defense Tech's sources foresees a much different future for drones. Robots won't replace people on the battlefield. They'll fight with human soldiers, side-by-side.A better read in the same issue is Peter Maass' blood-flecked take on the battles of the Third Battalion, Fourth Marines:
As the war in Iraq is debated and turned into history, the emphasis will be on the role of technology -- precision bombing, cruise missiles, decapitation strikes. That was what was new. But there was another side to the war, and it was the one that most of the fighting men and women in Iraq experienced, even if it wasn't what Americans watching at home saw: raw military might, humans killing humans.