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The Switchblade and the future of insurgency.

March 8, 2013

The Switchblade UAV is a new UAV used by both the Army and Marine Corps. Unlike the larger drones that are so often the subject of the news, the Switchblade is man portable, drastically improving the ability of a soldier to strike at his enemies while remaining safe.

 

This presents a tremendous challenge to future insurgents.  After all, if every unit has the ability to use these types of drones, launching an ambush, or successfully disengaging from combat becomes far more difficult– and that is the only way an insurgency can hope to survive against a better equipped force. If “strike and hide” becomes impossible, essentially every battle will be to the death.  While it is likely that advanced nations will develop tactics to neutralize these drones, it’s less likely that insurgencies will be able to reliably do so.

 

This may very well have two effects. First of all, the style of fighting we’re seeing in Afghanistan may increasingly become a thing of the past.  But, less hopefully, this may see a move to an even heavier reliance on suicide bombings and attacks in urban areas–where the sheer mass of the population will disguise the attackers until they strike and where they can either fade back into the city, or simply try and inflict as much damage as possible.  While a tactic that will cause severe difficulties for the government or occupying force, it’s also likely such tactics will quickly lose the sympathy of the local population, so long as the government forces exercise even a modicum of restraint.

 

Will these new developments end insurgencies?  No. But, just as the maxim gun made massed assaults suicidal, they will make the traditional model of an insurgency far harder to carry off, especially in the face of a military with the resources to deploy drones like the Switchblade en masse.

 

 

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