January 27, 2012, 7:07 PM — For almost 70 years U.S. military strategy has been built around super-sophisticated aircraft flown by Top Guns who were able to control the rockets they rode due to a rare mix of highly-developed skills:
- The ability to calculate force in three dimensions the way pro outfielders do in two dimensions;
- The fine motor control, aggression and lightning reflexes of world-class boxers;
- Egos so large and impermeable that – if it weren't for their physical skills and need to commute to work at mach 2 with their hair on fire – would have forced them to become software-industry CEOs instead of pilots.
If the aircraft carriers that transport, feed, fuel, protect and launch them into the danger zone weren't themselves an unprecedented engineering achievement, cutting-edge American fighters and the productively repressed maniacs who fly them would be the ultimate expression of military power and achievement of the 20th century.
21st Century belongs to drones
A Congressional Research Service report published earlier this month revealed that the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) rather than human-piloted aircraft has increased so quickly drones now make up fully 30 percent of all Air Force planes.
The Dept. of Defense spent $284 million on UAVs during the year-2000 budget cycle; it spent $3.3 billion – more than 40 times as much – on drones in 2010.
The argument against drones was always that they gave pilots and military or political decision-makers too little information and too little capability to do much good.
In the era of the Hellfire-firing Predators and Global Hawks, both of which can fly around a target for hours, watching it with long-range cameras, chemical detectors, ground-penetrating radar, cell-phone signal interceptors and whatever other surveillance systems they need for an aerial stakeout.