The Air Force’s contention that unmanned aerial systems are not suitable for use in contested environments is wrong, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a Washington, D.C.-based think tank. The service believes that unmanned aircraft such as the MQ-9 Reaper, MQ-1C Grey Eagle, and RQ-4 Global Hawk cannot operate effectively in scenarios that involve interaction with near-peer adversaries or modern anti-aircraft defense systems.
“This thinking is arguable an outgrowth of the Air Force’s historical aversion to embracing unmanned aircraft,” wrote CSIS’s Andrew Metrick in a Dec. 4 white paper.
Metrick cited Israel’s effective use of UAS aircraft in combat as proof the Air Force’s conventional wisdom is misguided. He agreed with the contention that unmanned aircraft could be easy targets – if they are flying too low and slowly. However, Metrick wrote, such aircraft could be very effective as long-dwell electronic warfare platforms, situated just outside the range of enemy air defenses. Armed UAS also could enhance mission effectiveness of piloted stealth aircraft such as the F-35 and F-22 by providing cover fire when necessary.