Cassandra has moved. Ugo Bardi publishes now on a new site called "The Seneca Effect."

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

The Return of the Condottieri? How Military Drones are Changing the World

A US  carrier strike group. It costs about 30 billion dollars to build and it may cost around 2-3 billion dollars per year to operate. These values may be optimistic and there are 10 US strike groups in operation today. And, by now, all this hardware may be worth little more than its weight as scrap metal.

Sometimes, the sect I belong to, that of the catastrophists, tends to dismiss technological progress as a minor factor in the trajectory of the world system, mainly determined by climate change and resource depletion. It is a reasonable position: no matter how much money is thrown at welfare queens in white coat in the hope that they'll save the world, they don't seem to be able to do much more than producing overhyped press releases about some wonderful new technology that, one day, maybe, possibly, will solve some kind of problem. But only if they can get more money for further research.

So, technological progress is often little more than a trick to pay the salary of scientists. But it is also true that, sometimes, it does change the world. It is just that it doesn't work the way people expect it to. Technological progress is not a supermarket where you can find everything you want: you pay for it and you bring it home. It is more like fishing in the sea: most of the time you find little, but sometimes you stumble into the big marlin and suddenly you are not an unlucky old man anymore.

Technology changes the world in ways that are usually rapid and destructive, but never completely unexpected. Think of what happened to Blockbuster when they were facing the competition of Netflix. At Blockbuster, they couldn't have missed that their technology was obsolete but they refused to believe that the change could be so rapid. And they were wiped out of the market.

In military matters, this kind of rapid revolutions are even more common and, in this case, being "wiped out" may take a quite literal meaning. Recently, we saw a hint of the things to come with the attacks carried out against the Saudi oil facilities by a swarm of drones launched from Yemen. There are different interpretations of an event that may hide much more than what has been made public. But one thing is clear: drones turned out to be impressively effective in terms of the ratio of damage to cost. They suddenly made conventional planes and carriers obsolete.

It was expected. The rise of military robots was in plain sight for everybody, even though the traditional military organization tried to look the other way -- as it is typical for large organizations entrenched in their previous investments on old technologies. In this sense, the US Navy is not different from Blockbuster, just much bigger. So, a few years ago, in 2012, I wrote a short text for Jorgen Randers' book "2052" under the title of "The Future of War and the Rise of Robots." Of course, I was not the first to examine these matters but I think my text was original in trying to examine how lowering the cost of warfare could affect society. My prediction was that

"Future wars may be more frequent but probably also smaller in scale and less destructive. It is possible that robotic weapons will make the concept of a nation-state obsolete, to be replaced by structures akin to present-day corporations."

I am no prophet, but the first part of this paragraph describes very well what's happening. What's remarkable in the recent attacks against Saudi Arabia is that no human casualties are reported. It was hardware against hardware: machines destroying other machines. For the second part, outsourcing wars to private companies is not yet a clear trend, but it may be starting.

Rethinking to these matters today, I think we can, as usual, learn something from ancient history and modern drones may be starting a trajectory similar to that of firearms in Europe. Firearms have been around for several centuries, they appeared as early as in the 12th century. Initially, they were rather expensive tools that required specialists to operate. Nevertheless, firearms were more effective than the previous dominant technology, that of armored knights, who were wiped out of the battlefield.

During this initial phase, we saw the development of private military organizations, led by the "condottiere" (contractors) which integrated several different fighting methods but tended to be the most advanced in technological terms, especially in the use of firearms. In time, firearms became less and less expensive and could be used by an average conscript. At that point, winning a war became mainly a question of the number of soldiers fielded and nation-states were the only entities able to field and control large armies. So governments took over the war business and private contractors disappeared.

Are drones going through the same trajectory? It could be: for the time being, they are clearly making obsolete the modern equivalent of the old armored knights: the gigantic, expensive, and vulnerable carrier strike groups. But drones require specialized, technical knowledge and that may imply the rise of private companies controlling the drones, maybe selling their services to governments, warlords, religious group, or whoever can pay. That may result in a harsh blow on nation-states that might become as obsolete as medieval noblemen.

And then, what if killer drones become so cheap that everyone can afford them? It is a concept that goes under the name of "slaughterbots," minimalistic drones that have only one purpose: identifying a victim and killing him or her. Which is, after all, the same job that guns do (drones don't kill people, people kill people, using drones). So, will we see killer drones becoming as diffuse as guns among suburbanites in the US? Maybe an amendment to the US constitution involving the right to bear drones? Who knows? The only sure thing is that sometimes technology changes the world in ways that are unexpected to everyone.

(about wars, see also our statistical study on their trends and frequency)

"The Future of War and the Rise of Robots" by Ugo Bardi (2016 revised version)

It is an easy prediction that, forty years from now, human beings will have no place on the battlefield. They will be replaced largely by robotic weapons—a trend already in motion with the rising use of remote-controlled military drones or “UCAVs” (unmanned combat aerial vehicles). We can expect the term “unmanned weapon” to become as odd as the term “horseless carriage” is today. However, it is more difficult to predict how robotic weapons will affect warfare and the structure of society. Future wars may be more frequent but probably also smaller in scale and less destructive. It is possible that robotic weapons will make the concept of a nation-state obsolete, to be replaced by structures akin to present-day corporations. These developments will occur first in rich countries with low levels of corruption and high manpower costs. To examine the future of warfare, we can use the simulation methods used in The Limits to Growth study in 1972—methods that predict behavior within a given system and, specifically, that describe how the world’s economic system transforms natural resources into waste or pollution.

The military sector is part of the industrial system. Typically, during the past few centuries, the military sector has been drawing around 5%–10% of the GDP of most strong states, while in wartime this fraction may rise up to 30%–40% and even more. In wartime, military activities generate an enormous amount of pollution in the form of infrastructure destruction. With the development of more and more destructive weapons, and especially of nuclear ones, the cost of war in terms of pollution may reach values several times larger than the pollution arising from the GDP of any state. So, while the military sector is expected to follow the size of the global economy, wars may accelerate global decline because of the large amount of pollution they generate. A nuclear war might make the most pessimistic Limits to Growth scenarios unfold almost instantly. Unfortunately, starting a war costs much less than cleaning up afterward.
Robotization may negate these trends by reducing the pollution cost of war. Robotic weapons are inherently precision weapons. They can be controlled to reduce collateral damage and, hence, pollution. In this respect, twenty-first-century robots are enormously better than the iconic weapon of the twentieth century: the nuclear warhead. There are other potential advantages as well. Present-day command-and-control systems are based on models developed during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to convince human beings to perform activities that are not natural for them: obey orders, march under enemy fire, and stand still while shelled, to name a few. The methods that accomplish these results are called “drilling.” But drilling is not only a slow and expensive process; it is also very difficult to undo. So, once fighting has started, it is very hard to convince people to stop. Because of this inertia, wars often tend to continue all the way to the near-complete destruction of the weaker side. On the contrary, robots don’t need propaganda. They can be easily reprogrammed, and therefore the decision to engage or disengage in a conflict can be very quick. If wars can be easily stopped as soon as it is clear who is winning, the result can be a great reduction in damage and, hence, pollution.
Overall, wars will become less costly with the use of robots, but that doesn’t mean a reduction in their frequency. New major wars— even nuclear ones—cannot be excluded for the future. Future wars may become more frequent even in the face of a progressive decline of the world’s industrial system caused by resource depletion. We may see war becoming endemic, and dispersed in a large number of small conflicts. Also, the low cost of war may make the distinction between “peacetime” and “wartime” disappear. Future wars may often be classified as police actions against groups defined as “rogue.” These are, clearly, already ongoing trends.
We can expect, therefore, drastic changes in the way wars will be managed and conducted. National armies may be replaced by private contractors deemed more suitable for managing high-tech robotic weapons in the kind of small-scale conflict that may become common in the future. These contractors need not be limited to serve a specific national government and may well sell their services to the highest bidder, as is already happening. Nation-states, then, may also decline and perhaps disappear, as there will be no need for propaganda to convince people to sacrifice themselves in battle. In addition, nation-states have evolved specifically with the purpose of “defending the borders” when the main source of wealth was agriculture, and hence territory. In recent times, however, the focus of war has been more on the control of mineral resources, with several recent wars described, correctly, as oil wars. It may be possible that the structure considered best adapted to managing war and resources, in these conditions will be not the nation-state but something akin to modern corporations— more effective, perhaps, than states in employing high-tech military contractors for small-scale conflicts.
The reduction of the destructive power of war is an improvement on the present situation. When human fighters become hopelessly outmatched by robots, most humans will simply cease to be interesting targets, while robots will be used mainly to fight other robots. Certainly, that doesn’t mean that war will not involve human victims any longer; military and political leaders will remain at risk, and the decision of targeting civilian infrastructure might still be considered an option. Terrorism, that is, military actions purposefully aimed against civilians, may turn out to be an especially suitable task for drones, which might easily be programmed for the extermination of specific ethnic, religious, or political groups. On the other hand, the fact that the actions of robots are recorded and traceable could create a barrier over their indiscriminate use against civilians—a plus when considering the violence, torture, rape, and other typical excesses of human troops. So even if war may become more frequent, it need not become more violent. Indeed, the trend of avoiding as much as possible collateral damage to civilians is already ongoing. It is a positive development after the emphasis on carpet bombing in the twentieth century.
War is so deeply embedded in the global economic system that we can expect it to exist as long as there are natural resources to compete for. Robots won’t change that, as long as they are controlled and programmed by humans. In a more distant future, however, the battlefield experience is likely to give robots increased capabilities to act autonomously and a chance to become something much different from what the term “drone” implies. That doesn’t mean that robots would take over their human masters. But it does mean that humans would not be needed as fighters. How such a society could develop is impossible to say at present. The only certainty is that wars are among the most unpredictable of human activities and that the future is, as always, full of surprises.


  1. Cool post, I like it.

    No doubt that the next decade, the drones will be essential in tactical and strategic warfighting.

    Blackjack, the rf4 phantom II pilot, another imaginary protagonist of my Climate Fiction Saga told me that:

    Drones for sure will offer important capabilities for a more efficient unmanned guide systems for logistic functions by air, land, sea. For example Unmanned airtankers, unmanned subs and ship for tactical logistic purposes, Unmanned VTOL veichles for supporting the man guide all purpose helicopters.

    In the Army, drones will energize the tactical dimension of warfighting at the level of platoon or squad or fireteam (it depends, on how many money nations will invest in tactical drones for infantry forces). Those stuff will energize the capacity of short range tactical reconnaissance, jamming enemy's radio/satellite signals, offering accurate close air support, and in some cases drones will remplace the MANPAD systems until 1500mt of altitude. Scout drones for demining lands with I.A. capabilities, and some robot surgery equipments for infantry wounds treatments in military hospital camp.

    In the Navy, drones will energize the capacity of long range reconnaissance, jamming enemy's radio/satellite signals, offering AWACS capability, airfueling and logistig purpose in the domain of air or sea or by undersea routes.

    In the Airforce, drones will energize the capacity of long range reconnaissance, Electronic Warfare, Suppressione Enemy Air Defence missions for HARM missiles, drones also will offer the capabilities of jamming enemy's radio/satellite signals, strategic or tactical AWACS capabilities, and drones for sure will remplace the men guide air tankers capabilities. USAF will build also long range strategic stealth bombing drones (with inertial guide systems without using GPS signals, I.A. and satellite's map for low level flying) for launching bombs and cruise missiles with nuclear warheads

    If China will be rational, China will build armored satellite with I.A. functions to protect satellite chain communication from Kessler syndrome.

    Which capabilities drones will never ever have in the next future battlefields before 2050?

    No unmanned jetfighters, No unmanned attack helicopters, No unmanned attack subs, No unmanned SLBM subs, No unmanned destroyers, No robot infantry soldiers, No unmanned Main Battle Tanks, No unmanned field artillery systems.

    Despite the strong growth of drones in the future battlefield, the men will be the center of war because:

    1-In the Punic Wars, Chartago's hostile troops won't have robots or big drones for CAS/COIN mission (may be, they will have small drones for scouting, with poor tactical capabilities) and in urban warfare it will be need for tactical drones capabilities only

    In the Siberia battlefield, the the wide lands with severe weather, and the Kessler syndrome, those stuff will disable lots of military equipments, especially in land forces and air forces (F35 is the most important key asset damaged)


    I saw it, for sure I saw it, lots of times, while I was in the backseat of Blackjack's rF4 Phantom II during a low flight passing by on Siberia and in the Mediterranean area. I also listened by radio all the book protagonists stories, and I wrote and describe everything I could, on

    Lets wait and see.

  2. So far then drones are successful for 'guerrilla' attacks on large logistical energy targets. The more important question just now might be 'who has air superiority' over ground troops? So far, for example, US drones have not conquered either Afghanistan or Syria.

    Even having conventional air superiority (e.g. bases and carrier platforms) does not always succeed without ground troops. We might like to think also about Libya where initial 'success' from conventional air superiority has not led to a geopolitical resolution.

    We might think about 'the balance of power' and how it might have already shifted. Who calls the shots these days without needing to actually launch them? This global 'air superiority' with its bases and air carrier platforms might be obsolete.

    Those hyper-fast missiles (big government investment) need only stay in the background. The carrier fleets, let alone Diego Garcia and other essentials, might not carry the real threat they once had?


  3. This scenario will only be possible if "technological progress" continues. This, however, requires the long-term continuity of industrial civilization.

    With the depletion of resources, industrial activity will shrink and eventually collapse. In a hundred years or so, agriculture will again become the main source of wealth.

    Large standing armies were also made possible by industrial activity in the 19th and 20th centuries.

    I expect the future of warfare to resemble that of the medieval Italian city-states; small principalities duking it out with armies of no more than a few thousand men. In an agrarian society, robots and electronics, and satellites, etc. simply will not exist.

    Antoinetta III

  4. I think you could argue that carriers were obsolete after the Falklans war. We can still use them for colonial control and military industrial profit, but they are only viable as a Maxim was against tribesmen with spears.

  5. Excellent post on the utterly obsolete carrier. They are the battleships of yesterday. The supersonic cruise missiles like the SUNBURN and the equivalents by China could send the big carriers to the bottom. Some come down vertically from a high trajectory and some skim the waves and have the ability to bob and weave enroute. The Navy could knock out a single one if given ample warning but a swarm of them launched from a nearby shore could knock out the carrier group not only sending the ships to the bottom but the thousands of men and hundreds of planes as well.

  6. @ sv koho September 24, 2019 at 7:14 AM

    I don't guess to much on supersonic missile: Carriers have lot of space on board, Carriers have nuclear power plant, so they can install laser equipment for anti super sonic missile system. For sure, supersonic missiles launched by subs can be dangerous, but a super carrier has lots of destroyers around her, and destroyer can sacrifice themself to protect the Queen of the sea.

    Istead IRBM missiles with multiple MARV with tactic nuclear warheads, those letal stuffs can easy knock out in one or two shoot, a full battle group. Add the fact that Satellite reconnaissance spots a surface battle group many many week before, the enemy battlegroup could reach an operative area for its birds. You easy understand that super carriers are obslete in a symmetric war, because an Access Area Denial strategy can easy imposed by China on USA and Russia ships.

    The real game changer at the strategic level, they are the Multiple Kill Veichle on board the same thrower of IRBM, for an easy assembling. Suberged Launched Anti Ballistic Missile to knock out ICBM/IRBM enemy's missile in the midcours phase. This is possibile, with an adeguate armored satellite constellation Kessler syndrome safe, for having a formidable strategic advantage for all the time of the short symmetric war.


    In conventional warfare drones as currently available would be blown out of the skies within the first minutes of any conflict between two resourceful air powers as they are sitting ducks for modern fighter jets and surface to air systems. Currently drones are the weapons of choice to cowardly strike defenseless ground targets (for example civilians) and to carry out surveillance missions over longer timespans because their high endurance and loiter time favours them in these regards compared to conventional aircraft and not much more.
    Another interesting aspect might be the operational range of the drones the Houthis claimed to have used, which normally amounts to something between 100 to 200 kilometers, far below the required travel distance of 500 to 600 kilometers from the Yemeni border to actually be able to hit the facilities in question. Such distances usually require air or satellite based communications/transmission systems for non-self-contained types of aircraft (=drones), because the earth curvature influences the reach of ground based command and control stations.

    The Saudis with their multi billion defence funds are neither lazy nor stupid and hence their main assets, which consist mainly of their oil extraction and processing facilities, are protected by modern missile defence systems, sophisticated radar installations and highly developed electronic warfare equipment to not only effectively jam, divert distract, block transmissions needed to remotely navigate drones there but to also shoot down any potential Iranian aggressors.
    The mentioned combinations make it very unlikely that the Houthis could have carried out such a plethora of pinpoint precision strikes into an such a highly armed and very well defended area far away while using such primitive technologies just on their own. Attacks such as these usually do not happen out of the blue.

    There must either have been another hostile nation state actor involved that provided the required expertise and technologies, Saudi infighting going on in order to remove the Crown Prince from power, or an undergoing false flag operation by the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia to gain a justification to topple the Iranian regime.
    The US, besides from being the financial center of the world and the hegemon, needs what it calls energy dominance in order to impose its stranglehold on its rivaling powers, which mainly amounts to China. With oil extracted by fracking reaching its peak, conventional supplies in Saudi Arabia being depleted, no new discoveries being made to compensate for the former, it becomes of increased interest to gain control of the Iranian oil fields to fuel the US economic and military systems, the ones of their allies while first and foremost strangling Chinas growth and military apparatus, not least because China, lacking sufficient oil resources of their own, is mostly dependent on Russia and Iran and the world market. From a geostrategic viewpoint, provided that the US does not manage to drag Iran into its area of control and influence, a war to either gain control of the fossil fuel resources in Iran or to sow chaos to deny others (=China) access to those resources, remains the most likely scenario up to this date.


    1. There is no US energy dominance, but you are right that they need it. You should inform yourself about real state of fracking industry. If US doesn't provoke big war soon they lose. They have very small window of opportunity to try to preserve their dominance. Russia would never allow that US grab Iranian oil, not because they love Iranians but because that will be the end for Russia. Keep in mind that both Russia and China are interested to destroy US. They will never be safe if they don't do it. (It's like Punic wars, Rome can be safe only if it performs genocide against Carthage). If I were Russian ruler I would strike full power nuclear assault against US suddenly without any obvious cause. It's of prime importance to strike first and strike suddenly.

      That's why I often paraphrase Cato the Elder "USA delenda est!"

    2. @ Ivan LukicSeptember 25, 2019 at 1:10 AM
      I think you misunderstand lot of things of the XXI century.

      CSI is a target in Asia, because it has low demography, lots of important resources in Siberia, and there is a lot of players in Asia, a lot of nations will need to migrate its people for climate change and scarcity issues.

      Russia has not the power to maintain the CSI united in the long run, demgraphy is going down and economy is flat, and CSI will be the main target for China, India, Pakistan-Bangladesh, Iran because of climate change, overpopulation and scarcity issue.

      Europe buy methane gas from Russia for long time, Europa has the potential interest to help Russia in a war against China, because of methane pipeline in Siberia.

      India is a natural enemy for China, because demography, and high needs in a future scarcity conditions it will show India as a direct rival for China interest. Add many other facts: India and China have different currencies, they have very different political positions, they have very different story and culture, there are the local issue about Hymalaya border, and in the future it will be the huge and massive issue about the Bangladesh people migration.

      USA would fight China in the future (prof.Mearsheimer thesis) but probably USA will be frozen and stopped. because South Korea/Japan are under the USA nuclear umbrella. If USA go to war versus China (for helping Russia against China), then for sure lots of nuclear tactic warheads will detonate in South Korea/Japan (for the USA military istallations). That's why, it is very probable that USA military actions will be frozen, in a first phase, during a war Russia+Europe versus China+Iran+Pakistan and others small Asia nations, for the invasion of Siberia.

      Pakistan usually buy military stuff from China, probably also Iran will buy military a lot of stuff from China, because iranian air force is very obsolete with their ancient F4 Phantom II, F14.

    3. No, I did not misunderstand many things. The decisive moment was 1999 NATO bombing of Serbia when Yevgeni Primakov ordered his airplane to go back to Russia during flight to USA (when he heard that bombing of Serbia started). From that moment on Russia understood that Westerners will always be enemies, that they can never be trusted and that the future of Russia is in cooperation with the East. Russia will never go into war with China, especially not to help EU interests, and that is exactly what Putin said about Macron's latest statements. Russia is in strategic partnership with China. There is nothing in Europe for Russia. Europe is only a market for Russian gas. You are not well informed about Lev Gumilyov's theories. There is completely different approach to eastern peoples in Russia than in Western Europe. That's the reason why you are unable to understand the future. You are Eurocentric and the Europe is kaputt. Nobody will try to help poor Europe, not even USA.

      Your vision of the future is limited because you expect that high tech wars are the future. For high tech wars you need huge energy and resources. Where will US find them? They need first to occupy the heartland of Euroasia and that will never happen while there is Russia, China and India. Russia is not foolish to fight with eastern peoples, it will make deal with them but you have to ask yourself what kind of deal can you Europeans make with eastern peoples if they do not trust you. And they know that western Europeans are only interested in plunder and genocide of eastern peoples. What will you offer them when the time comes?

    4. @ Ivan LukicSeptember 25, 2019 at 6:34 AM

      My vision of future wars is clear and consistent.

      If Russia doesn't sell Siberia in many parts to Aisa players (China, India, Pakista-Bangladesh, Iran), then WWIII will detonate in Asia before 2050 for overpopulation and climate change damages and scarcity issues.

      Try this one, if you don't want re-read my post

      I suggest to you to drop ideological falsehood and to hint odd cold war thinking.

      XXI century is not the XX century, Russia is not URSS, CSI is not URSS.

    5. chip 65CO2,

      That's wishful thinking. People migrate where there is already built infrastructure and wealth, where they can take something, like Europe or US, not to cold barren lands like Siberia where they must work like slaves to get anything. All those masses of people will first invade western Europe and US, not Russia. Come to your senses!

    6. Aeolus, I see you put a lot of thought on this matter. And you are right, there are lots of countermeasures that could be taken against drones. During the first engagement in history involving unmanned vehicles, in 1944, the British were reasonably successful in using conventional planes and artillery to knock down most of the German V1s directed against London. That could be repeated: having a cheap and effective weapon is no guarantee to win a battle. On the other hand, one wonders what could have happened if the Germans had deployed their V1s a couple of years earlier and used it more strategically than as a terror weapon. Something similar may happen in the future. The battlefield is for those who can conquer it.

    7. @ Ivan Lukic September 25, 2019 at 9:23 AM
      Your thoughts are odd and inconsistent for the XXI century, I suggest to read IPCC stuffs, and listen more climatological conferences made by scientists.

      Wake up!, Fact and megatrend in asia are quite simple: Climate facts are quite simple: in Asia the deserts are enlarging, the arid steppe is going towards north, taiga is going upwards, tundra is getting smaller (because taiga is going upwards, and north pole sea is rising in summer/fall for melting). Asia is the bigger continent and the most populated, and in the future those facts will remain. For sure, before 2050 Bangladesh people 130Million of persons will go underwater, they will need to migrate elsewhere. Where will they go in 2050?!

      For sure not in North America, not in Europe.
      For sure Bangladesh people will move inland into Asia.

      In China with 1.2Billion of people?
      In India with 1.3Billion of people?
      In Myammar with 63Million of people?
      In Pakistan with 309Million of people?
      In Iran with 92.2Million of peole?

      I don't think so, because in the same time, Chinese people will need to migrate for climate change damages and scarcity.
      Same problems for India (lacking of fresh water and monsone changing).
      Same problems in Myammar, Pakistan and Iran, because the overpopulation issue, climate damages, scarcity, all those stuffs will generate severe miliary issue in Asia.

      Frankly, in Siberia there is nobody, there is methane, there is oil, there are lots of row materials, wide fertile land, large reserves of fresh waters, for sure in a woundend planet, Siberia will be a nice place to be. Russia has a flat economy and a downwards demography, Russia is not the superpower of cold war so, Chinese, Indian, Myammar, Pakistan, Iran, Bangladesh people, where are you thinking they going to migrate in 2050?

      In Siberia!, for sure: that's why CSI is a target.

    8. Why do you think that Asian peoples will keep growing forever? The death of industrial civilization will quickly force many nations to lose population. Do you see the trend that all industrialized nations lose population? There is limit to growth of everything, including population. For some time China and India will grow, but they may soon be forced to reduce their population. Each year small country like Serbia lose 30-40 thousands of people. That's accommodation to scarcity. The same thing will happen to Asians.

    9. @ Ivan LukicSeptember 26, 2019 at 9:41 AM
      The idea of "Forever" is not 30 or 40 years.

      In Asia there aren't nations of the I°world (except for South Korea and Japan) but nations of II°world or even III°world only.

      Do you really think, in the next 30 years, people of China, India, Iran, Pakistan-Bangladesh, Myammar and so on, under a great pressure of scarcity, will they prefere to die for starvation, without doing nothing, rather than doing something for saving their sons and next generations, especially when they will know that for sure, in Siberia will be a nice place to be?!

    10. By the way Indian border patrols already killed hundreds of Bangladeshians who tried to illegally pass the Indian border. They have orders to shoot migrants. Indians know too well that if they let in too many Bangladeshians (Muslims!) they will have problem like they have with Pakistanis (Muslims!) Muslims will reproduce exponentially only in liberal Europe, not in India. Migrants from Africa and Mid-East will migrate to Europe, and from Latin America to USA. Bangladeshians will have to reduce their population because Indians will not let them in. Chinese have Tibet for resources, but it will never be densely populated. Siberia will never be densely populated for the simple reason that it is not hospitable place for living, otherwise it would already be populated. Climate change will not make it hospitable. Climate change means climate chaos not Siberia becoming oasis.

      But most of all USA delenda est!


    That is basically it, any other tactic stemming from other conventional attack vectors will get detected and wiped out by offensive counter measures long before it even gets a lock on target or the need for defensive countermeasures arises. There is no way for Yemen or Iran or North Korea to actually sink an US carrier without the use of advanced missile technologies or WMDs, not as long as the US maintains full air superiority.
    In fact a single Nimitz class CSG is more than capable of wiping out the entire Italian air force and command and control infrastructure in less than a day (one can actually view most of it on google earth (certainly not all of it)) without suffering heavy casualties or the need to deploy the nuclear warheads they do carry wherever their missions leads them. Up to this day, following the gunboat diplomacy approaches by the British and US during the last two centuries, a single CSG possesses more firepower than most nation states it could potentially face.

    Now some critics will certainly mention Russia or China and of course the missile systems these two regional powers harbor pose a big risk to all naval forces, forcing them to keep themselves out of reach of these systems (which often are conveniently positioned at the shorelines of the mentioned two states) and to evade them by constant movement (for example in the case of non-controllable hypersonic, ballistic missiles), but the US would not be the rapacious monster that it is today would it not be for its commitment to carry out nuclear strikes against any attacker who dares to display the temerity to actually sink one of their carriers. In light of the nuclear triad of which each fraction would be able to successfully destroy any (continental) nation state on its own, one would have to be pretty suicidal to try to sink a carrier group, not least because it is backed up by literally thousands of nuclear warheads and delivery systems.

    The attack on the Aramco oil refinery is a very interesting area for potential speculations because the media stories don’t add up to what is known about the weapons and defence technologies in use.
    Almost all military drones (some of the ones being in development being the exception) are, compared to supersonic fighter jets or even sub-sonic conventional bombers, very slow, but not always low flying planes of small to medium size whose stealth capabilities are only partially evolved and who do require a completely uncontested airspace to operate in. They are first and foremost weapons of terror to indiscriminately strike civilians based on bad signals intelligence, the eye in the sky which sees everything, is always present and which suddenly strikes in an unexpected moment literally out of the blue.

    In essence most drones used today are just a form of more evolved RC planes, equipped with sophisticated cameras for reconnaissance and surveillance operations, targeting and weapons systems. As such they are, in stark contrast to comparably high capacity and capability conventional weapons platforms like bombers and fighter jets, not capable of operating independently (semiautonomous modes of operation being the exception) from their command and control structures, which means that they constantly require either ground based, fixed or mobile transmission and relay stations to transmit the signals necessary to remote control them or an intact and always on satellite uplink.
    The former would be wiped out by the Saudi air force based on the US intelligence provided and the latter is beyond the measures available to a war, famine and poverty ridded nation such as Yemen, thus it is only logical that a nation state actor, potentially Iran, North Korea or China, Russia offered a helping hand.



    Dear Professor Ugo Bardi,

    With the utmost respect to your writings and expertise, there are a few points where at least I would like to differ somewhat:

    Carrier strike groups (CSGs) require (as mentioned) an extensive and very sophisticated logistical support network to remain operational, which on its own requires a multitude of military bases, allies, and safe havens/routes/passages to carry out its missions, thus it goes without saying that only a hegemonic superpower possesses not only the financial resources, but also the multitude of hundreds of military bases, spread around to globe with central commands on each and every continent, to be able to repair, restock the carrier strike groups in vicinity.
    Conventional technologies as deployed in drones have their place and are a fast evolving interconnection of various fields of ongoing research, but they will not, at least for the foreseeable future, something like the next one to two decades, gain the capacity and capability to turn current military hardware completely obsolete.

    Currently the only real dangers for US carrier strike groups are undiscovered submarines, sea mines, large and well-hidden stores of explosives, natural disasters, tsunamis created by nuclear weapons and of course very low flying (below the detection height of most conventional radar systems) supersonic cruise missiles, hypersonic missiles and especially swarms of both of them or just swarms for that matter.
    However, besides these risks, there just isn’t any scenario imaginable where current, conventional weapons technologies could seriously pose a danger to an entire carrier strike group constantly on the move far away from shorelines on the wide open ocean as these marvels of modern sea warfare contain every offensive and defensive weapons system necessary to thwart any attack by land sea and air, which leaves only China and Russia as the sole remaining state actors who possess the highly sophisticated missile and aeronautic technologies to actually penetrate the multiple layers of defence required to sink carriers without the use of WMDs.

    Carrier battle groups are always on the move, besides other purposes partially in order to complicate targeting by enemy forces, thus requiring technologies like satellite systems, reconnaissance aircraft, spy boats, well-trained signals intelligence specialists and radar operators to have any chance of detecting them without getting hit by a few MGM-109 TLAMs or JDAMs first. CSGs can launch devastating strikes up to distances of more than 1100 kilometers away (that is approximately double the distance between Milano and Palermo by the way) and with midair refueling far more than that. What it comes down to is the fact that there are very few attack vectors either not entirely covered by or potentially able to overwhelm the defensive systems of a CSG.
    Under the presumption that a successful attacker will be able to completely sink an entire carrier with just a single strike (which is unlikely for conventional sub-sonic cruise missiles) the corresponding attack needs to either remain undetected until it hits, or be of such brutal power that it just wipes out the entire area within its blast radius (WMDs), or to happen at such speeds that the amount of time from detection to the enactment of countermeasures is too short to respond in a meaningful way (supersonic low flying cruise missiles, hypersonic ballistic missiles), or to completely overwhelm the defence capabilities (swarms of missiles, drone boats, kamikaze drones etc…).


    1. @ Aeolus September 24, 2019 at 1:38 PM

      Cool comments, I like them.

      You look like a military man, because it's clear you think ships in term of military navy formations, not stand alone ship, then you use military acronyms (CSG, WMDs ecc...) and you describe in few words, all the clear and present dangers for a carrier group. I think you are or you was, for sure a military man.

      Without breaking military segret and future system in development, what do you think of the possibility that in the future:

      -an armoured satellite costellation (for being Kessler syndrome safe) could be made by China, for having an early warning and detecting russian missile launching capability. Having those satellites I.A. systems also for a self defending capabilities for escaping and destroying and diverting (low power laser) the kinetic menaces before the impacting?

      -Subermerged Launched Anti Ballistic Missile: same missile vector of IRBM/SLBM for saving money and silos and for putting those missile inside also the SSBN. Instead of putting MARV/MIRV, the missile should have Multiple Kill Veichles or cluster of ASAT missiles, for knocking down russian ICBM/IRBM in the midcourse phase (before the russian veichles will drop their MARV/MIRV)

      What do you think about that?

      Intercepting russian ICBM in the midcourse it will cause explosion in the low orbit, then the Kessler syndrome will destroy in few hours all cluster of satellite in low and medium orbit, and may be degrading in severe way also GPS/Galileo/Glonass satellite system in high orbit.

      But chinese armoured satellites could survive all their function for less than 2 years, so while everybody was in dark (no intel, no long range communications, no reconnaissance, no netcentric pentagon military doctrine, and a severe degrading performance and no effectiveness of GPS/Galileo/Glonass system in the Siberia area for Russia/India, Europe, USA, instead the Chinese forces coalition will have satellite service having for (more or less 2 years) a big strategic advantage!

      What do you think about that?

  10. The most famous condottiere was Guidoriccio da Fogliano, painted in Palazzo pubblico in Siena.

    About drones and the possibility that one day they become nanobots (and may be Gray goo) there was great sci-fi novel by Stanislaw Lem "Niezwycezony" (Invincible) from 1964.

  11. I remember Callenbachs 1975 novel "Ecotopia", where an ecological progressive california broke away from mainstream USA and defended itself successfully using many cheap intelligent rockets against the USAF. A very similar basic concept.

  12. 4g war strategy and tactics have been discussed over a Larry's site over the last decade or so. His latest repost my be of interest-

  13. This is one very instructive post about how energy supply relates to silver mining. In the same way energy supply will impact the ability of US to keep the huge military fleet. Americans are idiots. They are squandering energy on keeping hypertrophied military.

  14. I believe the real potential in drone technology is not in the projection of ballistic force, but rather in the delivery of biochemical warfare. These alternative means of warfare have never been of much use due to the problems of delivery to the target, but small semi-autonomous drone technology could dramatically change that balance. Biological and chemical weapons also have the advantage of being a very small and lightweight payload, more compatible with the limited fuel storage capacity of small drones. Coupled with semi-autonomous AI these units could be sent to target all moving targets that are potentially human within a set geographic area. The capacity for plausible deniability about who sent the drones also opens up possibilities for assassination and all sorts of mischief. This would also be another factor that would stress the boundaries of nation states as they stand.

  15. Harsh reality:

  16. Two remarks:

    1) Only an idiot would assert (or believe) that Yemen launched the drones at Saudi Arabia, and




Ugo Bardi is a member of the Club of Rome, faculty member of the University of Florence, and the author of "Extracted" (Chelsea Green 2014), "The Seneca Effect" (Springer 2017), and Before the Collapse (Springer 2019)