Precision-guided weapons first appeared in their modern form on the battlefield in Vietnam a little over 50 years ago. As armed forces have strived ever since for accuracy and destructiveness, the cost of such weapons has soared. America’s gps-guided artillery shells cost $100,000 a time. Because smart weapons are expensive, they are scarce. That is why European countries ran out of them in Libya in 2011. Israel, more eager to conserve its stockpiles than avoid collateral damage, has rained dumb bombs on Gaza. What, though, if you could combine precision and abundance?

五十多年前,現代精確制導武器首次出現在越南戰場上。自那時起,隨著各國軍隊一直努力提高武器的命中精度和破壞力,這種武器的成本不斷攀升。美國的GPS制導炮彈每發10萬美元。智能武器因昂貴而匱乏,所以歐洲各國在2011年的利比亞戰爭中耗盡了智能武器。以色列急于保存彈藥而不是避免附帶性破壞,因此向加沙地帶投擲了大量的常規炸彈。但如果你可以將命中精度和數量龐大結合起來,會怎么樣呢?

For the first time in the history of warfare that question is being answered on the battlefields of Ukraine. Our report this week shows how first-person view (fpv) drones are mushrooming along the front lines. They are small, cheap, explosives-laden aircraft adapted from consumer models, and they are making a soldier’s life even more dangerous. These drones slip into tank turrets or dugouts. They loiter and pursue their quarry before going for the kill. They are inflicting a heavy toll on infantry and armour.

在戰爭史上,烏克蘭戰場第一次給出了答案。在本周的報道中,我們展示了戰場上大量涌現的“第一人稱視角”無人機(FPV)。這些小巧、低廉、搭載爆炸物的飛行器是由民用型改裝而來,使士兵的生命受到更大的威脅。這些無人機悄悄地溜進坦克炮塔或防空洞。它們盤旋和追蹤獵物,然后毫不留情地干掉獵物。這些無人機給步兵和裝甲部隊造成了重大傷亡。

The war is also making fpv drones and their maritime cousins ubiquitous. January saw 3,000 verified fpv drone strikes. This week Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s president, created the Unmanned Systems Force, dedicated to drone warfare. In 2024 Ukraine is on track to build 1m-2m drones. Astonishingly, that will match Ukraine’s reduced consumption of shells (which is down because Republicans in Congress are shamefully denying Ukraine the supplies it needs).

這場戰爭也使FPV無人機和海上無人機變得無處不在。據證實,一月份發生了 3000起FPV無人機襲擊事件。本周,烏克蘭總統弗拉基米爾·澤連斯基創建了致力于無人機戰爭的無人作戰系統部隊。2024年,烏克蘭計劃制造100-200萬架無人機。令人驚訝的是,這將與烏克蘭炮彈消耗量的減少相適應(減少的原因是共和黨議員可恥地拒絕向烏克蘭提供必要援助)。

The drone is not a wonder weapon—no such thing exists. It matters because it embodies big trends in war: a shift towards small, cheap and disposable weapons; the increasing use of consumer technology; and the drift towards autonomy in battle. Because of these trends, drone technology will spread rapidly from armies to militias, terrorists and criminals. And it will improve not at the budget-cycle pace of the military-industrial complex, but with the break-things urgency of consumer electronics.

無人機并不是神奇武器,世上不存在這種東西。無人機之所以重要,是因為它反映了戰爭的主要趨勢:向小型、低廉、一次性武器轉變;廣泛應用消費科技;向自主作戰的轉變。由于這些趨勢的出現,無人機技術將迅速從軍隊傳播到民兵、恐怖分子、犯罪分子手中。無人機技術的發展速度并不取決于軍工復合體的預算周期,而是取決于消費電子產品取得突破的迫切需求。

Basic fpv drones are revolutionarily simple. The descendants of racing quadcopters, built from off-the-shelf components, they can cost as little as several hundred dollars. fpv drones tend to have short ranges, carry small payloads and struggle in bad weather. For those reasons they will not (yet) replace artillery. But they can still do a lot of damage. In one week last autumn Ukrainian drones helped destroy 75 Russian tanks and 101 big guns, among much else. Russia has its own fpv drones, though they tend to target dugouts, trenches and soldiers. Drones help explain why both sides find it so hard to mount offensives.

基本型FPV無人機具有革命性的簡易設計。它們源于比賽用的四軸飛行器,使用現成的零部件制造而成,成本低至幾百美元。FPV無人機通常航程較短,有效載荷較小,在惡劣天氣下難以飛行。因此,無人機還無法取代火炮,但仍然能夠造成巨大破壞。在去年秋天的一周內,烏克蘭無人機協助摧毀了75輛俄羅斯坦克、101門火炮及其他大量武器。俄羅斯也有自己的FPV無人機,但攻擊目標通常是防空洞、戰壕、士兵。無人機說明了為什么雙方都難以發起攻勢。
原創翻譯:龍騰網 http://www.360yingketong.cn 轉載請注明出處


The exponential growth in the number of Russian and Ukrainian drones points to a second trend. They are inspired by and adapted from widely available consumer technology. Not only in Ukraine but also in Myanmar, where rebels have routed government forces in recent days, volunteers can use 3d printers to make key components and assemble airfrxs in small workshops. Unfortunately, criminal groups and terrorists are unlikely to be far behind the militias.

俄羅斯和烏克蘭無人機的激增反映了第二個趨勢:它們是在廣泛可用的消費科技的啟迪下改造而來。不僅在烏克蘭,而且最近在政府軍被叛軍擊敗的緬甸,志愿者在小作坊里使用3D打印機來制造關鍵零部件和組裝機身。不幸的是,犯罪團伙和恐怖分子不太可能比民兵落后太多。

This reflects a broad democratisation of precision weapons. In Yemen the Houthi rebel group has used cheap Iranian guidance kits to build anti-ship missiles that are posing a deadly threat to commercial vessels in the Red Sea. Iran itself has shown how an assortment of long-range strike drones and ballistic missiles can have a geopolitical effect that far outweighs their cost. Even if the kit needed to overcome anti-drone jamming greatly raises the cost of the weapons, as some predict, they will still count as transformationally cheap.

這反映了精密武器的廣泛民主化。也門的胡塞叛亂組織使用廉價的伊朗制導組件來制造反艦導彈,對紅海的商船構成了致命威脅。伊朗本身也證明,各種遠程攻擊無人機和彈道導彈可以產生物超所值的地緣政治影響。即使無人機的抗干擾組件會極大增加武器成本,但有人預測從變革的角度,無人機仍不失為廉價的武器。

The reason goes back to consumer electronics, which propel innovation at a blistering pace as capabilities accumulate in every product cycle. That poses problems of ethics as well as obsolescence. There will not always be time to subject novel weapons to the testing that Western countries aim for in peacetime and that is required by the Geneva Conventions.

原因歸功于消費電子產品,每個產品周期的功能積累推動了創新突飛猛進。由此產生了倫理和技術落后的問題。對新型武器進行測試是西方國家在和平時期的追求,也是《日內瓦公約》的要求,但并不是總有時間這樣做。

Innovation also leads to the last trend, autonomy. Today, fpv drone use is limited by the supply of skilled pilots and by the effects of jamming, which can sever the connection between a drone and its operator. To overcome these problems, Russia and Ukraine are experimenting with autonomous navigation and target recognition. Artificial intelligence has been available in consumer drones for years and is improving rapidly.

創新引發的最后一個趨勢是自主化。如今FPV無人機的使用受到熟練飛行員的數量和干擾效果的制約,干擾會切斷無人機與操作員的聯系。為了解決這些問題,俄羅斯和烏克蘭正在試驗自主導航和自主目標識別。人工智能技術應用于消費級無人機已有多年,并且正在迅速發展。

A degree of autonomy has existed on high-end munitions for years and on cruise missiles for decades. The novelty is that cheap microchips and software will let intelligence sit inside millions of low-end munitions that are saturating the battlefield. The side that masters autonomy at scale in Ukraine first could enjoy a temporary but decisive advantage in firepower—a necessary condition for any breakthrough.

一定程度的自主性在高端彈藥中已實現多年,在巡航導彈中已實現數十年。新穎之處在于低廉的微芯片和軟件將智能化融入戰場上無數的低端彈藥中。在烏克蘭戰爭中,誰先掌握大規模的彈藥自主性,誰就會獲得短期但決定性的火力優勢——這是戰爭取得突破的必要條件。

Western countries have been slow to absorb these lessons. Simple and cheap weapons will not replace big, high-end platforms, but they will complement them. The Pentagon is belatedly embarking on Replicator, an initiative to build thousands of low-cost drones and munitions able to take on China’s enormous forces. Europe is even further behind. Its ministers and generals increasingly believe that they could face another major European war by the end of the decade. If so, investment in low-end drones needs to grow urgently. Moreover, ubiquitous drones will require ubiquitous defences—not just on battlefields but also in cities at peace.

西方國家吸取這些經驗比較遲緩。簡易低廉的武器無法取代大型的高端武器平臺,但彼此將形成互補。五角大樓遲緩地啟動了“復制者”計劃,旨在制造數千架低成本無人機和彈藥來對抗中國的龐大軍隊。歐洲甚至更遲緩,其部長和將領們越來越相信,到本世紀末,他們有可能面臨又一場大規模的歐洲戰爭。如果是這樣,當務之急是增加對低端無人機的投入。另外,無處不在的無人機需要無處不在的防御力量——不僅在戰場上,而且在和平時期的城市里。

Kalashnikovs in the skies

空中的卡拉什尼科夫沖鋒槍

Intelligent drones will also raise questions about how armies wage war and whether humans can control the battlefield. As drones multiply, self-co-ordinating swarms will become possible. Humans will struggle to monitor and understand their engagements, let alone authorize them.

智能無人機還將引發關于軍隊如何發動戰爭以及人類能否控制戰場的問題。隨著無人機數量的激增,將來可能出現自主協同作戰的無人機群。人類將很難監控和理解無人機作戰,更不用說命令它們了。

America and its allies must prepare for a world in which rapidly improving military capabilities spread more quickly and more widely. As the skies over Ukraine fill with expendable weapons that marry precision and firepower, they serve as a warning. Mass-produced hunter-killer aircraft are already reshaping the balance between humans and technology in war.

美國及其盟友必須準備好應對這樣的世界:迅速提高的軍事能力擴散得更快更廣泛。隨著烏克蘭上空充斥著兼具精確性和火力的一次性武器,這值得世人警惕。大規模生產的獵殺式飛機已經在改變人類與技術在戰爭中的平衡。