Working paper

A new direction for Australian air power: armed unmanned aircraft

Australian Defence Force Defence Airpower Defence expenditure Drones Air traffic

The fifth Chief of Air Force Occasional Paper examines the key issues associated with contemporary armed unmanned aircraft. Such aircraft are programmed for acquisition in the 2016 Defence White Paper.  The paper was written both to inform the debate on the utility of such capabilities and address concerns some may have. The paper takes a practical perspective in developing ten propositions:

1. Armed unmanned aircraft have brought greater persistence to the application of air power.

2. Armed unmanned aircraft are one part of a much larger system.

3. Armed unmanned aircraft are remotely controlled by a large distributed crew with diverse skills.

4. Armed unmanned aircraft offer new ways to provide close air support to ground forces.

5. Armed unmanned aircraft offer new ways to conduct interdiction operations and meet overall theatre strategy demands.

6. Armed unmanned aircraft can be employed ethically.

7. Armed unmanned aircraft have been developed to meet the laws of armed conflict.

8. Armed unmanned aircraft offer unsurpassed deployment options.

9. Armed unmanned aircraft are best suited for operations in areas where the air defences are limited or suppressed.

10. Armed unmanned aircraft complement manned aircraft.

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