The Machine Gun in WWI ended age of offensive warfare, specifically the cavalry charge. The response of military thinkers was the Tank. Now, in Ukraine, the age of the tank appears to be over; ambushed, stalled and destroyed by suicide drones and fire-and-forget anti-tank missiles.
The Russians, attempting to block an advance by NATO and the U.S. up to their border, are the unhappy initial recipients of this harsh change in the nature of warfare.
To be clear, suicide drones, or Kamikaze drones, are unmanned aircraft that don’t fire missiles but are missiles. They are capable of circling above a target and waiting for 15 to 40 minutes before striking with great precision. Some of them are very small. The Switchblade drone is less than two feet long, weighs 5.5 lbs. and fits in a knapsack.
So what’s to be done? These drones are too cheap to be worth tackling with anti-aircraft rockets, and too small to be vulnerable to traditional anti-aircraft guns. The solution for unit protection is a C-RAM (standing for “counter rocket, artillery, and mortar,”) point defence system, basically, a multi-barrel, radar-controlled, Gatling gun. A C-RAM made by OTO Melara is illustrated above.
Even this unit is too big for individual combat vehicles, so smaller C-RAM units will need to be designed, produced, and deployed. Since there are plenty of smaller, high velocity calibres available, and since electronic miniaturization is well advanced, I foresee these eventually to be man-portable, and attachable to any vehicle.
In the end, the era of suicide drones may be even shorter than the era of the Zeppelin bomber, a brilliant idea as long as the other side hasn’t developed a counter-measure.