December 06, 2021

Kamikaze Drones: A New Weapon Brings Power and Peril to the U.S. Military

Source: NBC News

Journalist: Ken Dilanian

Americans have become accustomed to images of Hellfire missiles raining down from Predator and Reaper drones to hit terrorist targets in Pakistan or Yemen. But that was yesterday’s drone war.

A revolution in unmanned aerial vehicles is unfolding, and the U.S. has lost its monopoly on the technology.

Some experts believe the spread of the semi-autonomous weapons will change ground warfare as profoundly as the machine gun did.

They can leapfrog traditional defenses to strike infantry troops anywhere on the battlefield, and they cost just $6,000 apiece, compared to $150,000 for the Hellfire missile typically fired by Predator or Reaper drones. That capability could help save the lives of U.S. troops, but it could also put them — and Americans at home — in great danger from terrorists or nation-states that haven’t previously had access to such lethal and affordable technology.


The U.S. military couldn’t have fought the way it did in Iraq or Afghanistan if the enemy had had killer drones. The next battlefield opponent is likely to have them. And terrorists will eventually get them, too — a possibility that has homeland security officials scrambling to find a solution, given that there is no surefire defense against them.

“There are over 100 countries and nonstate groups that have drones today, and the technology is widely proliferating,” said Paul Scharre, a former Army Ranger who is a scholar at the Center for a New American Security and the author of “Army of None,” a book about autonomous weapons. “It levels the playing field between the U.S. and terrorist groups or rebel groups in a way that's certainly not good for the United States.”

Read the full story and more from NBC News.


  • Paul Scharre

    Executive Vice President and Director of Studies

    Paul Scharre is the Executive Vice President and Director of Studies at CNAS. He is the award-winning author of Four Battlegrounds: Power in the Age of Artificial Intelligence...