Unmanned vehicles : Future Military Component or Simple Economy of Means
- Military and economical context
- Unmanned aerial vehicles
The French Air Force used temporary tactical means that proved their worth during operations and led to the acquisition of heavier operational means (MALE UAVs) purchased from the United States.
For these MALE (Medium Altitude Long Endurance) UAVs to become a full-fledged component, they will have to be armed and to be able to operate as a group and with other components during land or naval operations. French armed forces, as well as manufacturers, are now in favor of arming these UVs as it is already the case in England and Italy. The recent publication of an information report by French Senators Perrin and Roger "Observational UAVs and armed UAVs: a matter of sovereignty" on May 23, 2017 shows that the political reflection is mature and that a legislation is now required.
- Unmanned terrestrial vehicles
The deployment of forces in hostile territory under the enemy's continuous observation caused the French Army to acquire tactical unmanned vehicles and later the ECA's IT180 rotary wing UAV (DROGEN). For the past three years, French combat engineers have been equipped with them to observe itineraries ahead of convoys and terrain around maneuvering troops.
The UVs used by the French Army (robots used for aerial observation and mine-sweeping) remain part of military unit's equipment and have quickly become indispensable in theatres of operation. They will however only be considered as a maneuvering component when they will be used in combination with "teams" of additional robots and on condition of an authorized lethal firing capacity.
- Unmanned naval vehicles
The first zone covers approximately 13 million km² (Exclusive Economic Zone). The goal is to defend France economic and national interests in this zone by countering illicit activities with maritime police operations. The use of underwater "gliders" and UAVs based on board ships overseas could probably help with this.
The second maritime zone is in metropolitan France. The French Navy defends its strategic interests in this zone by surveilling the activities of foreign military. It ensures the safety of France's nuclear forces, its Strategic Ocean Force (FOST), and secures its access to the Atlantic and Mediterranean. There must never be the risk of a naval mine preventing this access. UV systems will help detect intruding submarines and ensure the absence of mines, hence, the development of the Navy future system for anti-mine operations (SLAMF). ECA intends to become one of the main players of this program, mine-sweeping having been its area of excellence for more than fifty years.
The third zone is foreign and coastal areas. France has carried out operations that are sometimes conspicuous and lowprofile, limited in time and in space. ECA Group is considering a new type of autonomous underwater vehicle: stealthy and reliable, with an average endurance, but equipped with a strong level of decisional autonomy.
- Industrial issues
- Towards a doctrine on unmanned vehicles operations in the armed forces?