29 January 2014

Unmanned and Unarmed: On the Future use of Unmanned Aerial Systems in the Danish Armed Forces

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are being integrated into the military forces of Western states, including Denmark.  How should the Danish government proceed when considering investments in UAVs?  Although airpower and UAVs have substantially shaped the Western paradigm for the use of force, the American, British, French, and Danish experiences highlight difficulties developing, acquiring, and operating UAVs. The Danish government should consider the tasks that UAVs are best-suited to perform, the costs associated with the entire UAV system, and the operational, doctrinal, and other challenges that must be addressed to integrate UAV capabilities into the Danish armed forces. These are not trivial considerations. Larger UAVs are very complex systems with which the Danish armed forces have limited experience, and introducing radically new technology always comes with substantial risks.  Should Denmark decide to procure larger unmanned systems, such as Reapers or Global Hawks, it should cooperate with Allies to purchase, operate, and integrate these capabilities as smoothly as possible and mitigate these risks.  It should also establish a joint unit dedicated to house, train, educate, and operate UAVs within the armed forces, cooperate with domestic agencies that may desire the information that UAVs can provide, and consider shaping the domestic and international regulatory environment that will constrain UAV use for the foreseeable future.

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