The Impact of UCAVs on Future Air Warfare Reflections on the Azerbaijan- Armenia Conflict

Date: Issue 106 - May 2021

Airplanes before WW1 were believed to be used only as surveillance equipment. Pilots who were trained in artillery tactics were sent out to locate targets on the ground, and on their return, they were tasked with helping to aim the artillery. But having an eye in the sky, quickly turned into a deadly weapon with machine guns and bomb carrying capabilities. And for the defending armies, antiaircraft tactics had to be developed. With a limited efficiency of ground antiaircraft fire, a flying unit had to be created to confront those attacking aircraft and avoid their airborne missions. Eventually, air to air war has become an essential element of all conflicts. Air elements supporting ground forces would significantly define the outcome. So, gaining air superiority became a must in order to win, though it might not always warrant the victory.

Just like manned aircraft, the very first unmanned systems were just flying cameras, even some without radio links. The CL-89 from the 1960’s for example (also within Turkish artillery inventory up until 1990’s), was an engine powered photo taking vehicle, whose pictures were developed in a dark room upon return. The system was made up of several trucks of different duties, which rendered the system hard to deploy with questionable efficiency. In order to utilize the time-critical information of these photos, the flying vehicle had to be fast and timely. So when launched from catapult it had to return in minutes with pictures, hopefully taken at the right spot and at the right time, so that the artillery commander would evaluate and react.