Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

An Air Force colonel takes a bit of exception to our recent item on UAVs

Here’s what Col. Geoff Weiss has to say about that article we referred to recently.

mq-9_reaper_cbp-2
mq-9_reaper_cbp-2

Here’s what Col. Geoff Weiss has to say about that article we referred to recently:
“While I applaud the author’s goal of advancing the understanding of RPA capabilities and perspective, I must correct the record regarding his description of exercise Virtual Flag (beginning on page 41). Here he claims the RPA participants “turned the tide of the virtual war” and suggests the “unforeseen impact” frustrated the exercise director. My director was frustrated because the RPA operators deviated from the ATO, without AOC permission or proper coordination, negatively impacting the training of a multitude of other exercise participants. More importantly, contrary to the author’s assertions, these deviations and so-called “devastation inflicted by the MQ-9s” did nothing to advance our understanding of the capabilities of RPAs, because the RPA emulator used for the exercise was not an Air Force program of record nor did its capabilities and limitations accurately mirror those of live systems. Integrating this constructive emulator with the other virtual systems required the exercise team to give the RPAs what amounted to “cheat codes”—system parameters that made them immune to attack, gave them unlimited weapons reload, and “god’s eye” situational awareness. Simply put, the three “observations” mentioned by the author, while conveniently supporting his thesis, are not supportable by the facts. I can assure you that resource constraints, not “preconceived expectations” or “doctrinal entrenchment”, are the only things standing in the way of employing a higher fidelity RPA emulator in a more robust, realistic scenario for Virtual Flag. When that hurdle is cleared, we will be ready to draw supportable conclusions about what the RPAs can and cannot do.”
By the way, the colonel’s LinkedIn profile reports that he scored 1390 on his SATs, some 29 years ago. Is posting your SAT scores a thing now?

Also in the response department, Maj. Matt Cavanaugh here takes on Jim Gourley’s view that yes, many of our soldiers did die in vain.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Here’s what Col. Geoff Weiss has to say about that article we referred to recently:

“While I applaud the author’s goal of advancing the understanding of RPA capabilities and perspective, I must correct the record regarding his description of exercise Virtual Flag (beginning on page 41). Here he claims the RPA participants “turned the tide of the virtual war” and suggests the “unforeseen impact” frustrated the exercise director. My director was frustrated because the RPA operators deviated from the ATO, without AOC permission or proper coordination, negatively impacting the training of a multitude of other exercise participants. More importantly, contrary to the author’s assertions, these deviations and so-called “devastation inflicted by the MQ-9s” did nothing to advance our understanding of the capabilities of RPAs, because the RPA emulator used for the exercise was not an Air Force program of record nor did its capabilities and limitations accurately mirror those of live systems. Integrating this constructive emulator with the other virtual systems required the exercise team to give the RPAs what amounted to “cheat codes”—system parameters that made them immune to attack, gave them unlimited weapons reload, and “god’s eye” situational awareness. Simply put, the three “observations” mentioned by the author, while conveniently supporting his thesis, are not supportable by the facts. I can assure you that resource constraints, not “preconceived expectations” or “doctrinal entrenchment”, are the only things standing in the way of employing a higher fidelity RPA emulator in a more robust, realistic scenario for Virtual Flag. When that hurdle is cleared, we will be ready to draw supportable conclusions about what the RPAs can and cannot do.”

By the way, the colonel’s LinkedIn profile reports that he scored 1390 on his SATs, some 29 years ago. Is posting your SAT scores a thing now?

Also in the response department, Maj. Matt Cavanaugh here takes on Jim Gourley’s view that yes, many of our soldiers did die in vain.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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