When Terrorists have Drones

I’ve been mulling over the implications if terrorists ever get drones. The first step, inevitably, will be the proliferation of drone technology to other governments. According to today’s Washington Post, this process is already off to a good start.  It front-paged a report on how quite a few other countries have elevated the development and construction of a capacity to build and deploy their own drones to the top of their own military priority lists.
It was inevitable. Every breakthrough in military technology, from bronze to cavalry to machine guns to nukes, has given the inventing society a temporary edge that was rapidly offset when rival societies glommed onto the good thing. The arms race is an established principle. And here we go again, with the added flourish that now the latest fashion in the ongoing quest for new ways of killing each other is tailor-made for asymmetric warfare, which means that sooner or later, drones may be used against us by terrorists.
One problem is that the more highly developed a country, the juicier the targets it presents for enemies using the principles of asymmetric warfare. We developed this handy dandy new toy and are squandering the temporary advantage it gives us by blasting away at a few guys in turbans in remote mountain villages in the AfPak border region. When adversaries of whatever stripe get to possess them, will we have to put not only our military command centers deep underground, but also our President and his Cabinet and the Supreme Court? (Never mind Congress, at least if it stays the way it is nowadays it will hardly be worth the effort).
The other neat feature of our latest toy is that unlike nukes, drones require technology that will be relatively hard to control, and will therefore be relatively accessible to terrorists as opposed to established governments. The more highly developed nations have managed to hold the line on nuclear proliferation, at least for keeping nukes out of the hands of terrorists, as far as we know. Can we expect similar success when the terrorist drone problem hits the fan, or threatens to? This technology will be much harder to control.
One of these days our nation will wake up to the fact that the present tempest in a tea party pot is not a truly vital interest, when we face other challenges that are. Will we wake up in a timely fashion, or will we wake up dead?
Carl Coon
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3 Responses to When Terrorists have Drones

  1. Thoth says:

    Don’t we already have backup facilities for the executive and legislative branches of our government inside of Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado Springs, Colorado? I was under that impression. Here’s some of the information on the web:


    The underground Combat Operations Center (COC) was originally intended to provide a 70% probability of continuing to function if a five-megaton nuclear weapon detonated three miles (5.6 km) away, but was ultimately built to withstand a multimegaton blast within 1.5 nautical miles (2.8 km; 1.7 mi). It was also designed to be self-sufficient for brief periods, have backup communications and television intercom with related commands, house personnel during an emergency, and protect staff against fallout and biological and chemical warfare.

    The main entrance to the complex is about one-third of a mile (540 m) from the North Portal via a tunnel which leads to a pair of 25-ton steel blast doors. Behind them is a steel building complex built within a 4.5 acres (18,000 m2) grid of excavated chambers and tunnels and surrounded by 2,000 feet (600 m) of granite. The main excavation consists of three chambers 45 feet (15 m) wide, 60 feet (20 m) high, and 588 feet (180 m) long, intersected by four chambers 32 feet (10 m) wide, 56 feet (17 m) high and 335 feet (100 m) long. Fifteen buildings, freestanding without contact with the rock walls or roofs and joined by flexible vestibule connections, make up the inner complex. Twelve of these buildings are three stories tall; the others are one and two stories.


    Inside Cheyenne Mountain

    The path to Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station is a thin winding road. At one point you travel so high, you swear you can see Nebraska. A thick yellow line painted on the asphalt serves as the first reminder that you’ve left Colorado Springs and entered the installation. Then come the metal gates, barbed wire and security forces in sport utility vehicles to anchor that feeling.

    Entry inside is more like attending a professional sports event or going to a theme park. After parking their cars and following a thorough screening. including baggage X-rays and metal detectors, workers — most in green flight suits or BDUs — catch the blue bus in. About 210 people work in the operations center.

    The bus winds through a long granite tunnel, carved in the early 1960s. It pauses at, of all things, a stop light inside the mountain. Then it finds its stop and the passengers walk in.

    The space feels more like a submarine than typical military office digs. The hallways are narrow, white and without ornament. Work areas look more like business offices once you reach them, some with cubicle farms and others with technological consoles. In between some of the walls and floors, you can peer into the heart of the mountain, seeing the rock and foundation.

    The main briefing room doubles as Gen. Ralph “Ed” Eberhart’s office and includes a pullout bed and other facilities in case he needs to stay the night. Eberhart serves as North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Space Command’s commander in chief. He also leads Air Force Space Command.

    The command center looks nothing like its “WarGames” counterpart, save the multiple screens monitoring any number of events around the world. Each warning center is filled with computers, klaxon horns, flashing lights and wooden consoles.

    The air is recirculated, except in the entry tunnel. There it’s just cold. The water comes from a reservoir — the complex uses 1.5 million gallons in each of the four reservoirs, but only one is for drinking. The structure rests on more than 1,300 three-foot high steel springs, each weighing more than the entire Denver Broncos’ starting defensive line.

    It’s a small city, complete with a base exchange, chapel and other amenities. Many believe the Air Force owns the whole mountain. In fact, the station rests on 500 acres while the inside complex occupies about five acres. People believe the antenna towers and satellite dishes do something classified or top secret for Cheyenne Mountain, but in reality, they belong to commercial owners.

    The operations center was built to withstand a limited nuclear strike. The springs would help dampen the explosion. Those 25-ton steel blast doors? They hadn’t been closed for great lengths of time since the early 1970s, but they were shut Sept. 11 for almost three hours, the byproduct of a possible threat to the mountainside complex.

    About 15 percent of the force here is Canadian, the remainder is U.S. military.

    The operations center and everything inside runs on power generated from the city of Colorado Springs. If all power goes belly up, the complex can run on a series of industrial-sized batteries for about 15 minutes until six diesel-powered backup generators are brought up.

  2. deanna smith says:

    A 3/4 of the way thru culture wars and am sickened that I already figured this out years ago as a pre-teen (1970)ish. How does one of the lowest class move on and educate?

  3. Jay says:

    The information from wikipedia that you posted seems pretty accurate Thoth. However members of the Legislative and Executive Branch would not go to Cheyenne Mountain. The President would most likely go to Mount Weather, which is a Presidential bunker, Congress would as well or perhaps go to the Bunker underneath the Greenbriar resort, And there’s also Raven Rock or site R, which is sort of like a backup pentagon. Site R was one of former Vice President Cheney’s “undisclosed locations” that he would go to after 9/11. And if I recall correctly, the Cheyenne mountain facility probably wouldn’t survive a direct hit from one of today’s nuclear weapons, which I believe are more powerful and more accurate than the ones from the Cold War days.

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