Darpa begins work on point-and-click aerial bombing

Darpa's new project, Persistent Close Air Support, aims to make aerial attacks more streamlined and efficient. But is cutting out the middleman the right thing to do in war?
Written by Dan Nosowitz, Contributing Editor

Initiating an aerial attack during war is, according to Darpa (and Wired), a mess of red tape and bureaucracy. "Dozens" of people must weigh in, from air controllers to intelligence analysts to military lawyers to commanders, before any order actually gets down to the ground.

So cutting out the middlemen is the theme to Darpa's new project, Persistent Close Air Support (PCAS). Essentially, the program would very simply limit the amount of communication to two stations: the air controller and the vehicle (which could be either manned or unmanned). That air controller, technically called a Joint Terminal Attack Controller, would have the ability to "visualize, select, and employ weapons at the time of their choosing."

The Joint Terminal Attack Controller's accompanying aircraft would likely be the A-10 "Warthog," described as "one of the most brutally effective airplanes ever invented for hitting ground targets."It would be mostly robotic and likely unmanned.

The idea is that by cutting out all the middlemen, the mission would get rid of the risk of miscommunication that naturally comes with that much contact. We've all played "Whisper Down the Lane," we know how it works. The program would also result in much faster reaction time, and possibly more efficient warfare.

But there's another side of the debate as well. There's a reason we have all those regulations and layers in place. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are messy and have resulted in more than a few friendly fire deaths already--there's no harm in double or triple checking with others before initiating an attack. There's also a greater possibility of not only tactical but legal errors if an air controller makes a bad decision.

That debate will certainly rage on, as the program will begin with a workshop in two weeks.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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