The conduct of insurgency wars was very expensive. This best dramatized by examining the full average cost of a deploying a military trouper in the battlefield. According to the “Analysis of the FY 2011 Defense Budgets” from the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment, the annual cost per troop, in FY2011 dollars, was $1.6 million in Iraq in FY07. While declining to $1.2 million in Iraq in FY11, the cost per troop in Afghanistan was meanwhile rising to $1 million per troop in FY11.
The cost of deployment of a military trouper can be compared with the median personal income of $43,317/yr for the male population age 25 or older **, or the average annual cost per military person of $106,000. *
Such large costs favor the deployment of unmanned weapons. With the expected average technological life of at least five years it would take one unmanned weapon to perform the missions of not more than two troopers to break even if the acquisition cost per weapon would be less than $10 million. The Operations and Maintenance expenses for robot weapons offers further advantages. Without expensive personnel protection features these weapons are relatively cheap and readily field replaceable.
The current costs of unmanned weapons are well under the $10 million break-even acquisition cost number. For instance the RQ1/MQ1 Predator UAV has a unit cost of about $5 million. *** Unmanned weapons, such as the modular robot Talon, offered by the firm of Qinetiq, cost well under half a million dollars.****
The economics of cyber warfare has increased the relative advantage favoring the deployment of more unmanned (robotic) weapons. Such advantage cannot be realized until there are also corresponding improvements in communications, command and control as well as in real-time information processing.
For these reasons the latest shift by the Navy to combine unmanned weapons with intelligence and with information management (OPNAV N2/N6) under a single command represents a conceptual as well as an organizational breakthrough in thinking about the conduct of future warfare.
The USA has now an extremely expensive way of waging wars. In the case of Iraq and Afghanistan the adversary is conducting operations with only limited and relatively negligible costs. Meanwhile, USA costs are escalating. They are becoming unaffordable under current budgetary constraints.
If the USA would ever engage a better-equipped adversary, our total costs would rise beyond what we are currently experiencing in engagements with minimally equipped irregulars who operate as clan or family based units.
We have now no choice except to accelerate the deployment of unmanned and robotic weapons provided we also overhaul our information systems so that they can start coping vastly greater information processing capabilities. That will require a substantial escalation in the conduct of cyber operations.
*(http://www.csbaonline.org/2006-1/2.DefenseBudget/DefenseBudget.shtml), Figure 4, 9 and Table 3