The South African Air Force (SAAF), unmanned aircraft systems and national security : an exploratory study
Thesis (MMil)--Stellenbosch University, 2021.
ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The proliferation of unmanned aircraft technologies, whether unarmed or armed, and the ease at which military, non-state actors, terrorists, extremists groups and organised crime syndicates can acquire drone technologies, are becoming an increasing threat on a global scale. Drones are here to stay, and will remain in the public eye for many years to come. The use of unmanned aircraft systems, referred to as drones is a highly relevant and emotionally debated topic all over the world. Most debates focus around the types of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones available to various role players throughout the global community, whether they are armed or unarmed, the various ways in which they are used, the opposition expressed by various humanitarian groups, the lack of international regulations regarding the use of unmanned aircraft, the extreme pace of proliferation of technologically advancements in drones, artificial intelligence (AI) and 3-D technology, and the 4thindustrial revolution (IR). Of equal importance is the impact, threats and challenges which unmanned aircraft systems could possibly have on South Africa’s national security, and on its neighbouring regions such as the Southern African Development Community (SADC). This, as background, compounded by the severe operational budget cuts with the implication that operational infrastructure, training and a military’s capabilities cannot be maintained. The SAAF, like the SA Navy, is technology driven and requires the best technology money can buy to be an effective and efficient force multiplier. Taken the above budget restrictions and challenges into consideration, it is questioned whether the SAAF could provide prepared and supported air defence capabilities for the defence and protection of South Africa. Similarly, should unmanned aircraft systems in future pose a threat to SA, would the SAAF have the appropriate counter-measures to counter such threats? This study explored the above-mentioned aspects regarding unmanned aircraft systems seen from a global and national level. The military, industrial and commercial aspects of unmanned aircraft systems are discussed. The aim of this study was to explore unmanned aircraft systems within the 21st century, and to identify the current gaps with regard to unmanned aircraft systems employment. In conclusion, the thesis presents recommendations for doctrine, policy and aviation safety in general.
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