December 21st, 2009
11:43 AM ET

Why Hollywood security is better than Pentagon's

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/americas/07/23/wus.warfare.pilots.uav/art.us.uav.reaper.missile.robertson.cnn.jpg caption="A USAF technician at Creech Air Force Base, checks Hellfire missile attachments on a Predator. "]

P.W. Singer
Special to CNN

It sounds like the plot of a Hollywood blockbuster: A group of insurgents hack into American military drones, using software they got off the Internet, according to The Wall Street Journal. But, for the benefit of that screenwriter likely pounding away right now to get his idea in first - as well as for the general public - what actually happened?

Essentially, three trends are coming together in war.

First is the growing use of unmanned systems, something I explore in my book "Wired for War." Just a few years ago, the U.S. military had no interest in unmanned systems. Indeed, when the U.S. invaded Iraq, we had only a handful of unmanned systems in the air and zero on the ground in the invasion force, none of them armed.

Today, we have more than 7,000 in the air, ranging from the 48-foot-long Predator to tiny ones that can fit in a backpack, and 12,000 on the ground, such as the Packbot and Talon systems that hunt down roadside bombs. Many of these systems are armed, giving new meaning to the term "killer app."

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