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Maritime powers are eminently flexible because of their force’s extreme mobility. Ships can relocate easily and quickly to any location with a coast, and then a combination of amphibious forces and naval aviation can impose crushing force imbalances both qualitatively and quantitatively at the time and place of their choosing. When maritime forces strike, they almost always win, and even defeat simply means relocation and striking somewhere else.

Drone technology is the next evolution of this strategy. Long used by the Americans for reconnaissance, armed drones such as this Predator are a newish weapon in the American arsenal. Not needing to carry a pilot or engage in evasive maneuvers, Predators carry enough fuel to loiter for 14 hours and enough armaments to terminate four targets. No longer do ground forces – whether regular or Special – need to wait for 15 minutes (or hours) to call in an airstrike. They can be supported in real time. The only operational drawback of drones is that they are usable only in areas where their operators already control the airspace.

The American Predator is only the most known in a long line of drones that have long been integrated into American military tactics. They also are far from the last. Over the next two decades, drones will carry more and/or larger weapons, have longer loiter times, faster speeds, and in time even be able to engage enemy air forces – all without endangering a single American life.