How Missiles And Drones Shape The Future Of The Military
The world of mercenaries. It's an illicit economy. I think this could be one of the biggest insecurity threats of the 21st century.
Over 100 states worldwide are using military drones, and that number is growing significantly. I would say hypersonic missiles of various kinds are kind of the poster child of this new era of missile warfare, and we're going to have to find ways to contend with that. Armed, unmanned and high tech drones or remotely piloted aircraft are becoming a ubiquitous battlefield presence.
And frankly, I think we're in the middle of an underground drone arms race. And larger drones like the MQ nine Reaper, as well as medium sized drones such as the Turkish TV two and the Chinese wing long two have become a must have item for militaries worldwide. At the moment, we've seen we see over 100 states of worldwide are using military drones and that number is growing significantly. In Libya, Nagorno-Karabakh and during the US's global war on terror, armed drones have been active across the globe. These drones can fly thousands of feet high and rain down destruction with pinpoint accuracy, with little warning. But who makes these high tech weapons of war? It is not very easy to develop armed drones, but it also is not quite as difficult as, say, developing nuclear weapons.
And who is buying them? Drone technology isn't that new. During World War two, the US remotely piloted a B-17 as part of a test program, and during the Cold War, drones were used to spy on other countries. The SR 71 even had a rocket powered drone that it could deploy in flight to take photos to be retrieved later.
Drones date back much longer to early flight, but like the modern, drones basically trace their origin to the eighties. The convergence of satellite technology composites and computer miniaturization allowed for the rise of drones like the General Atomics. Mq one Predator General Atomics, which includes Aeronautical Systems Inc, are one of the leading producers of unmanned systems in the world.
They currently produce the MQ nine Reaper as well as the naval version, the Sea Guardian, among other unmanned systems. In the 2000, the Predator was armed with missiles, which quietly started a new arms race. It had the ability to stay overhead for long periods of time, and it could be controlled by a ground station in another country.
The drone became the face of US conflicts in the Middle East, and moral and legal questions about drone use rose from the targeted killing campaigns that the US operates to this day. In 2001, the MQ nine Reaper made its first flight and eventually became the dominant armed drone that the US fielded. The Reaper has a payload of £3,850, which compares to the Predator's £450. This means it can carry far more missiles or bombs than the Predator, among other advantages.
But what will eventually replace the hundreds of Reaper drones has yet to be revealed. One current General Atomics aeronautical project, as seen in this General Atomics video, is The Avenger. The US military has not adopted the Avenger for frontline service. The advanced drone is designed to be stealthy and survivable against modern air defenses, which could make it a window into what the drone of the future will look like.
That replaces the MQ nine. The US government, the US military will never fight another war without drone technology ever again. But unfortunately, I feel like as a whole we are no longer have the advantage. Countries around the world have taken notice of the investment.
The US is pouring into larger drones and have made efforts to buy these game changing drones themselves. The US has been judicious about what countries it allows General Atomics to sell to. We have put too much of an emphasis on restricting exports to countries that are in need of this technology, countries that are friendly to us because we've wanted to maintain that airspace dominance. The MQ nine requires a ground station, satellite links and maintenance for its high tech hardware and software. And this means the MQ Nine's ballooning price point of around $32 million has dissuaded some prospective buyers.
Allies like Australia have shown interest in buying the MQ nine B and the US State Department cleared a $1.6 billion deal in late April for 12 Sky Guardians and all associated equipment. But the demand for more affordable drones hasn't subsided, leading to others filling the needs of the market.
What's interesting to note is that for many years, about a decade or so, the US and Israel basically had a monopoly over more sophisticated armed drone systems, and neither of them were really keen on exporting. Israel was one of the earliest adopters of drone technology and also one of the first exporters. However, these exported drones are generally unarmed, making them less useful against military targets. And partly because there was this almost export ban, a number of other actors started to develop their own domestic armed drones, most notably China and Turkey.
China's Chengdu aircraft industry group has produced the wing long series of drones. The price point of the wing, long, too, which runs an estimated 1 to $2 million, has made it a popular addition to militaries in Africa and the Middle East. Russia is likely to try to eventually export its homegrown Orion drone, and Turkey, which has made a strong push in recent decades to build an aerospace industry, has produced one of the most infamous medium sized drones. The Baker defense produced TV to which is controlled by line of sight, has made an impact in Nagorno-Karabakh and in Libya. Several countries, including Ukraine, which signed a $69 million contract for armed TV TOS in 2019, have ordered the Turkish drone and more potential buyers could be wooed by the highlight reel of the TV to taking out modern tanks in real world situations. These highlight reels of destruction haven't been all upside for the new entry to the armed drone market.
Some armed drones have been regulated as missiles under international law. I think our policymakers need to adapt the policy for the 21st century and understand that there's many different actors using drone technology and they're using them in different ways. The missile technology control regime, or MTS, restricts the export of missiles capable of carrying a 500 kilogram payload at least 300 kilometers. This is why drones are considered missiles under the TCR.
The US has previously limited what drones can be sold to other countries due to the TCR. It's sort of the big drone export. News changed last summer when the Trump administration decided to loosen some restrictions on what the United States could export. The Biden administration has so far upheld that relaxed restriction. Canada and Germany are two countries that have banned the export of key materials used to make armed drones in Turkey and Iran, respectively.
In the end, drones are just model airplanes with great sensors on them and all of these are dual use and used in the civilian realm. And in fact, the drones have risen enormously in the civilian realm over the last 5 to 10 years. And so so controlling their export is is really difficult. And I would also note that it is not that difficult to to develop these systems. What happens when everyone can buy a quadcopter or a fixed wing drone for a couple of hundred bucks? Some manufacturers of nonmilitary drones have put in safeguards like geofencing to prevent drones from being weaponized. Geofencing is a preset limitation on where drone can be flown. Airports are commonly fenced off to prevent drones from interfering with airport operations.
Civilian drones can also be used for kind of really helpful applications from agricultural use to checks and controls, etc. So how do you control those kinds of things? There are also concerns about the ethical problems with using armed drones. So for example, the large scale drone campaign started by Bush and expanded under Obama. We saw the increased use of armed drones for targeted executions and increasing numbers of civilians who are killed in those kind of operations or didn't have any access to accountability and reparations because technically the program didn't exist.
Large armed drones aren't going away. Baker is working on a larger drone called the Akinci, which can be sadly. It controlled and has a larger payload. China also appears to be working towards fielding a newly developed armed drone.
But advances in technology are allowing smaller drones to tackle missions that previously would have only been possible with a larger drone. So when I see conflicts like what's taking place in Syria or with Russia starting to use these all over the world and not even just the type of drones that you would think are multimillion dollar drones, we're talking about drones that a kid can purchase off of the Internet. And anyone that has savvy knowledge of how to turn these things into deadly weapons has the ability, unfortunately, these days to do something bad with it.
Drone swarms or dozens or hundreds of drones operating in unison that can overwhelm defenses. And loitering munitions like the Hirap, which is produced in Israel, are blurring the line between cruise missile and drone. And with regard to these loitering munitions or kamikaze drones or whatever you want to call them, these are primarily at this point produced by Israel. Both are systems that basically go into the air. They loiter for while, search for a target, and then dove into the car to target and explode with it.
This is why they're called kamikaze drones, because they they don't come back. They they destroy themselves. New types of armed drones, potential civilian casualties, and the legal gray area of targeted killings are all issues that the drone industry will need to contend with in the coming years.
The biggest challenge at the moment, how does technology, which is always two steps ahead of regulation, how can we ensure that it doesn't get out of hand? Space X, United Launch Alliance, Virgin, Orbital. These are the companies you think of when you think of commercial rockets. But another venture involving rocket motors rakes in heaps of cash every year. Missiles are guided rockets used in war, both defensively and offensively. There are large missiles, small missiles, missiles designed to destroy
tanks, missiles designed to take out planes. And just about everything in between, including missiles designed to shoot down other missiles. And they are the number two defense expert in the US behind aircraft. The major players in the United States are by far. Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Boeing, Northrop Grumman. Those would be the top missile sellers in the United States. Like with aircraft.
Missile sales are based on international alliances and treaties, and these sales can become hot button issues, like a recent sale proposal of Boeing harpoon missiles to Taiwan, or a failed bid to sell the Patriot missile system produced by Raytheon to Turkey. As technology advances, the line between drones and missiles is blurring, and this has the potential to disrupt the entire industry. I like to say that in some respects we've entered a kind of new missile age with a really significant global supply and demand signal. What will the new missile age hold for companies that sell these weapons of war? Raytheon, the producer of the iconic Patriot missile system, is one of the top manufacturers of guided missiles in the world. During a recent missile test by the US Navy, a Raytheon Standard Missile three or SM three intercepted an intercontinental ballistic missile or ICBM. Shooting down an incoming ballistic missiles.
A very difficult problem. They move very, very fast and they tend to be surrounded by debris. That's also moving very fast. So you have to hit them quickly, target them quickly and differentiate between the actual missile and the surrounding debris. We tested a ship based interceptor against an ICBM, considerably expanding our capability to defend against those kinds of threats. That makes the SM three a potential deterrent against an ICBM launched by North Korea or Iran.
I think the most important takeaway of the SM three to a ICBM intercept is that it's increases the reliability and our confidence in it against some really stressing regional threats. Raytheon introduced cost saving measures due to the drop in commercial air travel during the COVID 19 pandemic. But its missile and defense division has continued to drive sales and has had an operating profit of 453 million in the third quarter of 2020. American aerospace giant Boeing sells missile systems like the harpoon. It's also involved in fielding missiles designed to kill ICBMs like the ground based midcourse defense system. Boeing is now competing for the bid to produce the potential next generation interceptor, or MGI. Boeing has pivoted towards defense sales to make up for commercial
losses and has made $6.8 billion in that sector in the third quarter of 2020 alone. Some missiles in the US are designed and built by multiple companies. The next generation interceptor bid from Boeing, for example, also involves General Atomics and Aerojet Rocketdyne. The winner of the next generation interceptor bid could secure 4.9 billion over
five years from the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency to build the interceptor of the future. Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman are also bidding on the right to produce the MGI. Northrop Grumman is involved in making rocket motors for many other missiles, including the Air to Air Sidewinder. Northrop Grumman saw its sales increase in the third quarter of 2020 by 7% from 2019, rising to $9.1 billion. General Dynamics is involved in creating warheads in other parts in various missile programs, and Lockheed Martin is also involved in upgrading the missile fired by the Patriot System designed by Raytheon, which is just one more example of how these companies tend to work together on these complex projects. Thanks to the advanced technology used to make these missile systems, all of these companies remain dependent on relationships between the US government and other countries to make international sales.
After all, the US needs to trust customers before allowing defense contractors to sell them cutting edge weaponry. When Turkey fielded fresh bids to buy a new missile system in November of 2013. The Patriot was an assumed frontrunner, but things quickly went off the rails when Turkish demands became too much to make the deal doable. Turkey's decision to buy the Russian gas 400 is probably one of the messiest arms deals that's ever gone down in history. Turkey wanted to buy the United States Raytheon's Patriot System. The United States passed a couple of years in a row and Russia scooped up to pick up Turkey and sell them the SE 400.
The failure of Raytheon's reported $3.5 billion bid also affected relations between the US and Turkey. The manufacturing for some components of the F 35, the cutting edge American stealth fighter jet from Lockheed are being moved out of the country to other F-35 partner states. Russian and Chinese companies also sell advanced missiles in all categories and are always looking to enlarge their market share and compete with American offerings in countries that are on the fence about who to buy from. In the case of Russia, the US has pushed back on Russian missile sales with the threat of sanctions.
But the political ramifications of missile sales can cut both ways. China will regard any future arms sales to Taiwan as highly provocative. And if there's anything we know about the incoming administration's policy towards China, it will remain fundamentally on a competitive footing. But the administration won't be looking to simply poke China in the eye in the way that the Trump administration has. So it is very possible that we could see a calibration for some of these sales that could be rolled back.
They could be modified. They could be shrunk. Taiwan and some of its neighbors have really been getting into the missile game. They've been doing it for many years. But in the past couple of months and really this past year, some pretty significant sales have been authorized, especially in the anti-ship missile category. In Taiwan's case, it it's major threat on a on an operational level is a Chinese invasion fleet, ships crossing the Taiwan Strait. And if Taiwan can find some way to threaten those ships, threaten to wipe out the invasion force, then it can solve its strategic problem even if it can't match China's spending and the size of China's other military forces.
The incoming Biden administration could handle arms sales differently than the Trump administration has. As of now, Taiwan plans on buying 400 harpoon defense systems from Boeing for $2.37 billion, a hefty investment in missile technology. But as technology advances, could giant purchases like this one be rendered useless by newcomers to the guided weapon world? In the US, the design, production and sales of missiles employ thousands of people across almost every state. The reason why all these defense companies see such bipartisan support is because they don't necessarily headquarter in one place.
They spread the wealth, so they have depots, maintenance facilities, testing centers throughout the United States. Large missile systems are costly to build and maintain. For example, the US approved of a potential sale of 44 terminal high altitude area defense systems for an estimated $15 billion to Saudi Arabia in 2019. Even smaller missile systems like anti-tank missiles or air to air missiles can
cost thousands of dollars per missile or millions of dollars per unit when all costs, such as research and development, are factored in. The US sale of 210 Javelin anti-tank missiles in 37 launchers for 47 million to Ukraine in 2019 is an example of the cost involved, even in smaller missiles, advances in guided weapons such as low cost cruise missiles or even suicide drones, which can fly almost undetected and destroy targets defended with expensive air defenses, are changing the game. We can look at the attack last year by the suspected attack by the Houthis on Saudi oil facilities where Saudi Arabia's patriot missile defenses couldn't do anything against these low flying drones that basically exploded on impact and caused massive damage. Countries, including Iran, a number of other countries around the world, North Korea, have increasingly precise military capabilities.
Of course, earlier this year, after the assassination of Qassem Soleimani, the Iranian general saw Iran launch strikes against U.S. military facilities and actually strike with pinpoint accuracy. The US has invested billions into missile defense technology since the 1980s. It remains to be seen whether current systems can actually intercept ICBM launches in a real world scenario. The best defense against a nuclear tipped ICBM, which is a annihilation level weapon. That's the kind of weapon if you fire one, you're going to get one shot back at you, back and forth, back and forth until all of human civilization has been destroyed.
So anyway, that's the ICBM. And it's a it's an existential problem for all of us. But you don't defeat the problem of ICBMs and more broadly, the problems of the problem of nuclear weapons by having the ability to shoot down a few of them.
Maybe, if you're lucky, at great cost. These challenges, I think, are here to stay. The the genie of missile proliferation is going to be very, very difficult to reverse.
In fact, the best tool we have today really seems to be non-binding export control regimes where states commit on a unilateral basis not to sell missiles to countries that shouldn't have them or really any countries at all to prevent the proliferation of this technology more broadly. So air defenses are always scarier on paper than they are in practice because there are a lot of practical limitations to their use terrain communications networks that might be fragile, sensor networks that also might be fragile. These things just don't work as well in the real world as they do in simulations or in PR copy. So and that probably applies even more so to Russian made systems than to Western systems. The new missile age has seen the rise of hypersonic glide vehicles as possible game changers. I would say hypersonic missiles of various kinds are kind of the poster child of this new era of missile warfare, and we're going to have to find ways to contend with that.
The incoming Biden administration may take a stronger look at alliances and who's getting what systems and maybe playing a little bit more of a diplomatic role instead of trying to rack up and boost arms sales. In December 2019, former Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn made his dramatic escape from Japan. He allegedly had some help from a former U.S. Green Beret and his son, Michael Taylor, a former Green Beret. And his son smuggled him out of Japan in a music equipment box.
And more recently, a company based out of Florida named Silvercorp USA, launched an ill fated coup attempt in South America. It was a poorly planned attempt to overthrow the embattled president of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro. In Seattle, a television crew's protective detail disarmed protesters who had gained access to abandoned police firearms on May 30, 2020 amid a wave of protests after the death of George Floyd.
He was contracted by one of the news networks out there for private security. He did four years in the Marine Corps. And then after doing his four years in the Marine Corps, he ended up getting into private military contracting. Private security is expected to grow to an $81 billion industry by 2023, and that's just in the United States. There exists a higher risk, high reward sector that attracts people with a unique and expensive skill set only acquired through military experience.
Some of these jobs are word of mouth. Others are hiding in plain sight on employer websites and job words. Sites like shooter jobs cater to private security roles, and the compensation is highly competitive. Think of it as like Delta Airlines. You know, you get started as an US Air Force pilot and then when you leave, you go to Delta. So it's a kind of a crass analogy, but it's the the world of mercenaries. It's an illicit economy.
Some of these individuals are part of what are known as private security companies or private military companies, better known as PMCs. Private military company is a term of art that is code for mercenary. They are profit driven and strive to show value and efficiency to their clients. Just like any other company, they can provide executive protection, training, expertize for other security agencies, companies or government clients. They're heavily armed. Employees can be seen at US embassies on cargo ships traversing dangerous seas or even
training soldiers and police in foreign nations. Although there are numerous companies in the US that provide these services, there are other nations such as Russia that have their own PMCs. One Russian PMC, the Wagner Group, gained notoriety in Syria and was involved in a clash with US forces in 2018. Russia's private security industry has grown in leaps and bounds over the last couple of decades. I mean, mercenaries are the second oldest profession.
Machiavelli knew how to use and fight with mercenaries. We at war colleges, we don't even study them. The intelligence community does not collect on them. I think this could be one of the biggest insecurity threats of the 21st century, and it's unfortunate that not much is known about it.
After 911, the US found itself embroiled in two major conflicts one in Afghanistan and one in Iraq. Following the initial invasions, there was a need for more manpower to train the new security forces in both countries. The US military is an all volunteer force, which means rapidly increasing the size of the military would require conscription, also known as the draft, which was notably used during World War Two in Vietnam. One answer was to have the private sector fill the gap instead. There are some people like that just doing it for the money, but actually there's all sorts of strange people out there doing it. Some are doing it for the money, some people are doing it for the adventure, and some people were there.
Vets of Iraq, Afghanistan and other wars, they come back home, they find out they don't want to be a Walmart checkout guy or gal, and so they go back to what they know. The free market rapidly reacted to the profit potential of the massive government contracts to provide a myriad of services, including private security and protective services details. So no, specifically for guys coming out of the Special Operations background, there's some fairly lucrative contracts that can be had if you had if you have the right skill sets. At the height of the Iraq war, there was one contractor to every military service member deployed. The ratio is now five contractors to every one U.S.
soldier. Not all of these are security roles. Contractors do everything from laundry to electrical work to construction. During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, companies such as Blackwater, Triple Canopy and DynCorp were responsible for fielding heavily armed and trained employees and also recruiting and organizing security contractors from a multitude of nations such as Chile, Peru and Uganda. Recently, even as the US military footprint in the Middle East and Central Asia has diminished, spending on contractors has increased. The Pentagon spent 370 billion on contracting services in 2019.
That's $164 billion higher than what was spent on contractors in 2001, according to a new study from Brown in Boston Universities. About 53,000 US contractors were stationed in the Middle East in 2019, compared with about 35,000 US troops. Day rates were $1,500 a day and up for certain people, and so they were getting insane amounts of money and then living like they that money was a career, right? And now all of a sudden it's like you've got some time in the military under your belt and maybe your marriage is already stressed.
And now you're doing this contracting thing where you say, Oh, I'm just going to go make some good money. But now you bought a house, you bought a couple of cars, you bought some toys, and now you're relying on continuing to do these contracts to pay those bills. And it becomes this this cycle that you can't really escape. Privately hired security is one of the world's oldest professions. And although there are an estimated 1.8 million people working security jobs in the US alone, the efforts of private security companies are notably different than your average mall cop.
The landscape of the private security industry in the US is constantly shifting. The firm formerly known as Blackwater, now known as Academy, merged with its competitor Triple Canopy in 2014 to form the Costello's group that can still this group was bought by a private equity firm, Apollo Global Management, for around $1 billion. These private security companies tend to employ former military, usually with infantry or special operations backgrounds, to take on higher risk, higher reward opportunities. The employees of these companies at times can be teaching foreign military clients such as the Iraqi military, or protecting a client such as the contractors who defended the US embassy in Iraq after the assassination of the Iranian general, Qassem Suleimani, in early 2020.
They can also be used in personal protective roles like protecting State Department employees. However, recent examples of private security companies such as Silvercorp USA are prime examples of what can go wrong in this conflict driven industry. Silvercorp USA started as a firm focus on executive protection and school shooter prevention, staffed by former special operations troops.
Eventually, the company attempted to overthrow the Maduro regime in Venezuela, resulting in two employees, both former Green Berets, being captured during the ill fated coup attempt. Not surprising to me that that particular company dabbled in other aspects of security. I think that they saw this as their potential big fish and a lot of other kind of get rich quick schemes. That's sometimes too good to be true.
And I think that maybe this is one of those scenarios where it was just a little bit too good to be true and it was a little bit more complicated than maybe what initially met the eye. Another example of the unforeseen consequences involves the rise of the Wagner Group, a private military company based in Russia. The Wagner Group is a Russian private military company. They're like Blackwater, but much more lethal, and they have a lot more free hand. They work for the GRU, which is Russia's military intelligence directorate. This private military company has been employed in Syria and Africa.
Foreign affairs experts have accused Russia of using the Wagner group to further its own goals overseas. On February seven, 2018, a group of pro-regime Syrian forces, including Russian mercenaries from the Wagner group, launched an attack on US forces that included tanks and armored vehicles. Us forces fought off the attackers in a four hour battle, leaving hundreds of pro-regime casualties. The Wagner group is central to one theory behind the ongoing. Controversy around Russia paying Taliban insurgents to kill U.S.
troops. One reason for the bounties could be revenge for the Wagner group mercenaries killed by US forces in Syria in 2018. I think it's important to keep in mind that it's not easy to connect the dots in a straight line from the U.S. strike on a so-called Wagner contingent in February 2018 in Syria and what's happening today in Afghanistan, it's just a regional reality that Russia will always have a stake in the outcomes in Afghanistan. What is significant here is the escalation up the ladder toward confrontation. For the first decade after 911, the US was the primary customer for private security companies.
However, as the US has diminished its role in the Middle East, other countries have shown a desire for private security companies to provide training, security and in some cases, direct action in war. Zones, I think. I think the era of Blackwater and Triple Canopy and DynCorp and Egis, I think that is a bygone era. There might be something like that in the future. But, you know, these companies were big. They were up.
The US military has invested in human capital and the experience that Special Operations Forces have gained in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan holds a unique value in the world market. In the United Arab Emirates, some former US special operations soldiers were recruited to provide training for the UAE military, only to then find themselves in the legally precarious situation of providing direct military aid to a foreign government in Libya. Russia's Wagner Group has been active in supporting the Libyan National Army Commander, Khalifa Haftar. As Wagner expands operations, US firms have faced a much more austere period of government contracts.
I think companies also learned that that was not a moneymaking adventure for them. The headline risk was simply too much. It got them in too much trouble. And we're seeing like Costello's group which bought Triple Canopy, which bought Blackwater, they're basically in default right now. The rise of private security companies fighting in hotspots across Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Europe has shown that other countries and private entities have recognized the value of hiring, well trained and well armed security forces to perform tasks that otherwise would not be accomplished. So like China, people have been saying for a long time, like, well, watch that space.
When China moves into private military companies, it'll be big because they have the largest domestic security guard business in the world, you know. However Chinese, you know, it's one thing to be like a Wackenhut mall guard and a mercenary. That's one difference. The second is that China has a really they're not
battle tested, unlike, say, the Russian military or the American military. So it's not like they have a huge corps of hardcore vets that they can deploy. And they also tend to deploy their own Chinese military in Africa just under a different, you know, sort of like little not little green men, but little, I don't know, red men or something like that. So they don't really use that model.
Erik Prince, the former CEO of Blackwater, is attempting to break into the Chinese private security market with Frontier Services Group, a security company based out of Hong Kong, which aims to provide training to Chinese clients. Prince declined CNBC's request for an interview. Meanwhile, the Wagner group in Russia continues to expand its footprint in Libya in the Central African Republic. But what we found, interestingly, is that the majority of folks that we found in our data who sign up to become private security contractors in Russia are cycling through units in the western and southern military districts, which, you know, is known for its counterterrorism sort of orientation, but also has a lot of these units that were transitioned to contract Nike contract units, essentially. And so they're cycling on and off, it seems, between different terms of service. This is kind of a stopgap Band-Aid solution for Russia's challenges with mobilizing defense. Nations in the Middle East have continued to hire private security companies to train and augment their own security services.
We're seeing or just seeing ex-Navy SEALs, X Green Berets in Yemen fighting for Middle Eastern monarchies. We're going to see more of that. And I think if you're or, you know, like Silvercorp. In Venezuela, that there's a lot of entrepreneurs, specifically veteran entrepreneurs, that are kind of trying to find their way. And I think that's what happens with a lot of these guys that have these startup personal security companies where it's like, hey, we need to bring money in somehow. We'll kind of take what we can get contract wise.
So one day that might be executive protection, another day that might be, you know, at a rally or something like that. And then, oh, hey, our name got floated around on the right circle, and now we're staging a coup in Venezuela. Since these videos aired, Russia conducted a large scale invasion of Ukraine. During this conflict, there have been armed drones operated by both sides. Private mercenaries have been allegedly recruited by Russia to fight in Ukraine, and international volunteers have gone on to fight for Ukraine.
High tech missiles ranging from anti-tank missiles, surface to air missiles, both manned portable and large mobile systems, and even ballistic missiles and hypersonic missiles have been used in the conflict. The future of war. It isn't around the corner. It is going on today in conflicts like Ukraine and in other hot spots around the world.