The dragon may have moved like something the air force had built, but it really serves as a winged Rorschach test for what you fear most about modern combat. Depending on when you were born, it could remind you A-bomb, Agent Orange, or a drone swooping in from the skies.
Part of what made the battle sequence so disturbing (and a little icky) was the way director Matt Shakman, who was helming his first Game of Thrones episode, seized on that historical ambiguity, evoking Saving Private Ryan, Platoon, Black Hawk Down, and, uh, the Matthew McConaughey dragon-movie Reign of Fire with his graphic imagery. There were so many charred bodies. I watched the with closed-captioning on and quickly lost track of how many times the words "[man screaming]" flashed across my screen. That could've been the episode title.