A week ago, a US air strike that officials (speaking off-the-record) acknowledged was carried out by a Reaper drone, killed senior Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and up to 10 others, travelling in a two-car convoy outside Baghdad airport. The targeted killing of a senior Iranian military officer sent shock waves around the globe and appalled many. International law scholars argued strongly that the strike was unlawful, politicians and diplomats articulated the dangerous impact both locally, regionally and internationally and military officials braced themselves for the inevitable retaliation. Read more
November 2019 saw seven civilian casualties incidents from drone strikes in four different war-zones illustrating the growing spread of drone warfare. The seven strikes between them are thought to have killed 41 civilians including 11 children.
Proponents of the use of armed drones often argue that drones are better at warfare as they can sit above the ‘fog and friction’ of war and therefore limit the harm to civilians as they have a better view of the ground. The reality, however, is that drones appear to be transferring the risk of warfare away from combatants onto the shoulders of civilians.
These seven strikes in the month of November are just a snapshot of the impact of drone warfare on civilians. However, the likelihood is that civilians will continue to be killed unless there is progress at the international level on controlling the proliferation and use of armed drones. Read more
Examination of UK air strike data from the past two years shows that British unmanned drones have been used far more often to attack individuals on the ground in Iraq and Syria than the UK’s other strike aircraft, the Tornado or the Typhoon.
Analysis of reports published by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) over the two years up until September 2019 show Reaper drones launched two-thirds (67%) of the 110 strikes at ISIS fighters in the open while other aircraft were used far more often to launch attacks on buildings, fighting positions, strong-points and other infrastructure. Half of all UK Reaper attacks (51%) were targeted at individuals on the ground compared to only 10% of Tornado and Typhoon strikes. Altogether, Reapers launched 29% of the UK’s strikes in this two-year period.
In a response to a Freedom of Information (FoI) request from Drone Wars UK, the MoD has revealed that two British Reaper drones have crashed since January 2015. The first, ZZ201, crashed on landing in October 2015 when its landing gear collapsed. The MoD has told us previously that this airframe was in the US, awaiting decommissioning due to – MoD press officers told Jane’s – the fact that it was near the end of its viable flying life. It did not mention then that the aircraft had crash landed. Read more
While the primary focus for UK military drone operations has been around larger systems like Reaper, the forthcoming ‘Protector’ and Watchkeeper; the UK is increasingly funding the development of smaller drones to engage in war-fighting roles. Read more
At 11.35pm (GMT) on 19 June, an Iranian surface to air missile struck and downed a US RQ-4A Global Hawk drone operating over the Straits of Hormuz. According to the US, the drone, operated by the US Navy (which calls it a Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) UAV – hence some initial confusion about the exact type of drone) was flying in international airspace, although Iran was equally insistent it was flying in Iranian airspace, with the Iranian Foreign Minister tweeting what he said was the GPS location of the strike. Read more