Global Hawk Down

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

Three-month snapshot shows expanding use of armed drones

Over the past few years States, international organisations and civil society groups have expressed concern about the increasing proliferation and use of armed drones.  To illustrate what is happening, Drone Wars has compiled details of the use of armed drones in the first three months of 2018.  Due to both the lack of transparency by operators and the difficulty of reporting strikes from the remote locations where they often occur, this survey is undoubtedly incomplete.  In addition the fact that multiple nations are operating armed drones to launch strikes against differing groups in Syria (US, UK, Israel, Turkey and Iran)  and Yemen (US, UAE and Saudi Arabia) makes attribution and accountability for strikes there almost impossible.  Nevertheless this short survey (1 Jan 2018 – 31 March 2018) gives something of an insight into the use of armed drones by multiple operators to launch strikes in multiple countries. Read more

US drone operations centre to open in the UK?

LakenheathIn December 2015 the US announced plans to vastly expand its drone programme including increasing the number of drones to be purchased, doubling the number of drone operators and opening new drone bases.

According to a report in the LA Times, as part of these plans Pentagon officials are considering putting a drone operations centre at a USAF base in the UK – at RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk. Read more

Military drone crashes show spread of drone wars

US drone crashed in Iraq, July 2015
US drone crash in Samawa province, Iraq, July 2015

Drone Wars UK has updated the Drone Crash Database with details of a further 19 large drone crashes since our last update in February 2015.  Sixteen of the crashes occurred in 2015 while three previously unknown US drone crashes from 2014 have been revealed through the publication of accident investigation reports.

For the past five years Drone Wars UK has been recording crashes of large military drones (Class 2 & Class 3) as a way of tracking the spread and expansion of the use of drones. Due to the secrecy surrounding their use the database is almost certainly not complete. Read more

US Drone Strikes return to Pakistan – and imminently to Iraq?

miranshah_400US drone strikes resumed this week in Pakistan with the first strike taking place on Wednesday evening near Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan. This was quickly followed by a second strike early Thursday morning, although as the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ) reports there is some confusion about the details of the second strike. The strikes are the first in Pakistan since 25 December 2013 – a five and half month ‘pause’. Read more

Pausing at the crossroads – drones in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Africa

under MQ-9Over the past decade the use of armed drones has dramatically increased and spread with drone strikes reported to have taken place in up to ten countries. Although the US use of drones in Pakistan and  Yemen has been most controversial and received  the majority of media coverage, Afghanistan has been the real centre of armed drone use.  The first combat drone strike took place in Afghanistan just weeks after 9/11 and the vast majority of drone strikes have taken place there although exact figures remain shrouded in secrecy.  It is not surprising therefore that the forthcoming end of NATO combat operations in Afghanistan later this year brings the drone wars to something of a crossroads. Read more