Drone strikes spread as proliferation surges

A new wave of users have launched drone strikes either on their own territory or across borders over the past 15 months.

Turkish armed drone – The Bayraktar TB2

While the majority of attention on armed drones has focused on US use (and to some extent on the UK and Israeli), growing proliferation of these systems has meant that a number of other countries have acquired or developed armed drones and are beginning to regularly use them to launch strikes.

Most of these second wave of countries have acquired their armed drones from China – either the slightly older ‘Wing Loong (‘Pterodactyl’) developed by Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group Read more

A new international control regime on armed drones led by the US?  What is going on?

Reaper-17The United States has begun moves to develop what amounts to a new international control regime on the proliferation and use of armed drones.  US officials presented details of a ‘Proposed Joint Declaration of Principles for the Export and Subsequent Use of Armed or Strike-Enabled Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS)’ to international export control officials during the arms trade treaty review conference in Geneva this week. Read more

Drone proliferation in light of increased targeted killing

Drones_for_saleThe news that the UK has followed the US and Israel in using armed drones to launch a targeted killing outside of UN sanctioned armed conflict should make the international community even more concerned about the growing proliferation of armed drones.

All three countries known to have used armed drones have now gone beyond the generally accepted provisions of international law in this area, although perhaps unsurprisingly the countries themselves refute this. Read more

Drones: Stressful for some, fatal for others

An Israeli drone launched an assassination strike in Gaza this week killing two people and injuring three more. The two fatalities, killed in their vehicle as it drove along al-Wihda Street in the centre of Gaza City, were named locally as brothers Islam Yassin and Mohammed Yassin, members of the Army of Islam. According to Al-Jazeerah an Israeli military spokesperson claimed responsibility for the assassination and stated that the attack was carried out after close collaboration between the army and the Israeli Security Agency Shabak, as the men were “plotting to attack Israeli citizens in the Sinai”. The dramatic photos in this report of the aftermath of the attack give some insight into the drone assassinations taking place in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Meanwhile British MoD Minster Andrew Robathan, confirmed this week that a study into the psychological health of British drone operators based in the US is currently underway. Previous reports focusing on US drone operators have suggested that drone pilots operating at great distances from the battlefield, are suffering from stress.

On the other side of the world, the sudden appearance of many new Chinese drones at a Chinese air show are causing Western defence officials a fair amount of stress. According to the Wall Street Journal

Western defense officials and experts were surprised to see more than 25 different Chinese models of the unmanned aircraft, known as UAVs, on display at this week’s Zhuhai air show in this southern Chinese city. It was a record number for a country that unveiled its first concept UAVs at the same air show only four years ago…. China is investing considerable time and money to develop drone technology, and is actively promoting its products on the international market …. It is of particular concern to the U.S. and Israel, whose drones are unrivalled in the world today.

One of the Chinese drones, WJ600, will caused considerable anxiety as a video animation showed it helping “to attack what appeared to be a U.S. aircraft carrier steaming toward an island off China’s coast that many visitors assumed to be Taiwan”.  Another, dubbed ‘the Chinese Predator’ by the aviation magazines, has undergone a series of flight trials, including weapons launches.

This week – two more drones crashed in Afghanistan – one on Kharvar city on 12th November and another in the Kharwar district of Logar Province on Wednesday 17th November. So many drones are crashing that I plan to put up a separate list of drone crashes in the next few days.