A bloody month in the drone wars: 7 separate drone strikes kill dozens of civilians across 4 war zones

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

‘Precise’ Strikes: Fractured Bodies, Fractured Lives – An update on Israel’s drone wars

Click to open

Five years ago, Drone Wars published a ground breaking report examining Israel’s production, use and proliferation of military drones. Today we are pleased to publish ‘Precise Strikes: Fractured Bodies, Fractured Lives’ which brings our 2014 report up-to-date. The report looks beyond the veil of secrecy that surrounds Israel’s development and deployment of armed drones to explore their use and impact, particularly in Gaza in the five years since 2014.

Israel has been manufacturing and using unmanned military technology since the 1970s.  Yet its use of drones to launch attacks continues to be shrouded in secrecy and denial. This despite clear evidence, including leaked video footage, that Israel has used drones both for reconnaissance and monitoring purposes, as well as to launch attacks. According to Ha’aretz, drones now account for 70% of the Israeli Air Force’s (IAF) flight hours.

While advocates present drones in humanitarian terms as effectively minimising civilian casualties in so-called ‘virtuous wars’, serious concerns have been raised by human rights organisations, UN Special Rapporteurs, survivors of drone attacks, and national parliaments. The lived experience of drone warfare in Palestine highlights the cost to life and human rights of remote-controlled weaponry, indicating that discourses of precision and risk-reduction do little to convey the terror and threat of omnipresent overhead drones. Read more

UK drone strike kills civilian in Syria admits MoD

For the first time, the Ministry of Defence has admitted a civilian death in its air campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.  The strike, from an RAF Reaper drone, occurred on 26 March according to a written statement by the Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson.  The strike itself was reported by the MoD on its website on 4 April.  It stated:

A Reaper tracked a group of terrorists in a vehicle in the Syrian Euphrates valley on Monday 26 March, and successfully destroyed it and its occupants with a precision Hellfire missile attack.

Read more

“Thinking war is bloodless is a mistake.” Talking drones and remote war with Air Marshall Bagwell.

Air Marshall Greg Bagwell

Air Marshall Greg Bagwell is a recently retired senior Royal Air Force officer who served as Deputy Commander Operations at RAF Air Command.  While being a vocal supporter of the use of armed drones, in his role of President of the Air Power Association he has also argued for greater openness and engagement with the public on air power issues.  Following on from our interview with former RAF Reaper pilot ‘Justin Thompson’, we asked him if he would also be willing to be interviewed on some the wider operational and strategic issues raised by armed drones.  He happily agreed. Read more

Book Review: ‘The Humanitarian Impact of Drones’

  • The Humanitarian Impact of Drones, edited by Ray Acheson, Matthew Bolton, Elizabeth Minor, and Allison Pytlak,  Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), 2017

The Humanitarian Impact of Drones is, as Chris Heynes says in the preface, “a most welcome contribution to a vital debate,” chiefly because it extends beyond the legal lens used to consider the rights and wrongs of particular targeted killings, often the criticism which dominates the debate on the use of armed drones. Instead, split in to two parts, the report covers broader humanitarian ‘impacts’ and ‘perspectives.’ It includes its fair share of discussion on the impacts of targeted killings and the legal perspectives on these actions but chapters range from the impact on peace and security and the environment, to gender-based and religious perspectives. Throughout, the chapters are interspersed with case studies from countries or regions, relating to the various topics covered. The report moves between practical, theoretical and legal frameworks to offer a comprehensive understanding of the nature of drone warfare in its fullest sense. Read more

FoI reveals only 5% of British air strikes in Iraq and Syria are pre-planned

drone targetA Freedom of Information request by Drone Wars UK has revealed that only 5% of British air strikes in Iraq and Syria are pre-planned.

According to the FoI reponse from the Ministry of Defence out of 414 UK air strikes in Iraq and Syria during 2015, 395 were launched under dynamic targeting procedures while just 19 were pre-planned.  Dynamic targeting procedures are used when aircraft are already in the air and either ‘targets of opportunity’ are spotted or strikes are launched in defence of troops on the ground during direct combat. Read more