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.

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“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

Reviewing the current debate on drones

Alongside intense international law arguments, a wider debate on the impact of the growing use of armed drones, within particular current conflicts as well as on long-term global peace and security, continues. To mark our sixth birthday we outline here the current state of the debate on some of the key issues.

 

Drones: Is it the technology, the policy, or both?

cockpit
Can the impact of the technology be ignored?

The starting point for many advocates of the use of armed drones is to dismiss any debate about their use by insisting that there is no actual difference between a drone and a conventional military aircraft.  Former drone pilot T. Mark McCurley for example writes “Is there a difference between bombs dropped off a drone or a fighter?” while Dave Blair argues that “the same weapons deployed from Reapers are also launched from Apaches and F-16s.  The idea of ‘drone strikes’ as distinct from ‘air strikes’ is a distraction.” Read more

Scepticism over casualty claims as new data suggests some UK drones may have moved

Kobani air strike
Coalition air strike in Kobani, Syria

New data about UK military operations in Iraq and Syria has been released to Drone Wars UK and Vice News over the past few days following separate Freedom of Information (FoI) requests.

Vice News obtained details of the number of combatants killed or wounded in RAF strikes each month since Oct 2014.  The data shows that just under 1,000 combatants had been killed with almost 100 wounded.  While the MoD are extremely careful to say they cannot Read more