A new wave of users have launched drone strikes either on their own territory or across borders over the past 15 months.
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 →
Meanwhile other drone ‘beasts’ continue to rampage. There has been two days of violence in Gaza following an Israeli drone strike. According to the Irish Times “Gaza residents said a 42-year-old civilian was killed in an Israeli air strike on Hamas training facility. Seven members of the man’s family were wounded, including his father, wife and five of his children.”
And no doubt, US and UK drone strikes in Afghanistan continue completely unreported. Time these drone ‘beasts’ were caged too.
“Officials term everyone killed a “suspected militant” but concede that they don’t know any of the identities of the slain and that civilians are almost certain to be amongst the toll. With virtually no media allowed into the region, identifying the victims of US attacks is virtually impossible.”
The New Year also began with a lot of coverage of Gorgon Stare – despite missing its ‘end-of-2010’ deployment deadline – mainly thanks to a large article in the Washington Post. As we have previously reported Gorgon Stare is a new surveillance capability that allows a wide area of ground to be videoed while also enabling individuals to be tracked within that wide area.
The amount of video from drone surveillance is already overwhelming analysts yet the military continues to demands more. The Post article quotes Army Col. Steven A. Beckman, former intelligence chief for coalition forces in Sothern Afghanistan as calling drone video coverage “the crack cocaine of our ground forces.”
Flight international reports that one Gorgon Stare ‘pod’ will be deployed in Afghanistan before April 2011, one in 2012 and one in 2014.
Iran has unveiled a new long-range drone named Karrar which has a range of 1,000km and could carry two 250-pound bombs or a precision bomb of 500 pounds. According to the BBC, President Ahmadinejad said that the new drone was a “messenger of honour and human generosity and a saviour of mankind, before being a messenger of death for enemies of mankind.”
On Saturday a drone attack killed between six and ten people in Pakistan in the CIA’s show of ‘honour’ while Israel flew jets and drones over Lebanon in its own show of ‘human generosity’.
History, American tradition, and U.S. and international law all say that military operations should be carried out by the armed forces. If bad guys like al-Jufi are not legitimate military targets, we shouldn’t attack them. It’s not the business of an intelligence agency or, worse, of a private contractor working for an intelligence agency — to kill people. A 1976 executive order by President Ford bans American intelligence agencies from engaging in assassination.
If they are legitimate military targets, military people should wage the campaign against them. Since we’re talking remotely piloted aircraft, the branch of the military that should handle this is the Air Force.
“It’s not a good idea for the CIA to have a direct part in armed hostilities,” said Gary Solis in a telephone interview. Solis is a retired Marine Corps lieutenant colonel and judge advocate. “It’s contrary to the law of armed conflict. Flying and arming drones and inputting intelligence for their mission should be performed by the military.”
There has been a lot of drone-related activity in the middle east at the moment – mainly involving Iran and Israel. Two weeks after it happened, it was reported on Aug. 16th that the ‘father’ of Iran’s UAV programme, Reza Baruni, has been killed in an explosion at his home. Debkafile reports that officially he was killed when a gas canister exploded whilst ‘intelligence sources’ report that he was assassinated.
Meanwhile Iran also announced that it will unveil two new drone on August 22nd. The two hi-tech drones named ‘Ra’d’ (Thunder) and ‘Nazir’ (Harbinger) are capable of conducting long-range reconnaissance, patrolling, assault and bombing missions with high precision and are the first drones to roll off Iran’s new UAV production line set up in February.
“Once that uranium, once those fuel rods are very close to the reactor, certainly once they’re in the reactor, attacking it means a release of radiation, no question about it,” Bolton told Fox Business Network. “So if Israel is going to do anything against Bushehr it has to move in the next eight days.”
Meanwhile Israel is expecting a ‘boom time’ for its UAV’s according to a report in Aviation Week. The head of Elbit, Joseph Ackerman, is quoted as saying he wants to sell drones like a ‘Sears and Roebuck’ type operation.
“Our strategy is to build a range of UAVs up to 1.1 tons with the communications, sensors and intelligence payloads that let them do all the necessary missions at long distances,” say Ackerman.
However the rift between Israel and Turkey following the murder of Turkish activists on the Gaza means that Turkey may not get its US made Reaper drones. The US is putting pressure on Turkey to soften its stance against Israel – and as a punishment for voting against UN sanctions on Iran – otherwise it will not provide the drone which Turkey wants to use against the PKK.