Libyan war sees record number of drones brought down to earth

Libyans take selfie with crashed Bayraktar drone, April 2020

Our latest quarterly update has added a further 27 crashes/downings of large (NATO class II and II) UAVs to our drone crash database.  This is undoubtedly the largest number we have added in one update and is due to the number of drones operated by Turkey and UAE  on behalf of the two belligerents in the the Libyan ‘civil war’ that have been shot down. In the first 6 months of 2020, we have identified 40 large military drone crashes/downings compared to 28 for the whole of 2019 and 19 for 2018.

On average, 2-3 large drones have tumbled to earth per month over the past decade, but 14 drones crashed/were downed in Libya in April/May 2020. While it is always difficult to sift out details of crashes and downings amidst the hyperbole and propaganda, as always we have only included reports which can be verified with photos and video or come from reliable sources. It is likely that other crashes/downings have occurred but have not been verified.  At the same time, a number of claimed downings proved false. It should be noted that although every drone crash has been claimed as a downing, images of some wreckage show drones to be virtually complete indicating that they were not necessarily hit by missiles. Read more

Turkey’s unprecedented ascent to drone superpower status

  • In this special Long Read, guest writer Samuel Brownsword lays out the rise of Turkey as a drone superpower, as well as its increasing use of armed drones, both within and without its borders.
President Erdogan poses with Bayraktar drone

In late February 2020, at least 33 Turkish soldiers were killed in an airstrike in Syria’s Idlib province which Ankara blamed on the government of President Bashar al-Assad, although many suspected that it was in fact carried out by Russian forces.  At the time, those monitoring events in Syria feared that the attack could trigger a direct confrontation between Turkey and Russia, a supporter of Assad. Events leading up to this incident had already strained relations between the two countries and threatened to rupture defence, energy, and trade links. However, Ankara’s response not only marked the beginning of a new stage in the Syrian civil war, but yet another escalation in global drone warfare.  Read more

Military drones continue to tumble to earth

Bayraktar drone downed in Libya 30 March 2020

The Drone Wars drone crash database has been updated with a further nineteen crashes of large (Class II and III) military drones; thirteen since the beginning of 2020 and six from 2018/19 only recently revealed. While there have been many claims and counter-claims of drones shot down in Syria, Yemen and Libya, we continue to include only crashes/downings that have been verified by photographs or video. Recording the crash of large military drones is an important means of monitoring the proliferation of these systems as well as documenting their inherent risk – see our report Accidents will happen – for more details. Read more

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

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

Einsteinian insanity: momentum grows to bomb Libya again

NATO bombing of Sirte, Libya in 2011
NATO bombing of Sirte, Libya in 2011

Despite the catastrophic effects of the 2011 military intervention, momentum seems to be growing among western governments for further air strikes in Libya, this time against ISIS.

When asked by the Telegraph last month if Libya could be the next target for British military intervention, a British Government source said: “Things are moving in that direction. We are taking it one step at a time.”  Military sources subsequently briefed the media that US and British Special Forces were in Libya gathering intelligence to prepare for a possible deployment of up to Read more