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.
It’s been a year since we published Drone Wars: The Next Generation, which gave our assessment of who is operating armed drones. This update adds four new States to those with the ability to operate large MALE or medium sized armed drones, as well as an update on significant exports, use, new models and proliferation controls over the last year. Read more →
Over the past few years States, international organisations and civil society groups have expressed concern about the increasing proliferation and use of armed drones. To illustrate what is happening, Drone Wars has compiled details of the use of armed drones in the first three months of 2018. Due to both the lack of transparency by operators and the difficulty of reporting strikes from the remote locations where they often occur, this survey is undoubtedly incomplete. In addition the fact that multiple nations are operating armed drones to launch strikes against differing groups in Syria (US, UK, Israel, Turkey and Iran) and Yemen (US, UAE and Saudi Arabia) makes attribution and accountability for strikes there almost impossible. Nevertheless this short survey (1 Jan 2018 – 31 March 2018) gives something of an insight into the use of armed drones by multiple operators to launch strikes in multiple countries. Read more →
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 →
Tariq was a good kid, and courageous. My warm hand recently touched his in friendship; yet, within three days, his would be cold in death, the rigor mortis inflicted by my government. And Tariq’s extended family, so recently hoping to be our allies for peace, has now been ripped apart by an American missile — most likely making any effort we make at reconciliation futile.
Two thousand miles west and Israeli drones fly constantly over Gaza with the latest strike killing seven members of Islamic Jihad. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz published an eye-opening interview this week with a ‘Lt Col Ido’ (his surname was withheld for security reasons) who teaches ethics to Israeli drone operators. The Lt Col says “When people are killed by mistake, we are tormented, and that’s how it should be… I’ve met some people who had a very hard time with it. Some coped, and others wanted to leave. I told them, ‘This is dirty work. Who would you like to have do it? We would all like to be professors.'”
The whole article, looking at how Israel uses drones for “everything from gathering intelligence in what the air force calls the “third circle” – namely, the Iranian sector and its satellites – to assisting fire-fighters in the Mount Carmel forest fire and guarding worshipers at Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus” is well worth reading. Israel is also about to deploy the giant Eitan drone for use in Gaza and Lebanon as Ynet news reports.
Fifteen hundred miles south of Israel is the Ethiopian city of Arba Minch from where, according to a recent report in the Washington Post, the USAF are flying Reaper drones over Somalia. While the US say the drones based in Ethiopia are for surveillance purposes only (the Ethiopian government are refusing to admit the drones are even in Ethiopia) US drones are undertaking strikes against al-Shabab in Somalia.
But it is not only the drones that are circling the globe. Resistance to the drones is growing and going global too. We have repeatedly reported on the anger in Pakistan against US drone strikes and the many protests taking place there, the latest of which saw some 2,000 people protests outside the Parliament building in Islamabad.
For the first time (as far as we know) anti-drone protests have also taken place in Yemen, with some extremely brave people coming together in Sana’a to protest the strikes there (see video below)
In the US, protestors have recently gone on trial following a civil disobedience action at the main entrance of Hancock Air National Guard Base on April 22, 2011, where 38 people were arrested at a die-in protesting the drones. The verdict will be handed down on 1st December (see http://www.upstatedroneaction.org/ for lots more info.
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.