The commander who oversaw the use of Reaper drones in Syria has said the relentless demand to deploy the unmanned aircraft means the RAF needs to test recruiting “18- and 19-year-olds straight out of the PlayStation bedroom” to operate the weapons.
Air Marshal Greg Bagwell, a former RAF deputy commander of operations, disclosed that the psychological pressure on drone operators in the UK was such that some had quit due to mental stress or illness. Continue reading
“The Hostile Use of Drones by Non-State Actors Against British Targets,” a new report by the Oxford Research Group’s Remote Control Project.
Chris Abbott, the lead author of the report and visiting research fellow at Bradford University’s School of Social and International Studies, said: “The use of drones for surveillance and attack is no longer the purview of state militaries alone. A range of terrorist, insurgent, criminal, corporate and activist groups have already shown their desire and ability to use drones against British targets.”
The Ministry of Defence told the Sunday Herald that it will not investigate reports of deaths on the ground in Syria and Iraq – from anyone but UK military personnel, and ‘local forces’ deemed friendly.
The UK Government is being urged to launch an immediate investigation after independent monitoring group Airwars reported between 72 and 81 civilian deaths in Iraq could be linked to British air strikes.
It is reported by Guardian that the Pentagon’s internal watchdog has questioned the air force’s increased spending on drones, suggesting its $8.8 billions spending on 46 armed Reaper drones is a waste of money.
As purchases of General Atomics’s MQ-9 Reaper ballooned from 60 aircraft in 2007 to the current 401, air force officials did not justify the need for an expanding drone fleet, the Pentagon said.
During that time, costs for purchasing one of the signature counter-terrorism weapons of Barack Obama’s presidency increased by 934%, from $1.1bn to more than $11.4bn, according to a declassified September report by the Pentagon inspector general. Purchasing costs are a fraction of what the drones cost to operate and maintain over their time in service: in 2012, the Pentagon estimated the total costs for them at $76.8bn.
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David Cronin, “Why is Europe obsessed with drones?,” Al Jazeera, 19 December 2013
Despite the economic crisis, the EU is facing serious lobbying to boost its defence spending.
Every time the West contemplates going to war, it’s a safe bet that “defence analysts” will pop up in the press bemoaning how Europe is militarily weaker than the United States. …
The 28-country bloc is under pressure from the arms industry to boost investment in drones. If this doesn’t occur “it’s quite inevitable that the defence base will further deteriorate,” Tom Enders, head of the Franco-German weapons producer EADS has warned. …
Dr Rafeef Ziadah from War on Want talks to Afshin Rattansi, the host of Going Underground, about the UK’s billion pound drones deal with Israel and the incompetence of the companies involved when it comes to getting them ready on schedule.
Craig Whitlock, “Drone strikes killing more civilians than U.S. admits, human rights groups say,” The Washington Post, 22 October 2013
Two influential human rights groups say they have freshly documented dozens of civilian deaths in U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen, contradicting assertions by the Obama administration that such casualties are rare.
Ben Quinn, “MoD study sets out how to sell wars to the public,” The Guardian, 26 September 2013
The armed forces should seek to make British involvement in future wars more palatable to the public by reducing the public profile of repatriation ceremonies for casualties, according to a Ministry of Defence unit that formulates strategy.
Other suggestions made by the MoD thinktank in a discussion paper examining how to assuage “casualty averse” public opinion include the greater use of mercenaries and unmanned vehicles, as well as the SAS and other special forces, because it says losses sustained by the elite soldiers do not have the same impact on the public and press.
Tara McKelvey, “How Buck McKeon created a global drone enterprise,” BBC News Magazine, 2 August 2013
Many countries, including China and Israel, make drones. Yet the US is the world’s leader in creating technology for drones and in promoting their use – for both military and civilian purposes. The interest in drones in the US crosses political lines, with both Democrats and Republicans investing in the aircraft. …
Less well known, however, is the fact that drones are used in the civilian airspace over the US, UK and Europe.
It is a growing, if under-reported, trend. Many of the drones used in Pakistan, along with those sent to Afghanistan, now have a permanent home in the US. These drones are turned over to civilians who work for the federal Customs and Border Protection agency, police departments, and other government offices.
The story of how drones became a robust niche in domestic law enforcement – and part of the commercial world as well – is rooted in Washington DC. Indeed, the rise of the drone can be traced in part to one man, Howard “Buck” McKeon.
Cora Currier, “Who Are We at War With? That’s Classified,” ProPublica, July 26 2013
The director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s national security project talks about why the Obama administration’s drone assassinations are not just illegal in many cases, but are becoming increasingly risky for the US itself.
Watch the short interview here.
Richard Engel and Robert Windrem, “CIA didn’t always know who it was killing in drone strikes, classified documents show,” NBC News, 05/06/2013
The CIA did not always know who it was targeting and killing in drone strikes in Pakistan over a 14-month period, an NBC News review of classified intelligence reports shows.
Chris Woods, “Leaked Pakistani report confirms high civilian death toll in CIA drone strikes,” The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, July 22 2013
A secret document obtained by the Bureau reveals for the first time the Pakistan government’s internal assessment of dozens of drone strikes, and shows scores of civilian casualties.
Spencer Ackerman, “US drone strikes more deadly to Afghan civilians than manned aircraft“, The Guardian, 2 July 2013
A study conducted by a US military adviser has found that drone strikes in Afghanistan during a year of the protracted conflict caused 10 times more civilian casualties than strikes by manned fighter aircraft.