Showing posts with label drones. Show all posts
Showing posts with label drones. Show all posts

Sunday, October 2, 2016

U.S. Airstrike in Afghanistan Kills 15 Civilians

According to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) a U.S. airstrike (probably an unmanned drone) killed 15 civilians in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan.  A U.S. drone strike against ISIS in eastern Afghanistan this past Wednesday (28 Sept 2016) was targeting insurgents. Sources indicate that 18 to 21 people were killed. Many of those struck were civilians according to the police chief of Achin district where the attack took place. At least 13 civilians were wounded. The group was in a compound visiting an elder who had just returned from Hajj. (Reuters, Sep 28, 2016). Read the UNAMA press release.

In addition, the Ministry of Defense (MoD) said on Thursday (Pajhwok, Sep 29, 2016) that the drone was carried out on Islamic State elements based on intelligence information. The MoD has appointed a commission to investigate the claims of civilian deaths. The United States is conducting its own review of the airstrike.

Sunday, March 13, 2016


Drone Playbook. The Obama administration has a agreed to release a redacted version of a policy that the president issued in 2013 laying out basic principles for the lethal U.S. drone operations overseas. The Presidential Policy Guidance document is being released due to pressure (another court case) from that very patriotic and security conscious organization known as the American Civil Liberties Union. Read more in "Obama to release drone 'playbook'", March 5, 2016.

Killing by Remote Control. Alex Harris examines the increasing reliance of western countries on technological solutions to complex problems. Read Killing by Remote Control: Western Countries Relying on Technology in the Military, E-International Relations, March 7, 2016.

Sunday, March 6, 2016


SOCOM's Drones and GWOT. SOCOM is using drones (or UAVs) extensively in the Global War on Terror (yes, I still call it that). Read more in "Less"K money but more action for SOCOM's drones", Stars and Stripes, March 2, 2015.

OBL and the "Spy Planes". The release of another bunch of documents seized during the raid on Osama bin-Laden's compound in Pakistan reveals a certain sense of worry about U.S. drones overhead. Read more in "Reading Bin Laden's Letters: Paranoia and the 'Spy Planes Problem' ", The Diplomat, March 2, 2016.

Movie Review - Eye in the Sky. Everyone's favorite old, female actress - Helen Mirren - plays a British military officer who has been chasing a bad guy (terrorist) for years with the intent to capture. Ethical dilemmas occur when an American drone has 'eyes on'. I'll wait until it shows on Netflix; just can't be as good as the numerous 'Kill TV" episodes I have seen in man TOCs and JOCs over the years. Read a movie review of the latest drone film in "Eye in the Sky: Thriller explores ethical questions of drone warfare", Newsweek, March 11, 2016.

Sunday, February 28, 2016


CIA MQ-9 Reaper Speaks Out. One drone has spoken out about the upcoming election saying that our country needs a president who supports endless war. The UAV has stated that the U.S. needs someone who will reassert America's greatness in the world and is not afraid of using technological war machines that don't have a human touch such as - well, . . . drones. Read more in "A Reaper Drone Speaks: 'America Needs a President Who Supports Endless War'", Duffel Blog, February 27, 2016. (Caution: You are entering the satire zone!).

Critiquing Hayden's Drones. Michaen Hayden, former head of the NSA and the CIA, recently wrote of the merits of using unmanned aerial vehicles in the fight against terrorists. However some tend to disagree. One defense commentator, Micah Zenko, provides his thoughts in "Evaluating Michael Hayden's Defense of CIA Drone Strikes", Council on Foreign Relations, February 20, 2016.

Chinese CH-4 Armed Drone - Kinda, Sorta Like the MQ-9? Just how much information on U.S. military drones did China steal for its own designs? Find out in "Did China's Military Drone Technology Espionage Pay Off in the End?", The Diplomat, February 19, 2016.

U.S. Drone Crash. A UAV crashed on Kandahar airfield, Afghanistan last week. The $14-million MQ-9 Reaper was not brought down by ground fire. (Reuters, Feb 21, 2016).

Sunday, February 21, 2016

SOF News

USSOCOM and Drones. A news report provides information about how the U.S. Special Operations Command utilizes drones to do ISR and targeting. Read "US Special Operations Command lifts the lid on special mission MQ-9 Reaper", IHS Jane's 360, February 14, 2016.

Decision Time on SF NCO. "A decorated Army sergeant and Green Beret who protected an Afghan boy from a child molester in the Afghan police could find out any day whether his actions will end his career in the military". read "Decision looms for Army sergeant who protected Afghan boy", Fox News, February 19, 2016.

Russians told Location of US SOF. "The Pentagon told the Russian military where U.S. Special Forces are located in Syria with the hopes that Russian aircraft will steer clear of that area and not risk bombing American service members . . . " Let's hope the Russians don't share that information with the Hezbollah, Syrian military, and Iranian militants fighting the U.S. proxy military groups in Syria. Read more in "U.S. quietly tells Russia where American troops are located inside Syria", Military Times, February 18, 2016.

AC-130s and Lasers. Energy-directed weapons could soon be mounted on the special opns AC-130 by 2020. Read more in "Special Operations Aircraft to be Outfitted with Laser Weapon", National Defense Magazine, March 2016.

Masters of SOF. "Applications are being accepted for a 10-month master's degree program offered by the National Defense University for special operations officers, warrant officers, and noncommissioned officers. The fully accredited degree program will be conducted at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, Fort Bragg, North Carolina offered in August 2017. Read more in Army Times, February 19, 2016.

"Gray Zone" and "Occupied". A new term being bantered about by the SOF folks is the "Gray Zone". While a non-SOF guy (girl) might have trouble visualizing what type of conflict this is, an experienced SF dude would (should) have no trouble with the concept. For those impaired in this respect there is a television series on NetFlix that could be helpful. I am half-way through the ten-episode series. It is a Norwegian product (yes, English subtitles) about a Norway that is slowly being occupied by the Russians. A form of hybrid warfare that took place in Crimea and eastern Ukraine and could take place in the Baltic states (the former republics of the Soviet Union known as Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia). Read more in "Run, Freeze, Or Fight? "Occupied" and the Future of Warfare", by August Cole, War on the Rocks, February 18, 2016.

Highway to be Named for Fallen USSF Soldier. Three Rhode Island State Representatives have introduced a bill to name a stretch of highway in memory of SFC Peter McKenna - a member of 7th SFGA who was killed in Afghanistan in 2015. (News 10, Feb 17, 2016).

Canada SOF - More to Iraq. The new plan of Canada is to pull back some of its air support (six CF-18 fighter jets) but provide more SOF trainers. The Canadian special forces contingent will go from 69 to 207 personnel; a sizable increase. It appears that some help will be going to the Kurds (better than squandering it on the Iraqi government forces). In addition, more than $700 million in humanitarian aid will be provided. There will also be some equipment provided to include small arms, ammunition, and medical support for the Kurds. Read more in "Canada to Boost Spec Ops, Arms in Iraq While Withdrawing CF-18s", Defense News, February 15, 2016.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Intelligence News

Afghan Intelligence Chief Resigns. The chief of the Afghan spy agency - National Directorate of Security or NDS - has resigned amid policy differences with President Ghani. Rahmatullah Nabil submitted his resignation on Thursday, December 10, 2015. Nabil's deputy -Massoud Andrabi - has been appointed as acting chief. One constant source of friction between the NDS chief and President Ghani is the approach to Pakistan. Afghanistan's neighbor has been supporting the various insurgent groups for years - in the belief that an unstable Afghanistan is much better for Pakistan than a strong country that could possibly ally with India and/or make demands on the disposition of the Durand Line. Mr. Nabil has been heading the NDS for about five years. See "Afghanistan intelligence chief resigns amid row", BBC News, December 10, 2015. Read also "Afghan Spy Chief Quits After Denouncing Talks With Pakistan", The New York Times, December 10, 2015. See also a report from Khaama Press, Dec 11, 2015.

Problems with Drones. Thomas Ricks writes about "5 big problems with the drone programs" in Foreign Policy, December 10, 2015.

LTG (Ret) Flynn to Write Book. A high-ranking U.S. Army intelligence officer, Michael T. Flynn, will soon be writing a book on how to win the global war against radical Islam. Flynn served as the intelligence officer for the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), as the G2 for ISAF in Afghanistan, and is the a former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. He is at odds with the Obama administration in their handling the fight against Islamic terrorism and the conflicts in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan. Read "Michael T. Flynn Inks Deal With St. Martin's Press", GalleyCat, December 9, 2015.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

ANDSF to Get ScanEagle UAS

ScanEagle UAV
The Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) will receive eight ScanEagle Unmanned Aircraft Systems. The drones will be supplied by Insitu through a $70.9 million contract. Insitu will provide the eight systems which will include 65 air vehicles, some spares, support equipment and a ground training facility in Afghanistan. The ScanEagle carries either an electro-optical or an infrared camera in a gyro-stabilized turret. The camera has full pan, tilt, and zoom capabilities and allows the operator to track both stationary and moving targets. This is in the smaller class of UAVs - only 4 feet long and 10 feet wide (wing span). It can loiter above a battlefield for as long as 24 hours.

The sale was awarded under the U.S. Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program. Insitu, Inc. is a subsidiary of Boeing Aircraft. Work is expected to be completed in June 2018. Ummm, considering the present security situation on the ground I would have to say that is a long way off. Perhaps we should have considered fielding a small UAV (like the Shadow?) for the Afghans back in . .  say . . . 2005, . . . or 2010, . . . or 2013. They would have them right now. Hopefully some smart guy at Resolute Support HQs has figured out how to train the Afghan operators and maintenance personnel prior to the systems being fielded (Don't count on it!). Read "Insitu wins $70.9M ScanEagle order", C4ISR & Networks, December 1, 2015.

Learn more about the ScanEagle UAS at the following link:

Sunday, November 29, 2015


Civilian Pilots for ISR Drones. The Air Force has hired civilian defense contractors to fly MQ-9 Reaper drones to help track suspected militants and other targets. The contractors are now operating combat air patrols above military areas of operation to provide video and other types of intelligence data. The Air Force says that the civilian drone pilots don't fire off any weapons systems; that they are only conducting Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions. Read more in "Air Force hires civilian drones pilots for combat patrols; critics question legality", Los Angeles Times, November 27, 2015.

NATO Drone Crashes in Afghanistan. A drone crashed in the Kohi Safi district of Parwan province on Tuesday, November 24th. Some news reports say that the drone was of the Reaper variety.

RPA Officer Pay to Go Up. Congress has ordered the Air Force to increase aviation incentive pay for pilots flying drones from $25,000 to $35,000. The pay increase is part of the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act. (Air Force Times, Nov 27, 2015).

Drone Strikes. An Afghan official says that a U.S. drone strike in eastern Afghanistan killed at least 16 militants. The air attack was in an area known as Gagi Mountain near the Pakistani border in Khost province. (Gandara Blog, November 27, 2015).

Heron Drone Still Active in Afghanistan. The German Air Force (Luftwaffe) is still operating the Heron UAS out of Mazar-e-Sharif. The drone provides a real-time video feed via satellite data link to the TAAC-North Joint Operations Center (JOC) located at Camp Marmal at MeS. Read more in "Heron 1 Chalks Up 25,000 Flight Hours in Afghanistan", ASDNews, November 27, 2105.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

SOF News

Green Beret Officer Retires After Cleared of Wrongdoing. A decorated Special Forces officer who was investigated by the Army for whistleblowing to Congress about the government's broke hostage-recovery process has retired from the U.S. Army. His retirement was held up by the Army while an ill-advised months-long investigation ensued. The investigation, a warrant-less and inane act of bureaucracy, finally cleared LTC Jason Armerine of wrongdoing. Armerine and his 12-man Special Forces team linked up with Hamid Karzai in the fall of 2001, defeated a number of Taliban formations in the field, and entered Kandahar as liberators. Three members of the operational detachment were killed during this timeframe. Karzai later became President of Afghanistan. Read more in "Green Beret investigated for whistleblowing retires", Army Times, November 2015.

50 SF Soldiers Heading to Syria as Advisors - but "It's not Combat"! Some U.S. special operations troops are going to be coordinating local fighter movements with U.S.-led coalition efforts against Islamic State militants. They will assist local Syrian forces (Arabs, Kurds, and Turkmen fighters) in tactics, operational planning, and logistics. They probably will assist in controlling air support as well. But this is not "combat". Hmmm. Red more in "White House: No Combat Missions for US Troops in Syria", Voice of America, November 2, 2015.

Drones Continue Advisory Mission in Syria. US officials remain adamant that the increase of operations and air support in Syria do not indicate a change in US policy. White House Press Secretary Josh Ernest was emphatic when he said our ". . . drones are serving in a non-combat role". Read more in "Drones in Syria 'Serving Strictly in an Advisory Role'", Duffel Blog, November 2, 2015.

Failed SF Training Program for Syrian Moderates Cost $2 Million per Trainee. While the price tag may be an exaggeration certainly the program was not a success. Read more in "Pentagon's failed Syria program cost $2 million per trainee", USA Today,  November 5, 2015.

Retired SF LTC Comments on Syria Mission. In a guest commentary to The Denver Post, Mitch Utterback tells us the difference that 50 Green Berets on the ground in Syria can make. Read "Don't underestimate the power of U.S. special operations", November 2, 2015.

SF Working "Coffee Breath Close". An example of "advise and assist" going right can be found in the effort by SOCAfrica to reduce the threat from African warlord Joseph Kony. His force of 3,000 has been whittled down to about 200 hardcore fighters. Read more in "What the Syrian Train-and-Equip Effort Could Learn from US Ops in Africa"Defense One, November 2, 2015.

9th Commando Kandak Facility Under Construction. Versar, Inc. has received a $17 million construction contract from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to support construction projects in Afghanistan. (UPI, Nov 3, 2015).

7th SFGA Memorial Wall. On Friday, Nov 6th 7th SFGA had a groundbreaking for the 7th SFGA Memorial Wall. (Stars & Stripes, Nov 6, 2015).

General Votel Interview. The commander of the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) in Tampa, Florida is interviewed. (, Nov 1, 2015.

JSOU Reading Lists. The Joint Special Operations University Library has posted their "Professional Military Reading Lists" for 2016; including the USSOCOM Cdr's favorites. Also, see AWN's reading lists for Afghanistan.

SOCOM Looks to Techno Future. The US Special Operations Command in Tampa, Florida is always exploring new high tech ways of conducting special operations. Read more in "Socoms 'hackatohon' opens process of creating high-tech commando gear", The Tampa Tribune, November 4, 2015.

Cash Bonus for SOF NCOs. Special Forces Senior NCOs with a high DLPT score are now eligible for bonuses (CSRB) of up to $150K if they re-enlist from 24 to 73 months. Check out the pay graph with details at Military Times.

MSF Report on Hospital Attack. When SOF operators, supporting ANA SOF in the fight to retake Kunduz city, called in air support from an AC-130 on a hospital in Kunduz over 33 people were killed including many members of the medical staff of "Doctors Without Borders". MSF has published its Initial MSF Internal Review about the attack on the MSF Kunduz Trauma Center. Meanwhile, The Daily Beast has published an article on the incident - "Pentagon MIA on Afghan Doctors Without Borders Hospital Attack", November 3, 2015. Read also "U.S. Airstrikes in Kunduz destroyed more than a hospital", The Washington Post, November 4, 2015.

Book Review - The Lion of Sabray. An illiterate former Mujahedeen leader helped a survivor of a four-man SEAL reconnaissance element chased down by the Taliban. Lone Survivor is a book about Marcus Luttrell - a SEAL assisted by an Afghan villager. The Lion of Sabray is the story of the villager that helped Luttrell. Read a review of the book in a news story posted on Hampton, November 1, 2015.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Security News

Life in Kabul Amid the Violence. Taliban attacks and bombings within the city of Kabul have increased significantly and the population is constantly on edge. Read "Kabul families struggle to smile amid rising violence", BBC News, August 30, 2015.

Small Victories Count. Angelic Young, worked for the U.S. Department of State for over ten years serving in positions in the counternarcotics and law enforcement fields. From 2001 to 2007 she was a "frontline civilian" and served as the DoS program manager for the Afghanistan National Police Program. Looking back, she says it was hard to recall positive moments but there were some small advances that made a difference. Read her article on the "Family Response Unit" of the Afghan National Police in "In conflict environments, little wins make a difference",, August 31, 2015.

Sweden, Germany, and "Kill Decisions" in the RS HQs CJOC. Looks like there are some tensions building over the presence of coalition officers being present in the Combined Joint Operations Center (CJOC) of the Resolute Support Mission at the RS compound in Kabul. The CJOC monitors all combat operations in Afghanistan (special operations and drone strikes conducted by the U.S. military and other coalition partners) and liasion and officers from various nations are present during these activities. Some question whether this violates the national caveats that a couple of the nations have. Read more in "Germany and Sweden Are Said to to Help Make Afghan 'Kill Decisions", The New York Times, September 4, 2015.

ALP: More Funding & Scrutiny Needed. "The Afghan Local Police (ALP) are playing an increasingly important security role, but questions remain about the accountability of this new and sometimes controversial force. Speakers at a series of IWPR debates held around Afghanistan in August called for action to curb corruption and abuses in order to ensure these police units enjoyed local support". Read more in "Afghans Want More Funding for Local Police, But More Scrutiny Too", Institute for War & Peace Reporting (IWPR), September 5, 2015.

Militias in Faryab Out of Control? The multiethnic province in the northwest has been troubled by the Taliban for a few years. The Afghan police and the 209th ANA Corps have been unable to secure the province. Vice President Dostum has made it a personal mission to establish security in the province and he is relying on some militias to accomplish this. Read more in "Return of Militias to Afghan Front Lines Sparks Allegations of Abuses", Radio Free Europe, September 5, 2015.

RS HQs Counter-IED Staff. "According to a report by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, in the first six months of 2015, 22 percent of Afghan civilian casualties stemmed from improvised explosive devices. The Combined Security Transition Command - Afghanistan Counter-IED Directorate is working to change that. The Kabul-based team of coalition service members, Department of Defense civilians and contractors at Resolute Support Headquarters trains, advises and assists Afghan National Defense and Security Forces on how to identify and disarm IEDs and unexploded ordnance and collect evidence following detonation". Read more in "Empowering Afghan citizens to counter IED threats", RS News, September 5, 2015.

AAF CAS Detailed. The Afghan Air Force is increasing its capability to provide close air support but it is still a very small capability. Read more in "Afghan Air Force Hailed for Creative Operations Despite Shortfalls", Khaama Press, September 3, 2015.

13 Civilians Killed in Balkh Province. On Saturday unidentified gunmen stopped civilian vehicles and killed the occupants.

Sunday, August 9, 2015


Army Contractor Lost Three $500K drones. Although only for a brief period (eight months?) an Army contracting firm lost three (maybe four) drones before they were found. The three flying cameras were only worth 1/2 million dollars a piece; so not to worry. Read more in a news report by Motherboard, August 5, 2015. NOTE: In the midst of a war (and retrograde activities) this is really not that hard to do - losing sight of equipment. Constant mission changes, personnel replacements (both military and contractor), and unit rotations provide for constant chaos in the midst of a counterinsurgency campaign. I can recall once entering a locked up room in a storage building in Iraq in 2006 and coming across a small WASP drone that nobody could account for. It was in its original shipping box and had been at this location for a few years - never used. So we had a guy put it together, get smart on it, and sent it out to an SFODA to use during the remainder of their tour.

Drone Strike in North Waziristan. Two Pakistani intelligence officials say a suspected U.S. drone attack has killed some militants in a border area in Pakistan. Two missiles hit a militant hideout of the Haqqani Network. North Waziristan has been a refuge and sanctuary for groups such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), al-Qaeda, and Taliban insurgents. (ABC News, Aug 7, 2015).

A Smarter, Deadlier UAV. The U.S. Air Force is looking to upgrade its drone fleet with improvements to situational awareness, automation, weapons, and more. Read more in a news report by Defense News, August 5, 2015.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Counter-Terrorism & Intelligence News

Intel Reports on Bombing ISIS. New intelligence reports indicate that despite one full year of bombing the Islamic State fighters in Iraq and parts of Syria by the U.S. Air Force there has been no appreciable effect on the Islamic State's capability to conduct operations. While CENTCOM claims the number of ISIS fighters and amounts of equipment have been significant the effect on the ground has been less than expected. The Islamic State has changed up its tactics to mitigate the air attacks and their recruitment of foreign fighters is at an all time high. Reports of the Islamic State gaining a foothold in Afghanistan have made the press in the past several months. Observers are speculating on the effect of new peace talks and new Taliban leadership will have on ISIS in Afghanistan.

Destroying the ISIS Financial Network. One important aspect of counterterrorism is "Counter Threat Finance" operations or CTF. The use of CTF can significantly inhibit the operational capability of terrorist, criminal, and insurgent groups, networks, and movements. Read how to interdict the Islamic State by hitting their wallets (or pocketbooks?) in "The 21st Century Answer to "Burning their Crops and Salting their Fields": Interdicting and Destroying the ISIS Financial Network"Small Wars Journal, August 1, 2015. The article, by Greg Kleponis and Tom Creal, reflects the author's experiences while advising in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

ISIS vs Taliban. Eric Jones in SOFREP writes about how ISIS is fighting the Taliban and how the ANSF is taking the fight to both organizations., July 27, 2015.

Paper - "Global Civilization and Counterterrorism". The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point has posted a paper that examines global terrorism, order and disorder, and how we should try to combat disorder and violent extremists.

Paper - "Understanding Terrorism Today and Tomorrow". The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point has posted a paper that helps us understand what terrorism is. The article is adapted from a speech by General Joseph Votel, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, given at the CTC 2015 Senior Conference.

Former ISAF DCSINT now Cdr Fort Huachuca. MG Scott Berrier, former the head Intel guy and leader of the Essential Function 7 crowd, is now the new commander at the U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence (why can't they just say Intel school?) and Fort Huachuca. (Sierra Vista Herald, Jul 31, 2015).

"Dead Drop". In tradecraft terms, a dead drop is a location to secretly pass information without a face-to-face meeting. Recall the scene in the Godfather where Al Pacino retrieves a pistol in the restaurant men's room? That is a dead drop. "The Dead Drop" is also the name of a weekly blog that provides intelligence tidbits and Washington rumors.

Birth of Contemporary Terrorism. Brian Michael Jenkins, a renowned terrorism expert at RAND, has provided us with an informative article entitled The 1970s and the Birth of Contemporary Terrorism (July 30, 2015).

How Technology Changes Espionage. The use of computers has made the use of human intelligence (HUMINT) much more difficult (electronic passports, databases, etc.). However, the use of technology has made spying easier in some ways. Read more in "A new age of espionage", The Economist, August 1, 2015.

CIA - Gays and Lesbians Allowed. Read how the Central Intelligence Agency changed its policy in "How the CIA Came Out of the Closet", The Daily Beast, July 31, 2015.

A Resurging al-Qaeda in South Asia. The emergence of ISIS in Iraq and Syria combined with the withdrawal of the bulk of the international forces in Afghanistan have seen conditions become favorable for al-Qaeda. Read a paper on the topic entitled Resurgence of Al-Qaeda in South Asia Post-US Drawdown, Observer Research Foundation (ORF), July 2015.

Counter-terrorism in Pakistan. A recently published paper analyzes the new counter-terrorism strategy recently adopted by Pakistan - finds fault with it and provides recommendations. Read Revisiting Counter-terrorism strategies in Pakistan: Opportunities and Pitfalls, International Crisis Group, July 22, 2015.

Use of Drones to Continue Into Future. To no ones surprise the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or drones will continue far into the future - both for intelligence gathering, military applications, and commercial use. Read more in "Operating in an Era of Persistent Unmanned Aerial Surveillance", by William Selby posted on Small Wars Journal, July 31, 2015.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Drones - Refueling in Air Coming Soon!

One of the distinct advantages of a drone is the amount of time it can spend over a specific geographic area. Some variants can spend 12 to 18 hours overhead before having to return to base to refuel. Now, another milestone has been reached - refueling in the air. Drones are not that far away from being refueled in the air. This is good news for the infantryman on the ground. There have been many occasions where a unit on the ground involved in a "Troops-in-Contact" (TIC) cringed when they heard over the radio that their UAV coverage was going off-station. Read more in "A Drone Has Never Linked Up With a Tanker Until Now", by Joseph Trevithick, War is Boring, April 16, 2015.

This leads me to a random but related thought. When is the Coalition (specifically TAAC-Air) going to recognize that the Afghan National Army (or the Afghan Air Force) could benefit from a small drone package that could be employed at corps level? Maybe something similar to the GOCO package that fielded Shadows to U.S. Army brigades in Afghanistan; augmenting the BCTs organic Shadow unit.

Watch a four-minute video depicting Shadow operations by a U.S. unit at FOB Fenty (Jalalabad) in May 2013. I visited this unit at the time and the Shadow provided great coverage throughout the area - providing surveillance at routes (spotting or discouraging IED emplacement) and responding to TICs. They are not a great pre-mission reconnaissance platform in many cases because of the noise but the Shadow has its uses.

The GOCO contract for the Afghans could provide U.S. contractors operating and maintaining the Shadow package from the TAAC bases but also in conjunction with a training package developing ANA capability to fly and maintain Shadows over a two year period. So I am thinking the contractors are based on the Coalition bases at J'bad, MeS, Herat, and KAF working side-by-side with Afghan ANA Soldiers who are trained to run Shadow operations. Perhaps the intel folks found within the MI kandaks at corps level. If the Islamic State can field drones - using them to conduct reconnaissance and battlefield coordination - then I am thinking a 14 year old Army can figure it out. So we wean the Afghans off our drone capability and help them develop their own drone capability.

Oh oh. But we are only on these TAAC bases at best for one more year. Looks like we are two years too late with this idea. I guess we should have started two years ago when the war was only 12 years old.

Sorry, just thinking out loud.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Drone Strike Kills al Qaeda Hostages

Two western captives, one American and one Italian held in Pakistan by al Qaeda, were killed in a drone strike by the United States in January 2015. Warren Weinstein was an American development expert and Giovanni Lo Porto an Italian aid worker.  The American and the Italian were both held for three years or more. Some will use this event to support their argument that drone warfare is bad and immoral and ineffective. Others will point to the lack of boots on the ground, declining ability to interrogate captured prisoners, and a diminished human intelligence (HUMINT) capability as a limitation of drone warfare.

See Max  Boot's article in Commentary Magazine April 23, 2015 for more on the limits of using drones. Read a statement by the President on the deaths of Warren Weinstein and Giovanni Lo Porto, White House, April 23, 2015. Another news story details a plan that was to recover several western hostages held in Pakistan - The Washington Post, April 23, 2015.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Video - "Drones: Fact vs. Myth"

In early March at a Congressional Briefing, a panel of RAND experts seek to dispel some of the myths that have arisen with respect to the use of long-range armed drones. Some of the questions pondered include 1) Are long-range armed drones dramatically changing global warfare?, 2) How might U.S. armed drone policies shape the way other nations use armed drones?, and 3) How can preventing the potential proliferation of armed drones be balanced with future sales to allies?

Watch "The Use of Long-Range Armed Drones: Fact v. Myth", RAND Corporation, March 3, 2015. Video is 30 minutes long.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

MQ-9 Reaper Mission to Continue

Although the ISAF mission has ended - replaced by the Resolute Support Mission - there are still about 13,000 military personnel remaining in Afghanistan. And . . . the drone activity is still ongoing. The end of combat operations has meant little change for the 174th Attack Wing drone pilots of Syracuse, New York who fly remotely-operated aircraft in Afghanistan. The unit's MQ-9 Reaper drones continue to aid in intelligence-gathering missions in Afghanistan with surveillance and reconnaissance flights. Over the past year the unit flew over 4,500 hours in Afghanistan. Read more in "War in Afghanistan won't end for 174th Attack Wing drone pilots in Syracuse",, January 13, 2015.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

News - The War Isn't Really Over

Every military man's favorite news media outlet - Rolling Stone - provides us with an article discussing the use of drones and informs us that, despite White House pronouncements - the war in Afghanistan is not over. Read "Drone Rules in Afghanistan Go Unchanged, And Other Reasons the War Isn't Really Over", Rolling Stone, January 7, 2015 by John Knefel.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

U.S. Drone Fleet Almost Broke

According to senior military leaders the U.S. drone fleet is at the breaking point. Too many missions and too few drone pilots are threatening the readiness and combat capability of the United States unmanned Air Force. There are enough Predators and Reaper drones just not enough manpower. Those drone operators who are fully trained are over-worked with many leaving the service because their service careers have been damaged due to lack of professional schools, cancelled leaves, and unsatisfactory work conditions. In addition, the drones require maintenance workers to keep the UAVs flying and intelligence analysts to collect the information, analyze it, and disseminate the resulting intelligence in reports. Read more in "Exclusive: U.S. Drone Fleet at 'Breaking Point', Air Force Says", The Daily Beast, January 4, 2015.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Drone Airport in Texas

The U.S. Army is building a airport in the far Western corner of Texas - and it is solely for drones. The airport, located on Fort Bliss will have a large hangar and a 5,000 foot runway for Gray Eagle drones and a 1,000 for Shadow drones. Read more in "Army Builds Airport Just for Drones", Popular Science, December 12, 2014.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Video on History of Drones

A video about drones is available for viewing on the Popular Science website. The video (9 mins) is a brief film (animated) that highlights the century-long evolution of unmanned aircraft. Topics include early drones up to the CIA's targeted killing program in Pakistan and elsewhere. View The History of the Drone in 9 Minutes: