Tag Archives: Armed UAS

Armed UAS drones need no defending

Predator Unmanned Attack VehicleI was curious about the etymology of the term “drone” applied to military (& DHS) Unmanned Aerial Surveillance aircraft, these days, mostly Armed. Obviously Armed UAS are not named after the stingless unproductive bees whose task it is to impregnate the queen, nor lazy idlers, nor clueless computer sales techies, nor thankless menial worker drones. Anyone who’s been around Radio Controlled model planes knows drones are named for the sound they make, a steady drone as they labor across the sky. While military aerial surveillance predates the Wright Brothers, and RC model airplanes have been around for half that time, it took the advent of asymmetric warfare to open the window to military drones. Their constant buzz offering the most intractable reason.

By “asymmetric” I do not mean the US intelligence code for off-textbook warfare, for counter-insurgency methods outside von Clausewitz etiquette. I mean the inherency they obscure, war between foes lopsided.

Look at a drone’s design. It’s more Gossamer Condor than military aircraft. Obviously an unmanned vehicle comprises fewer mechanical systems because it doesn’t need to propel, nor sustain, a crew of human beings. It might need less armature for the same reason, except of course, today’s drones are of high value in their own right. So why no armament?

Why too, no powerful jet engines or swept wings for aeronautic superiority? This drone looks about as robust as a paper glider. Laymen can distinguish bombers from jet fighters, as they can trucks from a race cars. I’d say the military drone resembles more a stick insect than its accidental namesake the bee. Do Armed UASs have no need for evasive maneuver capability?

I’ll ask another obvious question, why do drones carry no customary insignia designating to whose side it belongs? In particular this element would be of primary importance when encountered by other aircraft.

But a drone doesn’t encounter enemy aircraft, nor allied aircraft who might confuse it for belonging to an adversary, because drones operate where aerial supremacy is already absolute. The key to a drone’s military usefulness is that there is no opponent to shoot it down.

An Armed UAS can drone all it wants, taking its sweet time laying siege to defenseless objectives and other targets of opportunity. The US Predator or Reaper models can glide when they want to surveil in silence, although otherwise their motors project their presence with the deliberate imposition of a school hall monitor. It is more efficient to deter the placing of IEDs than to try to catch insurgents in the act.

Meanwhile all civilians are terrorized by the sound, associating it with sudden, unpredictable and often unjustified destruction and death.

The WWII German Stuka dive bomber had inverted gull wings which were thought to produce a horrifying wail as the notorious aircraft attacked city populations, Guernica among them. In fact the sound was produced by a siren the Nazis called Jericho’s Trumpet, mounted purposefully to spread fear on the ground. Like modern drones, the Stuka were not designed to fend off attackers from the sky.

Before the fighter planes of WWI, artillery spotters would rise in balloons to survey the enemy trenches. From these tethered balloons, artillery strikes could be directed with increasing accuracy. These remote eyes in the sky were the rudiments of aerial surveillance, the precursors to today’s Armed UAS. The balloons were manned obviously, and they weren’t armed, but the spotters they held aloft were despised much as drones are today. When WWI biplanes eventually came along to pick off the balloonists like sitting ducks, the soldiers in the trenches were jubilant.

When the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, the Taliban had been fortified by the US military. We’d helped the Taliban destabilize the region, to force Russia’s hand in rushing to restore order to its southern neighbor. We wanted to draw the Russian troops in before we assisted the Afghan insurgency with the real weapons it needed to combat their invaders’ superior fire power. When Bin Laden’s Mujihadeen and the Taliban got US Stinger Missiles, the Russians could no longer deploy their helicopter gunships with impunity and the end drew near.

Eventually whoever drew the US into its war on Islam, is going to start distributing the means to take the US out. It might be Stinger Missiles or a modern equivalent. Eventually someone will develop sympathy for the victimized Muslims of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Gaza (add Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, etc) and help them flick the killer drones from the sky.

Would attacking the drones provide retribution enough, knowing that the real operators are safe in virtual cockpit command centers located safely within US homeland borders. Would it be sufficient to keep clearing the skies of drones, or will our victims have to weed US drones from the roots?

Will the drones prove as easily replaceable as GIs? The American Public keeps count of its lost soldiers, but in no way has this stanched the flow of fresh reinforcements. We do not count expended ordnance, or expensive equipment fallen casualty. Would such tallies discourage the war mongers or encourage weapons industry stockholders?

The American public has shown itself mostly contemptuous of the economic-draft soldiers who man today’s volunteer army, the deaths accumulate, but working poor are expendable. What about those who joined the military to clean up their act? We don’t want those back. After years of war, the public is already seeing too much PTSD, without contemplating bringing all of it home.

Perhaps instead Americans will react to a casualty list of aeronautic losses, maybe for reasons of pure economics. How many helicopters and jets we are losing adds to the federal deficit. But the losses of big equipment might offer the same decision making information we glean from the higher value chess pieces. Rooks and knights represent offensive capability. Hopes for victory or a draw hinge on which of those you have left. No one capitulates based on a count of their pawns. The cumulative tallies will reflect which way the tide is going. Military drones may be worth zero lives, but their destruction will signal an insurgence indomitable.

What happens on the dark side of the moon, stays on the dark side of the…

What was NASA’s unmanned drone codenamed L-CROSS? A Cape Canaveral thrillcraft? A military space fighter? After the moon dust has cleared –the moon dust that didn’t plume as expected– LCROSS was all of the above. The US space program is administered by the Department of Defense. What happened yesterday on the Dark Side of the Moon depends on who you believe.

Protest at discreet AFB for drones

schriever-air-force-base-coloradoCOLORADO SPRINGS- Local non-confrontational peace activists held a protest today where they knew no one would see them, and to be doubly sure, they timed it so that no commuter traffic would be passing either. Schriever AFB administrates world GPS systems, critical for military drone attacks. Local protesters feel the drones are immoral, but shhh, don’t tell anybody!? 
 
?The action was the latest of the PPJPC antiwar pacification agenda to ensnare well intentioned students and exasperated members. The program, which holds civil disobedience at a reverential arms-length, comprises regular tutoring by liberation theologists, martyr eulogists, CIA-sewn “democracy movements” and AIPAC-directed “humanitarian campaigns.”

Military drones mirror public retreat

CLOSE GUANTANAMO is being interpreted literally, meaning close just the facility, but move the detainees to illegal incarceration elsewhere. Likewise, BRING THE TROOPS HOME means pacing a withdrawal with an increased deployment of military drones to keep up the killing. That’s what the antiwar voice gets for pandering to the American preoccupation with only our own casualties. The latest Adbusters juxtaposes these surrogate killing machines with the western public’s retreat into virtual communities.

Pblks‘ Douglas Haddow had this to say in the latest issue, about the increasing use of surveillance attack drones, while the US withdraws “troops” from its militarized war zones.

…when we remove the humans from the equation — when war becomes literally inhuman — what’s left to debate? War crimes will become guiltless: a mere twisting of knobs. Slowly, with each OS update, innocent casualties will be curbed to an acceptable level. The Marine will be replaced by the computer programmer — a meek nerd so far from the action as to be absolved completely of its consequences.

With robots off fighting our wars for us, we’ll have nothing left to do but quietly sip our lattes and liten to our iPods. While somewhere, far off in the distance, a drone may or may not be dropping 50kg units of hellfire on some yet-to-be-named combatants. It’s not even post moral … it’s a Zen algorithm that melts steel.

This is a strange indicator of our retreat into the virtual when you consider that our so-called enemies are willing to sacrifice everything, their own bodies and very existence for a chance to kill one or two of our soldiers. We see their tactics as irrational, and they see us perhaps as we already are: machines.

Attack Drones: Freedom is so fucked

Armchair freedom fighters like me count on there remaining some parity between the forces of oppression and man’s inexorable drive to be free. Masses can repel the few, nonviolence can shame the hesitant, terrorism can haunt the genteel, IEDs can pick off the occupiers, training can dispatch the sentries, but how to overcome automatons? We’ve confronted impregnable drones in scifi movies, and now such drones have become reality. They’re bits of nothing in the air really, but a literal boatload of firepower has got their back.

The Economist reports that drones can monitor the activity of shoeboxes from an altitude of near-space, beyond the range of an RPG fired from a hot air balloon. A drone’s vulnerability remains its communications channels, but even intercepting those is outside the realm of non-military technology.

While drones reduce the exposure of real soldiers to harm’s way, they increase a military force’s effectiveness. Drones are lauded as cheaper to operate as conventional jet fighters, but in reality their functionality draws on greater resources. The Economist writes of a drone the size of a corporate jet called a Global Hawk, which requires a staff of 20 to 30 to operate. Many more than would be necessary inside a C130 gunship, but of course, almost all of them manning new killing devices.

So long as the empire has an unlimited budget to spend, Freedom Fighters are fucked, and terrorists will be the only recourse. The only target available to the adversary of a drone, is the command center which controls it. Be it in America, or a distant military base, that’s where the enemy will have to strike.

Or the American public will have to renounce the budget which affords this technology.

You may not be bothered by the notion that remote-operated drones can monitor human activities and rain destruction upon them when appropriate. The old, “what have I to fear if I’m doing nothing wrong?” Wait until you are the wrong side of the oppressors. Coca Cola kills union organizers in Colombia. Walmart would probably like to kill you in their parking lot if you are leaving with a shopping cart filled insufficiently relative to you debit card balance. They already know it, but a drone in their hands will give them the ability to find you.

US extrajudicial reach extends to assassination of spouses and progeny

In a demonstration that they are closing in on Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud, the US military is claiming success with a drone attack on his father-in-law’s Waziristan home, where a missile killed Mehsud’s second wife, three unidentified civilians, and wounded four children.
drone unmanned

The US has posted a $5 million bounty on the head of Mehsud, based on charges he bore responsibility in Benazir Bhutto’s 2007 assassination, and for other suicide bombings. All charges he denies, but the Taliban leader won’t face his accusers long enough for unmanned drones to launch a missile his way.

Zanghra village had been targeted by US drones before, but no bounty had yet been announced for Mehsud’s extended family members. That proved to be no indication that US drone pilots in Nevada would not be carving notches for them.

While American warriors, by doing their missile targeting from the continental US, have made legitimate military targets of Air Force bases in Nevada, California and Colorado. Now they expand the battlefield to include combatant wives, relatives and progeny. As it should be.

(Imagine the relatives and cronies of our economic-war combatants, of our war criminal leaders, and our war industry profiteers; their folks at home contemplating their own culpability and vulnerability to suffer for the crimes by which their benefactors were able to enrich them. You don’t have to be remote piloting the Predators or Reapers, nor raining the Hellfire missiles upon America’s civilian adversaries to merit responsibility — it’s enough to be hollering along to “Courtesy of the Red White and Blue.”)

And, as in the case of Baitullah Mehsud, the extra-judicial assassinations are acceptable for even non-combatants, suspected-of-crimes-only, and their family and extended family.

Barack Obama reverses to better cover up torture so that he can continue his pogrom in Northern Pakistan

obama-white-house.jpg Now you see them, now you don’t! The Magician, Mr CHANGE, is playing the American liberal public as a motley gang of rubes and is getting away with it. All is silent on the liberal front. So that is why the Obama U-turn on abuse photographs can happen as liberals sit by with thumbs up their rear ends as their president escalates GWOT (the so-called global war on terrorism) into Pakistan. He has now put up to 1,500,000 people out of their homes and on the road to nowhere.

Barack Obama is a BOMB guided by Democratic Party politician hack drones like Biden, Pelosi, and Hillary and meanwhile the pogrom will fly overhead against the Pashtuns. All an economic stimulus to the war industries. Barack has started an American called pogrom against the Pashtun people.

What happens in Vegas, kills in Pakistan

ARMED UAS Conference May 12-13 in Las VegasHappening in Las Vegas this week: the Armed UAS Unmanned Aerial Surveillance Conference,
May 12-13, where military brass can catch up on the latest remote killing devices proving so, so popular with Pakistanis right now. (I heard a correspondent relate that the US drone attacks in Pakistan were making the people there “very, very, very, very angry.”) Wouldn’t what happens in Vegas –at a conference center or a climate controlled, video-console barcalounger at a base nearby— be akin to a terrorist training camp in the remote Hindu Kush mountains, where militants made plans to terrorize a civilian populace from afar?

Pioneering human shields since 9-11-01

WTC 911 terrorist attackWard Churchill called them Little Eichmanns, but if that’s giving the World Trade Center workers too much credit, at minimum they were human shields, masking the Command & Control Center of America’s economic war machine.
 
The US military is quick to blame its foes for using human shields, to explain the collateral damage we always inflict –Iraq, the Taliban, Hamas, Hezbollah– but who more deliberately than the USA? The huge weapons industry makes all fifty states legitimate military targets, and now because armed drones are piloted from US soil, the homeland war zone extends into our homeland, for which the American public is the human shield.

Greg Mortenson encircles Swat Province, US drones launched from Baluchistan

Pakistan showing Swat encirclement by CAI and Shamsi Airport in Bandari Baluchistan
Not many maps show the location of the Pakistani airport from which US drones are launched against targets in Afghanistan and Pakistan. To plot the Shamsi Airport in Baluchistan, I started with a graphic supplied by the Central Asian Institute (CAI) showing Greg Mortenson’s school building projects, which appear to encircle the Taliban resurgent Swat Province, where schools are a battleground.

Recognize the map above? It’s an updated diagram of CAI’s progress in northern Pakistan, making it all the more clear that school-building is taking point in our Western incursion in Southwest Asia.

Think-tank pundits are describing the Southwest Asian conflict as having become the Afghanistan and Pakistan War. With 17,000 more US troops moving in (who knows how many more contractor mercenaries), Europe pulling its NATO soldiers out, and Kyrgyzstan ousting our base, we might as well become more familiar with Pakistan.

dronesBy the way, the furor about our military use of the Shamsi Airport has more to do with where we are deploying the drones. The US was given permission by the Pakistani government to use several bases in Pakistan from which to direct our attacks on Afghanistan. The bases are in Karachi, Jacobabad, Pasni and Dalbadin. Shamsi is noteworthy because it is being used by the CIA, and because its drones are monitoring regions in Pakistan itself.

We need zoom out only a little from this map to see that the US actions here are part of an encirclement strategy against China, Russia, and to the West, Iran!

Air National Guardsmen are aiming Preditor and Reaper Drones from home

Bush has brought the Global War On Terrorism to American shores! Air National Guardsmen deployed at stateside bases are piloting and aiming the Predator and Reaper drones against peoples in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and victims yet unreported. Do you doubt they might be Filipinos, Colombians, Bolivians and South Georgians? If any of those aforementioned want to defend themselves, they could only attack those shooting at them from Arizona, California, Nevada and Texas.

Residents of those states should know they are living in war zones if they live adjacent these installations. Do you know any of these soldiers? The specialists who guide and track the munitions directly to their target’s alarmed faces are called “Sensor Operators” and have been experiencing PTSD right at home!

214th Reconnaissance Group
Tucson, Arizona

163rd Reconnaissance Wing & 196th Reconnaissance Squadron
March Air Reserve Base, California

432nd Reconnaissance Wing
Creech Air Force Base, Nevada

14th Reconnaissance Wing
Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base, Houston, Texas

In case the CBS article is removed, we’ll mirror it here:

The Air National Guardsmen who operate Predator drones over Iraq via remote control, launching deadly missile attacks from the safety of Southern California 7,000 miles away, are suffering some of the same psychological stresses as their comrades on the battlefield.

Working in air-conditioned trailers, Predator pilots observe the field of battle through a bank of video screens and kill enemy fighters with a few computer keystrokes. Then, after their shifts are over, they get to drive home and sleep in their own beds.

But that whiplash transition is taking a toll on some of them mentally, and so is the way the unmanned aircraft’s cameras enable them to see people getting killed in high-resolution detail, some officers say.

“When you come in (with a fighter jet) at 500-600 mph, drop a 500-pound bomb and then fly away, you don’t see what happens,” said Col. Albert K. Aimar, who is commander of the 163rd Reconnaissance Wing here and has a bachelor’s degree in psychology. “Now you watch it all the way to impact, and I mean it’s very vivid, it’s right there and personal. So it does stay in people’s minds for a long time.”

He said the stresses are “causing some family issues, some relationship issues.” He and other Predator officers would not elaborate.

But the 163rd has called in a full-time chaplain and enlisted the services of psychologists and psychiatrists to help ease the mental strain on these remote-control warriors, Aimar said. Similarly, chaplains have been brought in at Predator bases in Texas, Arizona and Nevada.

In interviews with five of the dozens of pilots and sensor operators at the various bases, none said they had been particularly troubled by their mission, but they acknowledged it comes with unique challenges, and sometimes makes for a strange existence.

“It’s bizarre, I guess,” said Lt. Col. Michael Lenahan, a Predator pilot and operations director for the 196th Reconnaissance Squadron here. “It is quite different, going from potentially shooting a missile, then going to your kid’s soccer game.”

Among the stresses cited by the operators and their commanders: the exhaustion that comes with the shift work of this 24-7 assignment; the classified nature of the job that demands silence at the breakfast table; and the images transmitted via video.

A Predator’s cameras are powerful enough to allow an operator to distinguish between a man and a woman, and between different weapons on the ground. While the resolution is generally not high enough to make out faces, it is sharp, commanders say.

Often, the military also directs Predators to linger over a target after an attack so that the damage can be assessed.

“You do stick around and see the aftermath of what you did, and that does personalize the fight,” said Col. Chris Chambliss, commander of the active-duty 432nd Wing at Creech Air Force Base, Nev. “You have a pretty good optical picture of the individuals on the ground. The images can be pretty graphic, pretty vivid, and those are the things we try to offset. We know that some folks have, in some cases, problems.”

Chambliss said his experience flying F-16 fighter jets on bombing runs in Iraq during the 1990s prepared him for his current job as a Predator pilot. But Chambliss and several other wing leaders said they were concerned about the sensor operators, who sit next to pilots in the ground control station. Often, the sensor operators are on their first assignment and just 18 or 19 years old, officers said.

While the pilot actually fires the missile, the sensor operator uses laser instruments to guide it all the way to its target.

On four or five occasions, sensor operators have sought out a chaplain or supervisor after an attack, Chambliss said. He emphasized that the number of such cases is very small compared to the number of people involved in Predator operations.

Col. Rodney Horn, vice commander of the 14th Reconnaissance Wing at Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base near Houston, said his unit went out of it way to impress upon sensor operators the sometimes lethal nature of the job. “No one’s walking into it blind,” he said.

Master Sgt. Keith LeQuire, a 48-year-old sensor operator here, said the 163rd asks prospective sensor operators whether they are prepared for the deadly serious mission. “No one’s been naive enough to come in to interview but not know about that aspect of the job,” he said.

Unlike soldiers living together in the war zone, the Predator operators do not have the close locker-room-style camaraderie that allows buddies to talk about the day’s events and blow off steam. But many Predator operators at Creech employ a decompression ritual during the long ride home, said Air Force Lt. Col. Robert P. Herz.

“They’re putting a missile down somebody’s chimney and taking out bad guys, and the next thing they’re taking their wife out to dinner, their kids to school,” said Herz, a Ph.D. who interviewed pilots and sensor operators for a doctoral dissertation on human error in Predator accidents.

“A lot of them have told me, `I’m glad I’ve got the hour drive.’ It gives them that whole amount of time to leave it behind,” Herz said. “They get in their bus or car and they go into a zone _ they say, `For the next hour I’m decompressing, I’m getting re-engaged into what it’s like to be a civilian.'”

Col. Gregg Davies, commander of the 214th Reconnaissance Group in Tucson, Ariz., said he knows of no member of his team who has experienced any trauma from launching a Predator attack.

Himself a Predator pilot, Davies said he has found the work rewarding. The Arizona Air National Guard unit flies Predators in both the Iraq and Afghanistan war zones. It has often provided protection for American convoys, and its personnel have seen insurgents planting roadside bombs.

“If we can have an effect there where we can take people out, that’s a real plus in terms of saving American lives,” Davies said. “Our folks look at it as they’re in the fight, they’re saving lives. They don’t feel too bad about that.”