Drone warfare and the technological experiments used in the Middle East continues to be a controversial matter around the world. This started the new frontier the U.S. military was to engage in, in fighting terrorist around the world without boots on the ground resulting in loss of military personnel. The methods and operations of the equipment is continually questioned on the dangers and capabilities of the technological innovation. The use of drones as a modern military weapon on the fight against terrorism in the Middle East region are intended for preventing militant and terrorist activities. The impact of newer and innovative technology used to strategize and enhance combat experience.
To reference different types of drones, the U.S. military utilize the following designations: UAUs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) or RPAs (Remotely Piloted Aerial Systems). Drones are typically secured and under restricted supervision used where manned flights are too dangerous as well as problematic to perform. “These advanced technologically machines provide troops with 24 hours “eye in the sky”, weekly and each UAV can stay aloft for over 17 hours at a time, circling over an area, while transferring back real-time signals and what may be occurring on ground” (BBC). The U.S. military under President George W. Bush began the use of unmanned aircraft, which has doubled under President Barrack Obama’s administration which is still currently practiced to the same extent in the current administration.
The use of drones or unmanned vehicles has become central tenet of U.S. foreign policy. To determine how the U.S., utilize drones in targeted area is an ongoing study that continues to develop in research. The focus on five different countries, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia are locations that are surrounded and impacted using various types of the technology. Advanced technology systems and machines are used widespread by the United States. The United States use of armed drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in its war with Al-Qaeda and its hostility has resulted in substantial dispute around the world and the United States. One side of the debate is the U.S. government under President Obama and now President Trump and advocated of the use of armed drones have argued that the use of drones against terrorists is extremely effective. Advocates believe drones are cheaper than manned aircraft and they reduce risk to pilots. These drones can be maintained easily while also not requiring soldier in sight looking for terrorist in terrains that are hard to navigate.
During President Obama’s time in office, he defended the use of drones as a substitute for pilots in certain deadly operations. The administration went further to defend the actions by contrasting the reasons behind the drone program and the implication that the use of these advanced technology saves more lives than before based on the massive cost and casualties caused during the war in Iran and Afghanistan. Addressing the economic argument, the use of drones as a weapon of fighting terrorist in the Middle East and Africa is seen as a way for the government to reduce money spent on wars and the most significant and obvious reasons as to the number of casualties decreasing. Among the terrorist killed were leader of Al-Qaeda, Taliban and associated group. The U.S. Air force has recently begun referring to larger UAS predator, Reaper and Global Hawk as RPA to highlight the technological drones are being controlled by military personnel or operative.
The criticism of drones strikes, particularly after the increase in the use, legal scholar lawyers, human rights organization and foreign government, those being directly affected by the missiles and bombings, as a result kill innocent citizens. The number of civilian casualties between the Bush and Obama administration inquired on the efficiency of drone strikes in killing revolutionaries. On June 23, 2009, for instance, “an attack on a funeral in South Waziristan killed 50 non-combatants” (Wall Street Journal, 2009). Situations such as these are what scholars point to as collateral damage in the use of drones as a weapon to target terrorist who most times interact with regular citizens, who then become victims of the strike. The Obama Administration, at a point in his second term, enforced a decrease and dependence on drones, which generally is the weapon of choice for the administration in the fight against terrorist. Critics, however, remain skeptical, claiming that drones add to the killings of innocent citizens, which alienates allied government, that sets an unsafe example that is negligent of the state actors and government who obtain or develop their own drone and abuse them.
The United States may find that conflict arises when interfering and using the tactics of drones to subdue other countries. According to data compiled by the New American Foundation, “since President Obama had been in the White House in 2013, U.S. drone have killed an estimated 3,300 Al Qaeda, Taliban and other Jihadist operatives in Pakistan and Yemen” (Bowden, 2013). The U.S. military uses two crucial drone types in the MQ-1B predator and the MQ-9 Reaper. These two planes carry a numerous sensor “in their bulbous noses color and black and white television, cameras, image intensifiers, radar, infra-red imaging for low light conditions and lasers for targeting” (Bowden, 2013). They are capable of being harmed with laser-guided missiles. Drones as a weapon of warfare to combat pockets of resistance in the war against terrorism in the Middle East, appears to signal the direction of the U.S. military intelligence in the past two Administrations, which they find to be effective.
Drones are unmanned; therefore, they are not unpiloted trained crews that are at base steer the craft, analyze the images which the cameras on the drones provide back and act on what is being interpreted. A drone can be controlled thousands of miles away from operation, for example, several of the drone missions in Afghanistan are controlled from Creech air force base in Nevada, USA. Drones among several other tools has undercut terrorist’s ability to communicate with each other and recruit and train new individuals is not an easy and open process in comparison to when the United States had thousands of troops on the ground to avoid using electronic devices or gathering in large numbers. The militants maintained complete silence of all wireless contact and avoided gathering in an open area according to a tip sheet located among Jihadists in Mali. Leaders of the Jihadist group and other terrorist organizations are unable to give orders when they are incommunicado and training on a large scale is nearly impossible to co-ordinate when a drone strike could wipeout an entire group of new recruits.
Drones was successful to an extent in the fight of the Middle East and Africa, that it has turned Al Qaeda’s command and training structure into a liability, forcing the different groups to choose between having no leader and risking having a dead leader. The sustained advancement of drones and the reports provided by the media regarding drones targeting leaders of terrorist organizations and the strangling of their cash flow is apparent. Alterative to drove strikes are either too risky or unrealistic, according to the U.S. military. Supporters of the use of drones believe the U.S. cannot engage in the typical scenarios where a militant would be captured alive, allowing authorities to question them and search their compounds for vital information.
Raids, arrest and interrogation can produce significant intelligence, but that depends on the government in question. Stable countries where the United States appreciate the support of the host government tend to not require the use of drones to the extent in which it is being used in war zones or unstable countries, such as Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. Arresting militants is dangerous and even if successful, it generally shows inefficient and ineffective. In some instances, the government in Pakistan aided the militants in fighting the United States military which makes it necessary for the U.S. to use drones in those specific countries. Both sides of the debate on the use of drones have solid and weak arguments.
The use of drones as a weapon in fighting terrorist around the world is necessary if regulated and tightly monitored by the highest levels within the United States military and the intelligence institutions. Every military specialist will agree that Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, or drones, are the future of warfare. Military drones are so varied that no single company or country, dominates their manufacture and while some countries have drones in their military arsenals, only a few have armed drones. Insect-sized spy machines have been hovering over battlefields for several years now. An example of the insect-sized spy machine is the one inch by four-inch Black Hornet, which British soldiers have been using to look over walls and around corners in Afghanistan since 2013.
Soldiers can control the tiny helicopter from a small handheld terminal, which also shows images from its three cameras. Another example of a small tactical drone is the FULMAR, a lightweight surveillance drone that flies for 12 hours and a range of 90 miles, depending on what the machine is carrying. The U.S. military preferred a small tactical drone, which is the RAVEN, made by the U.S. company AeroVironment. A subsequent type of drone is the medium-sized reconnaissance drones. These drones are often referred to as MALE or HALE drones, which stands for medium ‘Medium Altitude Long Endurance’ or ‘High Altitude Long Endurance’. Heron is a common drone in this class made by the Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI). “Heron weighs over 1,000 kilos and has a wingspan of over 16 meters and can fly for up to 52 hours at a height of 35,000 feet around the same height as a commercial airline” (BBC).
Countries such as India, United States, Canada, Turkey and Australia have bought Herons for tactical and reconnaissance use. The LUNA is another common medium sized reconnaissance drone made by the German Company, EMT Penzberg. This reconnaissance drone can be relied on for several thousand hours of air time in Afghanistan and Kosovo since the early 2000s. The machine is cheaper than the Herons, but its range is only around 100 miles which is much less than the Herons (BBC). Some middle eastern countries own the LUNA’s which are Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. The large combat and surveillance drones are the most common well-known military drones. They are large scale combat drones used by the U.S. and is operated in U.S. soil by pilots via a satellite link-up.
The two most common large combat and surveillance drones are the Predator and Reaper. The Reaper is larger in size compared to the Predator, both drones are made in the United States by a firm known as General Atomics, are armed and used for controversial extrajudicial killings in countries where the U.S. is not officially at war. Although, a drone strike may violate the local state’s sovereignty, it does so to a lesser degree than would put U.S. boots on the ground or conduct a large-scale air campaign. These large combat and surveillance drones carry a grenade like warheads creating smaller, more precise blast zones that decrease the risk of unexpected damage and civilian causalities, compared with a 500-pound bomb dropped from a traditional warplane. Reapers can be armed with various air-to-surface missiles, as well as laser-guided bombs, it has a range of over a thousand miles and a maximum non-stop flight time of 14 hours.
The Chinese military made a replica of the Reapers, which they call CH-4, has been bought by Iraq and Egypt while the American made Reapers are used by mostly NATO air force, including those of the United Kingdom, Spain, France and the Netherlands. The most sophisticated large combat and surveillance drone is made by Northrop Grumman, known as Global Hawk. The Global Hawk is the most expensive and largest in its class. Unit cost have reached a staggering $131 million even without the ground infrastructure.
The Global Hawk flies above regular commercial airplanes at an altitude of up to 18,000 meters. This drone, although used by the military, primarily performs signal surveillance in a conflict zone. The military role of unmanned aircraft system is growing at an unparalleled rate. In 2005, tactical and theater-level unmanned aircraft alone had flown over 100,000 flight hours and counting. In support of operation enduring freedom and operation Iraqi freedom. The effects of the use of drones is still in the early stages and literature is currently developing on the subject. New reporting, newspaper articles and journal articles have brought attention on the positive and negative effects of drones as a weapon in modern warfare.
Both sides of the argument raise valuable points and concerns. Regulation and proper use of the technology is essential in gaining public trust. Controlling the spread of drone technology will prove impossible based on drones being highly capable weapons that are easy to produce. The chances of the United States and its European allies stopping the use of drones in other military allies from acquiring the machine and advanced technology is improbable.