A soldier with the Ukrainian Army tests a drone, near Bakhmut, Ukraine, on November 25. Leah Millis/Reuters

To understand Russia and Ukraine’s very different ways of fighting, a good first place to look is up.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been described as the “first full-scale drone war.”

That description may be a little misleading – all of the ways in which we have seen drones being employed in the conflict have precedents, some of them dating back over a decade.

And this isn’t the first war in which the capabilities of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have been so thoroughly integrated into operations.

But it is true that the fighting in Ukraine represents the first long-term, sustained conflict where all the currently available uses for drones are an indispensable part of combined operations – and on both sides.…  Seguir leyendo »

A drone in Iran, August 2022. Iranian Army / WANA (West Asia News Agency) / Handout

Iranian-built drones now routinely puncture the skies over Kyiv. Elsewhere in Ukraine, Turkish- and American-manufactured drones help Ukrainian forces target Russian troops. These operations demonstrate the growing role of remote-controlled weapons in battle. The conflict also showcases how drone exports have increasingly become an instrument of diplomacy.

With drone use on the rise, states have capitalized on drone exports to increase their global clout. To be sure, this is part of an established trend: governments have long leveraged arms exports as a diplomatic tool. Beyond filling state coffers and defraying research and development costs, arms sales help states advance their foreign policy agendas.…  Seguir leyendo »

All wars have their iconic weapons, from the AK-47 to the I.E.D. In Ukraine, it’s the drone.

A vast number and variety of drones — unmanned aerial vehicles — have been used on both sides of the war, including large military-grade machines and smaller consumer models. Drone operators are the new snipers, even though they are often miles from the battlefield.

Consider a video that circulated widely on social media in the past few weeks: A drone hovers above a bomb-shattered neighborhood in Ukraine.

Below it, several troops in Russian uniforms get into a truck. The drone releases a small explosive, which plummets toward their parked truck.…  Seguir leyendo »

A Ukrainian activist carries a drone in western Lviv, Ukraine, on April 1. Aleksey Filippov/AFP via Getty Images

As the Russian military stalls in Ukraine, the Kremlin is turning to plan B: terror bombardment of civilians, an attempt to carve off parts of eastern Ukraine and the Black Sea coast, and destruction of Ukraine’s civil and industrial infrastructure. Accordingly, Kyiv needs a plan B as well. It needs long-range offensive strike options that can be deployed en masse and regenerate after attrition by Russian air defenses—something that the Ukrainian Air Force, despite its heroic efforts to date, cannot do.

Long-range, low-cost, self-manufactured kamikaze drones—produced and launched from a variety of locations throughout Ukraine’s nearly Texas-sized territory—would be a game-changer.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Revolutionary Guard Corps launches missiles in a drill in Iran on Jan. 15. (Revolutionary Guard Corps/Sepah News/AP)

A year after President Donald Trump ordered a lethal drone strike on Iranian military leader Qasem Soleimani, the Iranian government continues to vow revenge. Just last week, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, retweeted a photo of Trump golfing under the shadow of a drone or plane, with the word “vengeance” standing out in red script in the Farsi message.

The killing of Soleimani, a top Iranian military leader in a third-party country (Iraq) — without that country’s permission — raised international concerns about the growing use of targeted drone strikes. But the death of Soleimani also seemed to throw “the drone rulebook” out of the window and open the door to widespread drone misuse.…  Seguir leyendo »

Venezuelan National Guard soldiers scatter during an explosion as President Nicolás Maduro was speaking on Aug. 4 in Caracas. (Venezuelan Government TV/REUTERS)

Last week, someone tried to kill Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro using a drone. Maduro’s speech was interrupted by an explosion — video shows the camera shake, Maduro and his wife flinch, and witnesses flee in panic.

There were a few injuries in the crowd, but Maduro escaped unscathed. The Venezuelan government claims to have shot down two explosives-laden drones before they could attack. A dissident group called Soldiers in T-shirts claimed responsibility.

This marks the first attempt to kill a head of state with a small, commercially available drone.

Are drone assassinations the next terrorist weapon? Here are four things to know.…  Seguir leyendo »

Chinese media reported on the seizure of a U.S. Navy underwater drone in the South China Sea. Beijing eventually returned the drone. (U.S. Navy/CCTV via Reuters)

Last week, China seized a U.S. Navy drone. The capture signaled Beijing’s displeasure with U.S. reconnaissance in the South China Sea, but avoided endangering U.S. personnel and giving Washington a reason to escalate.

Get used to this. Attacks on remotely controlled vehicles — drones — may become a new currency for coercive diplomacy, enabling nations to challenge rivals without hurting an opponent’s military personnel — and so without risking significant escalation.

So far, states appear to react differently to drones than to manned assets, even though the two are equivalent under international law. Both unmanned and manned military vehicles can freely navigate and fly over international waters and through international airspace.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Taxi Driver’s Last Ride

When Mohammad Azam started his shift on May 21, it was just another sunny morning in Taftan, a small desert town in Pakistan’s Balochistan Province. Like taxi drivers around the world, he planned to spend this day waiting for customers, and navigating through traffic when he could find a fare. He had no idea it would be his last day alive.

By that evening, Mr. Azam’s body had been found burned to death, barely identifiable. He had the bad luck of picking up the target of an American drone strike: Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, who was then leader of the Afghan Taliban.…  Seguir leyendo »

L’utilisation de drones armés – aéronefs sans pilote à bord, commandés à distance et équipés de missiles – est en constante augmentation: aux Etats-Unis, ils sont devenus l’arme de choix de l’administration Obama pour lutter contre le terrorisme; au Royaume-Uni, le Parlement vient de rendre public un rapport détaillé à leur sujet («The Government’s policy on the use of drones for targeted killing»). La prégnance des drones est telle que ceux-ci pénètrent la culture populaire (voir, par exemple, la série télévisée Homeland et le film Eye in the Sky).

L’attrait exercé par les drones s’explique par plusieurs raisons: sur le plan technique, ils réunissent faible coût de production, grande précision et large autonomie de vol; sur le plan humain, ils permettent à l’Etat qui les utilise de préserver la vie de ses soldats.…  Seguir leyendo »

The United States has often been criticized for its use of armed drones. But in recent months, a new country has begun drawing attention. And while it has not used armed drones in combat, its increasing willingness to export the technology to other countries has serious implications for combat in the future.

Earlier this year, Nigeria confirmed using a Chinese-made CH-3 in its fight against Boko Haram, while Iraq appears to have used a CH-4 starting late 2015. In addition, Pakistan is now using a platform suspiciously resembling the CH-3, despite official reports that the drone is indigenously produced. (At the least, this probably would have required considerable collaboration from the Chinese and may have been assembled in Pakistan from Chinese-made components).…  Seguir leyendo »

President Barack Obama’s plan for closing Guantánamo, delivered to Congress on Tuesday, reaffirms his admirable desire to end before he leaves office one of the most problematic legacies of the US response to September 11. But he has yet to adequately address his own more lasting legacy in the “war on terror”: the secret killing of suspected terrorists with armed drones. On the same day the president issued his Guantánamo plan, a bipartisan task force gave him failing grades on his progress in bringing the drone program under the rule of law.

The Obama administration has made drones the weapon of choice for responding to perceived terrorist threats.…  Seguir leyendo »

En los últimos años, los vehículos aéreos no tripulados (VANT) han sido un tema corriente en la imaginación y pesadillas de personas en todo el mundo. En abril, la armada de los Estados Unidos anunció un programa experimental llamado LOCUST, (Low-Cost UAV Swarming Technology –tecnología de bajo costo de vehículos aéreos no tripulados); que de acuerdo a autoridades “abrumaría autónomamente al enemigo” y por ende ofrecería a marineros y marines una ventaja táctica decisiva”. Con un nombre y misión como esos –y dada la historia irregular ética de guerra con drones – no sorprende que a muchos les incomode una continua proliferación de robots voladores.…  Seguir leyendo »

La reciente y dramática crisis en Yemen ha provocado un debate sobre si la administración del presidente estadounidense Barack Obama cometió un error al declarar que su estrategia de lucha contra el terrorismo en dicho país – centrada en ataques con aviones no tripulados o “drones” – es un éxito. En los hechos, tal como muestra un nuevo informe titulado “Muertes causadas por drones”, incluso si la crisis actual no hubiese entrado en erupción, los daños causados por los ataques con aviones estadounidenses no tripulados a los civiles yemenís deberían ser suficientes como para llevar a EE.UU. a repensar su estrategia.…  Seguir leyendo »

Al parecer, los drones (“aviones teledirigidos”) están de repente por doquier. Han pasado zumbando por las tramas de series televisivas de suspense como 24 y Homeland, se los ha considerado una posible opción para hacer las entregas de la gigantesca minorista en línea Amazon.com, se los ha visto en acción en zonas de desastres en Haití y las Filipinas y se han cernido amenazadores sobre centrales eléctricas nucleares francesas. Esa tecnología, en tiempos secreta, ha pasado a ser casi omnipresente.

Como las autoridades de los Estados Unidos y de Europa se han comprometido a abrir el espacio aéreo civil a drones no militares, los aviones no pilotados llegarán a ser aún más comunes.…  Seguir leyendo »

In a video uploaded to YouTube on Saturday purportedly by the terrorist group ISIS, various scenes of jihadist propaganda flash across the screen: militants reading verses from the Quran and examining a map of northern Syria, clips of violent clashes and explosions.

But this video had something else in it that previous videos released by ISIS have not: Surveillance footage apparently shot by a drone.

The almost 14-minute video shows aerial views of Syrian Army Military Base 93 near Raqqa province in northern Syria.

ISIS militants attacked the base on August 7, deploying suicide bombers driving truck bombs to soften up resistance in scenes that are also shown in the videotape that was released Saturday.…  Seguir leyendo »

FILE - In this June 13, 2010, file photo a U.S. Predator unmanned drone armed with a missile stands on the tarmac of Kandahar military airport in Afghanistan. (MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AP)

To understand why U.S. drone strikes outside traditional battlefields make so many people so uneasy, look to the past and look to the future.

Start with the past. In 1976, exiled Chilean dissident Orlando Letelier was driving to work in Washington when a car bomb planted by Chilean agents ripped through his vehicle, killing Letelier and his young, American assistant. From the viewpoint of Chile’s ruling military junta, the killing was justifiable: Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s regime considered itself at war with leftist insurgents and viewed Letelier as a security threat.

U.S. authorities saw things differently, of course: They condemned the bombing as an assassination.…  Seguir leyendo »

A year ago, President Obama delivered a speech at the National Defense University in Washington in which he made the case that it was time to wind down the "boundless global war on terror " and "perpetual wartime footing" that has been a feature of American life since 9/11.

Indeed, the CIA drone program in Pakistan has stopped completely since the beginning of this year. This is a noteworthy development given the fact that there have been 370 drone strikes in Pakistan over the past decade that have killed somewhere between 2,080 to 3,428 people; most of whom were suspected militants, but also a smaller number of civilians.…  Seguir leyendo »

December 12 was supposed to be a day of celebration for the al-Ameri family. A young bride traveled to her wedding with her relatives in Bayda province, Yemen. But in a few dark seconds their celebrations were eviscerated. A U.S. drone fired at the wedding procession, destroying five vehicles and most of their occupants. Not even the bride’s car, ornately decorated in flowers for the occasion, was spared from the carnage. Senior Yemeni officials later admitted that the strike was a “mistake”.

Some mistake: Though the bride survived, the strike is said to have killed at least 14 civilians and injured 22 others, over a third of them seriously.…  Seguir leyendo »

Few defence issues have excited as much passion over recent years as military "drones". Much criticism, though, is based on genuine misunderstanding or a wild misrepresentation of reality – even in the pages of prestigious newspapers. We in the Ministry of Defence have not done enough to correct these misapprehensions. I, for one, wish to put the myths to bed.

The most basic falsehood, invariably, is the use of the term "drone" – a name that conjures up images of computer-controlled machines, free from human oversight. It is a legitimate term in the right context but mostly it is used erroneously.…  Seguir leyendo »

Last month, Faisal bin Ali Jaber traveled from his home in Yemen to Washington to ask why a United States drone had fired missiles at, and killed, his brother-in-law, a cleric who had spoken out against al-Qaida. Also killed in the attack was Jaber’s nephew, a policeman who had come to offer protection to his uncle.

Congressional representatives and government officials met Jaber and expressed their condolences, but provided no explanations. Nor has the U.S. admitted that it made a mistake.

A week later, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, did apologize for a drone attack that killed a child and seriously wounded two women in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province.…  Seguir leyendo »