Posts Tagged United States

US cancels drone deal with NATO Turkey

In the continuing fallout from Israel’s attack on the Gaza rescue ship Mavi Marmara a couple of years ago, the US Congress has cancelled an agreement to sell Predator drones to its NATO ally Turkey.

When Israel attacked the Mavi Marmara in international waters and assassinated several Turkish citizens, it set off a flurry of angry reactions from Turkish authorities, and scuttled the increasing friendship between the two countries. Not only did plans for Turkey to buy drones from Israel collapse, but there were numerous other diplomatic conflicts.

At about that time the identies of 10 agents working for Israeli Mossad were claimed to be revealed to Iran, allegedly by the head of a Turkish intelligence agency. Turkish officials claim that the allegation was simply ‘black propaganda’ by Israel.

An article in Today’s Zaman suggests that no action was taken by the US and Israel at the time because Turkey’s cooperation was needed gathering intelligence in Syria. With the need to spy on Syria lessened, the US was free to retaliate against Turkey on behalf of Israel.

Today’s Zaman also suggests that the move by Washington was in retaliation for Turkey buying long range missiles from a Chinese arms company, instead of Russian, American or European bidders.

It may also be retaliation for Turkey’s broader rejection of Israel’s use of Turkish airspace, and the probability that it is curtailing its cooperation with Israel’s efforts to infiltrate Iran via the Turkish border areas.

Ironically the US supplies Turkey with a great deal of surveillance in parts of eastern Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan, specifically aimed at the PKK. This latest move appears to be an attempt to limit control of surveillance by Turkey as well as force Turkey to return to its policy of cooperating with Israel with respect to Iran, and purchasing arms from it. The move wasn’t totally a surprise, it was rumoured last year in Turkey, and in the United States. 

Unless Turkey flinches, the cancellation would ironically appear to be a good thing for peace in the region. Turkey has been making inroads to solving its conflict with the PKK, so has less need for drones to survey and attack rebel fighters. And the US reaction may simply harden Turkey in its resolve not to be used by Israel to threaten or actually attack Iran. The NATO alliance, which is less about mutual aid and more about foreign intervention,  has been weakened yet again. Probably not what the US congress wanted, but a plus for the world at large.



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Drones Often Violate Airspace

Drones give nations impunity to overfly other nations air space.

Surprisingly, many states have been overflying their neighbour’s territory with some level of impunity. Israel has overflown Lebanon, and left its drone there for many hours, before departing. Hizbollah has flown drones many times over northern Israel, to the embarrassment of the Israeli military. In 2006 the Israelis shot down at least two Hezbollah drones.

Georgia has overflown South Ossetia, which it claims, but which is controlled  by Russia. Here is a video of a Russian MIG shooting down a Georgian UAV, apparently over South Ossetia in 2008.

The US regularly overflies Pakistan with drones, and indeed launches deadly attacks from them. At least two US drones have been shot down recently over North Waziristan.

In 2009 the US shot down its own out of control Predator drone before it entered Tajikistan.

Iran has overflown Iraq, and had at least one drone shot down by US forces. US forces claimed the trespass was intentional, Iranian and Iraqi officials claimed it was an accident.

Why are there so many violations of airspace, using drones? Are they more likely to be used than manned aircraft? Clearly many drones are surrepticious, difficult to detect, and difficult to shoot down because of their size, especially without collateral damage on the ground. Because most drones are clearly for surveillance, the country sending the drone may feel they can get away with incursions even if detected, because they are a ‘minor’ threat.

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Private Arms Trader Tries to Sell Drones to Colombian Insurgents

Douglas Farrah in his Counterterrorism Blog, notes that Viktor Bout, the arms dealer recently extradited from Thailand to the United States, had allegedly tried to sell drones to agents he apparently believed represented FARC guerillas.

This is a sign that drones may become increasingly sold to, and used by, non state agents, like guerrilla armies and criminal organisations. Can we expect to see drones used to smuggle drugs across borders?

It is also a warning to arm traders that it is dangerous to play both sides of the fence. Bout reportedly was used by American official many times over the years to move arms into conflict zones when ‘deniability’ was required. ie the ability for the US to do something, while denying they were doing something.

According to Farrah, Bout “flew for the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan and provided planes to the Taliban, flew for the UN on relief and peacekeeping missions, and for the US military in the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq.”

John C K Daly, in Global Policy Forum, suggests that although Bout had had dealings with many insurgent forces and terrorist organisations, the Bush administration found him useful in the aftermath of the Iraq invasion, and gave him amnesty for his other activities.

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Death by Drones Update

There were reports of five more people killed by ‘suspected US drone’ attacks in North Wiziristan on Thursday, 10 November 2010. At least six missiles were fired by one drone, killing five people described as Islamic militants, according to reports.

‘Unnamed security sources’ were on hand to provide details of the identity of the dead and an explanation of why they were killed.

Fifteen ‘militants’ were killed in Pakistan on 16 November, 2010 by US drones, according to ASDNews. Unnamed security officials said the attack was on an insurgent training centre, in Ghulam Khan village, in North Waziristan.

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F-35 Fossil Fuel Guzzlers Will Never Fly

Robertjb, in, writes that the F-35 may never fly.

That’s because the US has realised, (or at least the pragmatic elements of the military has), that the US military much completely transform to using non petroleum fuels by 2040. That would dramatically shorten the shelf life of the F-35, making the F-35 progamme ill advised.

For some additional discussion of the effect of oil shortages on the military, see (Source) (Source) (Source)

From an unoffical source, the F-35 carries about 12 tonnes of fuel. Or according to Wikipedia 8.4 tonnes.

Defence Today notes that a “single sortie unrefuelled for an F/A-18, F-111 or F-35 typically requires a cruise fuel burn of around 6,000 to 7,000 lb/hr. Or about 2.7 tonnes to 3.2 tonnes/hour.

Clearly F-35’s need very frequent mid air refueling, which means that the consumption of the refueling airplane needs to be added to it. Or they must fly very short sorties.

As oil becomes in short supply, and prices rise, it will become increasingly difficult to finance an F-35 fleet.

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US To Give 20 F-35’s to Israel

The US appears to have been maneuvered to give 20 F-35 jets to Israel at no cost.

Israel recently unilaterally ended its freeze on building illegal settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem. There was relatively little diplomatic cost to Israel, as no country with any influence over Israel has been prepared to implement sanctions. This put Israel into a win win position, where it could either win extended settlements throughout the West Bank, or bargain for a new settlement freeze.

The US, perhaps in a pre-agreed deal, fell into place, offering Israel 20 free F-35 fighter jets if would reimplement a 3 month settlement freeze. This must be the bargain of the century, a free lunch that cost Israel essentially nothing. The US did not even ask Israel to stop its contentious settlement programme in East Jerusalem.

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Pakistan Wants to do Drone Attacks Itself

Though the US has agreed to give Pakistan surveillance drones, in violation of its obligations under the Missile Technology Control Regime, Pakistan is pressing the US to give it the technology to undertake drone attacks itself.

Pakistani officials claim that if Pakistani forces were the ones carrying out drone attack on militants in Pakistan’s frontier zones that Pakistani anger at America would disipate.

One wonders how long it would be before US drones were being used against Indian targets in Kashmir.

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UAV Training and Simulation Conference

The UAV Training and Simulation Conference brochure starts with the sentence: “This year the US Air Force will train more pilots for UAVs than manned platforms in line with the increased demand for persistent surveillance in Afghanistan.”

Clearly there is a big training requirement for UAVs. Conference presenters, top heavy with US experts, also has presenters from the UK, German, Swiss, Italian, and Canadian Armed Services.

Canadian presenters include Lieut. Colonel Darrell Marleau, head of the drones section of the Canadian armed forces, (see also) and Lieut. Colonel Larry Green, head of marketing for Canadian DND training services. Marleau will presumably speak about Canadian experience in Afghanistan with the Israeli Heron drone.

A featured speaker is Cheryl-lynne Bishop-Wells, UAS Training Systems Manager, Unmanned Air Systems Team, DE&S, UK MoD, who appears to be manager of training for the Watchkeeper System. Curiously, considering the pervasive sales of Israeli drones, there are no Israeli presenters. (One of the sponsors is Israeli simulation company, Simlat, which will presumably be providing simulation exercises at the conference).

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UAV Training and Simulation Conference to Be Held in London

UAV Training and Simulation 2010 is a conference dealing with training for piloting and operation of drones, to be held in London, 24-26, May, 2010.

Defence IQ, a Division of IQPC is organiser of the conference.

IQPC is a Division of Penton Learning Systems, a US training organisation. IQPC has 11 offices on six continents and about 1000 employees. Ref.

Ownership of these organisations isn’t clear. It may be private.

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Gates Calls for Expansion of US Drone Sales

Robert Gates, US Secretary of Defense has recently expressed his interest in exporting US offensive drones across the world.

But only to friendly countries, of course.

On March 25, 2010, Reuters reported that the US aerospace industry believed that US demand for drones would double in the next five years, after rising 600%  since 2004. They also hoped for international demand.

Gates was speaking at a US Senate hearing. It wasn’t clear what countries he was thinking of, but the US appears to be losing the drones market to aggressive Israeli arms sellers who’ve sold or leased drones to dozens of countries, including many in NATO.

The US has only sold drones to two countries, Italy and Britain, and is limited by the terms of the Missile Technology Control Regime, which has 34 signatories, including many of the NATO countries. The 34 member list, has many countries which have purchased or leased drones from Israel, which is not on the list.

Among the countries receiving drones however will be Pakistan, which will receive 12 RQ-7 Shadow surveillance UAVs  as part of a billion dollar to Pakistan from the Coalition Support fund.

In January, President Asif Ali Zardari spoke to Gates about the issue of giving control of the drones to Pakistani forces.  Zardari told Gates that the use of armed drones to in the frontier territories had led to anti-American anger. He stated “that people would be less critical if the drones were used by Pakistani troops.”

This appears to be a Pakistani request for the US to supply them with armed drones and the capacity to carry out assassination programmes on their own territory.

While Zardari made the request specifically with respect to fighting extremists, a Pakistan armed with missile carrying drones poses an obvious threat to India, which expressed its alarm.

India wants assurances that the drones aren’t ‘targeted’ at India.

Robert Gates has been one of the strongest advocates for the US drone assassination programme in northern Pakistan.

Gates has frequently expressed concern that drone technology would fall into the hands of enemies, without specifying who he might mean (Russia?, Iran?), but noting that:

“My worry would be capabilities like this getting into the hands of non-state actors who could use them for terrorist purposes.”

Gates seems oddly concerned that he might violate the terms of the Missile Technology Control Regime. Most of the members of the regime have been acquiring drones with happy abandon, either by building them for themselves, or buying them elsewhere, principally from America’s chief ally, Israel. According to many the Israeli technology is leading edge. And Israeli companies have provided drones to many regimes with questionable intentions, most notable Georgia.

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