RECONNAISSANCE

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

2010s

N - Z

Schmitt, Eric, and Scott Sayare. "U.S. Troops At Drone Base In West Africa." New York Times, 22 Feb. 2013. [http://www.nytimes.com]

President Obama announced on 22 February 2013 "that about 100 American troops had been sent to Niger in West Africa to help set up a new base from which unarmed Predator aircraft would conduct surveillance in the region." The new base is "located for now in the capital, Niamey.... A military official said the troops were largely Air Force logistics specialists, intelligence analysts and security officers." See also, Craig Whitlock, "U.S. Troops Arrive In Niger To Set Up Drone Base," Washington Post, 22 Feb. 2013.

Shane, Scott. "Election Spurred a Move to Codify U.S. Drone Policy." New York Times, 24 Nov. 2012. [http://www.nytimes.com]

"The attempt to write a formal rule book for targeted killing began last summer after news reports on the drone program, started under President George W. Bush and expanded by Mr. Obama, revealed some details of the president's role in the shifting procedures for compiling 'kill lists' and approving strikes. Though national security officials insist that the process is meticulous and lawful, the president and top aides believe it should be institutionalized."

Shane, Scott, and David E. Sanger. "Drone Crash in Iran Reveals Secret U.S. Surveillance Effort." New York Times 7 Dec. 2011. [http://www.nytimes.com]

"The stealth C.I.A. drone [an "RQ-170 Sentinel, built by Lockheed Martin"] that crashed deep inside Iranian territory [Iranian officials said the crash "occurred more than 140 miles from the border with Afghanistan"] last week was part of a stepped-up surveillance program that has frequently sent the United States' most hard-to-detect drone into the country to map suspected nuclear sites, according to foreign officials and American experts who have been briefed on the effort." See also, Greg Miller, "Drone Belonged to CIA, Officials Say," Washington Post, 5 Dec. 2011.

Whitlock, Craig. "Drone Base in Niger Gives U.S. a Strategic Foothold in West Africa." Washington Post, 21 Mar. 2013. [http://www.washingtonpost.com]

The U.S. Air Force began flying unarmed Predator drones from a base outside Niamey, Niger, last month. The Predators "give the Pentagon a strategic foothold in West Africa. Niger shares a long border with Mali.... Niger also borders Libya and Nigeria.... U.S. officials said they share video footage and other intelligence collected by the unmanned aircraft with French forces and African troops -- including 670 soldiers from Niger -- who are fighting the Islamist insurgency in Mali. Liaison officers from Niger, France and Chad work alongside U.S. Air Force personnel who launch and land the drones from the base in Niamey....

"Two U.S. defense officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity..., said the Pentagon ultimately wants to move the Predators to the Saharan city of Agadez, in northern Niger.... The airfield in Agadez, however, is rudimentary and needs improvements before it can host drones, officials said. The U.S. military has used Agadez since last year as a refueling stop for U-28 spy planes -- small, piloted aircraft flown by private contractors. U.S. officials have hesitated to send those surveillance aircraft across the border into Mali because of fears that the crews could be taken hostage if the planes crash or are shot down."

Whitlock, Craig. "How Crashing Drones Are Exposing Secrets about U.S. War Operations." Washington Post, 25 Mar. 2015. [http://www.washingtonpost.com]

"Since January 2014, the Air Force has reported 14 crashes of Predator and Reaper drones that either destroyed the aircraft or inflicted more than $2 million in damage. Three of the accidents took place in Afghanistan, but six happened elsewhere in classified or undisclosed sites, a sharp increase from prior years." U.S. military drones are based in Afghanistan, "Turkey, Italy, Ethiopia, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Djibouti.... In addition, the CIA has its own drone bases in Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan."

Whitlock, Craig. "Navy Lands Drone Aboard Aircraft Carrier for First Time." Washington Post, 10 Jul. 2013. [http://www.washingtonpost.com]

On 10 July 2013, the U.S. Navy landed the X-47B experimental drone on the flight deck of the USS George H.W. Bush aircraft carrier. "In addition to meeting the challenge of landing on a large ship, however, [this] flight marked the first time that a military drone flew autonomously for an extended stretch of time, without any human direction."

Whitlock, Craig. "U.S. Military Drone Surveillance Is Expanding to Hot Spots Beyond Declared Combat Zones." Washington Post, 20 Jul. 2013. [http://www.washingtonpost.com]

On 18 September 2013, Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) fighters "filmed the charred wreckage" of a U.S. Air Force Predator drone that crashed "near the Iraq-Turkey border.... [T]he crash drew back the curtain on Operation Nomad Shadow, a secretive U.S. military surveillance program. Since November 2011, the U.S. Air Force has been flying unarmed drones from Incirlik Air Base in Turkey in an attempt to suppress a long-simmering regional conflict. The camera-equipped Predators hover above the rugged border with Iraq and beam high-resolution imagery to the Turkish armed forces, helping them pursue PKK rebels as they slip back and forth across the mountains."

Whitlock, Craig, and Barton Gellman. "U.S. Documents Detail al-Qaeda's Efforts to Fight Back against Drones." Washington Post, 3 Sep. 2013. [http://www.washingtonpost.com]

According to a top-secret report, titled "Threats to Unmanned Aerial Vehicles," provided to The Washington Post by Edward Snowden, the leadership of al-Qaeda "has assigned cells of engineers to find ways to shoot down, jam or remotely hijack U.S. drones.... Although there is no evidence that al-Qaeda has forced a drone crash or successfully interfered with flight operations, U.S. intelligence officials have closely tracked the group's persistent efforts to develop a counterdrone strategy since 2010, the documents show."

Whittle, Richard. Predator: The Secret Origins of the Drone Revolution. New York: Henry Holt, 2014.

Whitlock, Washington Post, 18 Sep. 2014, finds that the author narrates "[t]he unlikely circumstances that led to the birth of the Predator ... in fresh and authoritative detail." His "reporting ... is methodical and credible.... Whittle's best material appears in the final chapters, when he delivers action-packed details about how the CIA and the Pentagon used armed Predators to hunt for al-Qaeda leaders immediately after 9/11."

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