Posts tagged ‘UAV’

COUNTER TERRORISM: U.S. Troops Staying in Afghanistan; Going to Cameroon

It Ain’t Over Yet.

President Barack Obama announced Thursday (October 15) that U.S. troop strength in Afghanistan will not be going down anytime soon.

U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jeremy D. Crisp

U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jeremy D. Crisp

Obama said the  policy shift is necessary because Afghan security forces aren’t ready to defend their country by themselves while the Taliban insurgency is on the rise again, especially in rural areas.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration is sending 300 U.S. service members to the west African nation of Cameroon to conduct drone surveillance of the violent extremist group Boko Haram, which has killed thousands of people in the region.

Flanked by Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Vice President Joe Biden at a short White House briefing, Obama announced the current force strength level of 9,800 U.S. troops in Afghanistan will continue through 2016. In 2017, U.S. forces in Afghanistan will shrink to 5,500 — still far more than the embassy protection force previously envisioned by administration planners.

Those 5,500 troops, to be based in a few locations around the country — including Bagram, Jalalabad in the east, and Kandahar in the south. They

Afghanistan (Map courtesy of Institute for the Study of War)

(Map courtesy of Institute for the Study of War)

will continue their current two-part mission of training Afghan forces and counterterrorism operations, Obama said. The advising and training will have a special emphasis on Afghanistan’s elite counterterrorism forces, according to the Washington Post. “The United States would also maintain a significant counterterrorism capability of drones and Special Operations forces to strike al Qaeda and other militants who may be plotting attacks against the United States,” the Post said.

“Afghanistan is a key piece in the network of counter terrorism partnerships we need from South Asia to Africa to deal more broadly with terrorist threats quickly and prevent attacks against our homeland,” Obama said. The so called Islamic State (also known as ISIS and ISIL) has emerged as a threat in Afghanistan and Boko Haram leaders have pledged allegiance to the extremely violent group, which wants to establish a Islamic caliphate through out the Middle East and Africa. It already controls large areas of Syria and Iraq.

The U.S. troops going to Cameroon were invited by that country’s government as part of a larger international effort to stop the spread of violent extremists in West Africa, a U.S. defense official told the Voice of America news site.

The need for international action has become “more urgent as Boko Haram and other organizations ramped up their violent activities,” the official added.

The violent extremist group has been active in northern Cameroon, which is across the border from its home base of northeastern Nigeria.

Cameroon (CIA World Factbook)

(Map: CIA World Factbook)

In a letter to Congress Wednesday (October 14), Obama said 90 military personnel had already deployed to Cameroon ahead of the arrival of additional troops “to conduct airborne intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance operations in the region”.

“The total number of U.S. military personnel to be deployed to Cameroon is anticipated to be up to approximately 300,” Obama said, according to the Al Jazeera website. “These forces are equipped with weapons for the purpose of providing their own force protection and security, and they will remain in Cameroon until their support is no longer needed,” Obama said.

October 15, 2015 at 10:46 pm Leave a comment

ARMY: Big Army Expo Opens This Week

Win in a Complex World.

Combat vehicles, communications and protective gear will all be on display at the AUSA 2015 conference and trade show. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Whitney Houston)

Combat vehicles, communications and protective gear will all be on display at the AUSA 2015 conference and trade show.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Whitney Houston)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — All things Army — from ground combat vehicles, protective gear, unmanned vehicles, drones, sensors, small arms, strategy and tactics will be on display and under discussion at the Washington Convention Center this week as the Association of the U.S. Army holds its annual conference and exposition.

Among the speakers will be outgoing Army Secretary John McHugh and the new Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley. They will discuss the challenges facing today’s Army with the threat of more budget cuts and planned reductions in the size of the force.

Heidi Shyu, assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology — she’s in charge of figuring out what the Army needs to buy or develop and whether and how much it will cost — is another anticipated speaker, as is General Dennis Via, commanding general of Army Materiel Command. Both of them will provide an update on Army modernization plans.

The theme of the conference is Winning in a Complex World and General David Perkins, commanding general of Army Training and Doctrine Command will discuss what that will take.

With conflicts, insurgencies and threats in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, East and West Africa as well as Asia, the U.S. military has said it will be increasingly leaning on partner nations and allies to help bear the burden of dealing with crises around the world.

And foreign militaries and defense contractors will have a big presence at the already huge expo. There will be 62 countries represented at the event, including eight international pavilions on the exhibit hall floor, according to retired Lieutenant General Roger Thompson, AUSA’s vice president for membership and meeting. Turkey will have the largest pavilion, he told the Defense News weekly military affairs broadcast Sunday.

Several U.S. contractors, including  Northrop Grumman and Oshkosh Defense, will be unveiling new ground vehicles. Northrop will be showing off its Hellhound prototype Light Reconnaissance Vehicle and Oshkosh Defense will unveil its MRAP 6-by-6 All Terrain Vehicle (M-ATV). MRAP stands for mine resistant ambush protected, in other words an armored vehicle that can protect occupants from roadside bombs and other improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

October 12, 2015 at 12:22 am Leave a comment

UNMANNED AIRCRAFT: British Strike on ISIS/ISIL; Pakistan’s First In-House Drone Attack; Secret U.S. Drone Campaign [UPDATE]

Drone Wars.

Updates with new 3rd item item on secret drone campaign against Islamic State, reported by the Washington Post.


RAF Reaper drone (Royal Air Force/Ministry of Defence photo)

RAF Reaper drone
(Royal Air Force/Ministry of Defence photo)

It’s been a busy couple of weeks for military unmanned aircraft around the world: Britain launched its first drone strike against the terrorist group known as the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) … Pakistan launched the first homegrown drone strike against terrorists within its borders … and a secret U.S. drone campaign in the war against the Islamic State was revealed by the Washington Post.


British Prime Minister David Cameron told parliament Monday (September 7) that he had approved an air strike against a vehicle carrying a British jihadist in Syria. Cameron said the dead man — identified as Reyaad Khan — was plotting attacks against Britain, Reuters reported.

The Hellfire missile strike was launched from an RAF General Atomics Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) remotely piloted from a hi-tech control hub at RAF Waddington, the British newspaper the Daily Mail reported.

Despite the absence of a parliamentary mandate to take military action in Syria, Cameron told MPs that, as an act of self-defence, Khan had been targeted and killed in a Royal Air Force (RAF) precision drone strike in the country. Cameron said that two people traveling with Khan, including another Briton, Ruhul Amin, were also killed. “There was a terrorist directing murder on our streets and no other means to stop him,” Cameron said. “We took this action because there was no alternative,” he added, calling the air strike “entirely lawful.”

But the August 21 drone strike has prompted criticism that the government disregarded the intent of a 2013 vote that rejected allowing air attacks against Syrian targets, the New York Times reported. Critics in and out of politics say the Cameron government is on shaky ground in approving the killing of Britons abroad without a full legal process.

But British defense minister Michael Fallon said Tuesday (September 8) Britain will not hesitate to carry out more deadly drone strikes against militants in Syria planning attacks on the United Kingdom, Reuters reported (via Yahoo).

*** *** ***


Also on Monday (September 7) Pakistan said it used its first-ever armed drone in an airstrike that killed three ‘‘high-profile’’ militants near the Afghan border, according to an army statement, the Associated Press reported. The missiles hit a compound in the Shawal valley of the Waziristan tribal region, the army statement said.

Narayanese - Map of Pakistan and Waziristan by Narayanese via Wikipedia

Narayanese – Map of Pakistan and Waziristan by Narayanese via Wikipedia

No other details have been made available about those killed or whether any civilians were among the victims. The area is not accessible for reporters and aid workers, the Voice of America reported.

Parts of the Waziristan region are still believed to be serving as hideouts for militants linked to the Pakistani Taliban and fugitive commanders of the Taliban insurgency in neighboring Afghanistan. The area has been the focus for nearly a decade of a U.S. drone campaign to eliminate extremist bases from the Pakistani border region, and to defuse the threat they pose to coalition and Afghan forces across the border, according to VOA.

The armed drone, called Burraq, was used for the first time since its development in November 2013. Director General of Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Asim Bajwa announced the first ever use of the UAV on his Twitter page adding that a terrorist compound was hit and three militants were killed in the air strike carried out by “Burraq,” the Pakistani newspaper Dawn reported. However, the newspaper noted that the tweet could not be independently verified “as reporters have limited access to the restive agency.”

The Pakistan Army tested a Burraq armed with laser-guided Barq missile for the first time on March 14, Dawn said. Both th Burraq drone and Barq missile, have been indigenously developed, according to the army.

*** *** ***

United States.

The Washington Post reported last week (September 1) that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and U.S. Special Operations forces have launched a secret campaign to hunt terrorism suspects in Syria. The drone campaign is part of a targeted killing program that is run separately from the broader U.S. military offensive against the Islamic State, according to U.S. officials cited by the Post.

The CIA and the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) are flying drones over Syria in an effort responsible for several recent strikes against senior Islamic State operatives, the officials said. Among those killed was a British militant thought to be an architect of the effort by the terrorist group (also known as ISIS and ISIL) to use social media to incite attacks in the United States, the officials said.

According to the Post the clandestine program represents a significant escalation of the CIA’s involvement in the war in Syria, enlisting the agency’s Counterterrorism Center (CTC) against a militant group that many officials believe has eclipsed al Qaeda as a threat. Officials told the Post the program is aimed at terrorism suspects deemed “high-value targets.”

Spokesmen for the CIA and the U.S. Special Operations Command, which oversees JSOC, declined to comment. Other officials would discuss the program only on the condition of anonymity, the Post said.

September 9, 2015 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

UNMANNED AIRCRAFT: UPDATE — Wallops Island Drone-port; Drone Business Report; Latin American UAS Market

UPDATES with link to Latin America drone market article in Unmanned Systems (see last item below)

Virginia Drone Port.

Courtesy Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport

Courtesy Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe announced today (August 6) that work will begin in the fall on a 3,000-foot runway for unmanned aircraft at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, on the state’s Eastern Shore, according to a Norfolk television report (WVEC).

Flight operations will begin in 2016, McAuliffe told a news conference at Old Dominion University, home of the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority.

He also said an agreement has been reached to provide funding to complete the approximately $15 million in repairs to a launch pad damaged last year when a rocket exploded. The spaceport is one of only four facilities licensed by the federal government to launch rockets into orbit.

*** *** ***

The Drone Biz.

Aerial photography and land surveying are among the top uses of commercial unmanned aircraft technology that have been approved for flight by the Federal Aviation Administration, we learn from a report by the largest robotics industry group, the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI).

“Businesses across every industry sector have been waiting to use UAS for years and are excited to finally get this technology off the ground,” Brian Wynne, AUVSI’s president and CEO, said in statement.

The first 500 FAA exemptions to the current ban on commercial drone operations approved were examined by AUVSI and compiled in a report published just prior to the FAA’s announcement that the number of Section 333 exemptions it has granted hit 1,000 this week. For more details, see this article in the Grand Forks (North Dakota) Herald.

*** *** ***

Latin American Market.

Photo courtesy Aerialtronics.

Photo courtesy Aerialtronics.

Speaking of the drone business, your 4GWAR editor has a story on the Latin American market for unmanned aircraft in the August issue of Unmanned Systems, the AUVSI magazine.

“From Mexico’s Caribbean coast and the Amazon rainforest to the Argentine Pampas, unmanned aircraft are assessing hurricane damage, surveying timberland and monitoring crops and livestock for government agencies and big corporations.”

Now that August is over, you can see our entire story here.

August 7, 2015 at 12:34 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (July 17, 2015)

July in the Arctic.

U.S. Coast Guard photo

U.S. Coast Guard photo

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy breaks through ice in the Arctic circle on July 14, 2015. We’d be the first to admit this blog doesn’t run enough photos of Coast Guard operations. So here’s one we thought was both pretty and arresting.

This image was taken — not from an airplane or helicopter — but from an Aerostat, an unmanned, airship that is tethered to the ground — or in this case, a ship. In fact in this photo you can see the cable tethering the aerostat to the Healy’s deck.

Aerostats, which have been used in Iraq and Afghanistan to enhance perimeter security around the larger U.S. bases and in the Caribbean to monitor illegal drug trafficking by airplane, provide — in the words of this photo’s official caption– a “self-contained, compact platform that can deploy multiple sensor payloads [radar and video cameras] and other devices into the air.”

The recently released annual report on the world’s climate by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the American Meteorological Society finds that temperatures on the ocean surface reached their highest levels in 135 years of record keeping. For several years, experts have been worried about the rising rate of sea ice melt in the Arctic and its implications for climate, sea levels and maritime commerce. In March, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, this year’s maximum extent of sea ice was the lowest on record since satellites began monitoring the Arctic.

July 17, 2015 at 1:37 am Leave a comment

LATIN AMERICA: Brazil Rainforest Battle; U.S.-Brazil Relations

Fighting Illegal Amazon Logging.

Amazon Basin. The yellow line encloses Amazon Basin as delineated by the World Wide Fund for Nature. National boundaries are shown in black. (Image by NASA, boundaries by Pfly, via wikipedia.)

Amazon Basin. The yellow line encloses Amazon Basin as delineated by the World Wide Fund for Nature. National boundaries are shown in black.
(Image by NASA, boundaries by Pfly, via wikipedia.)

Government officials in Brazil say fighting illegal logging of the Amazon rainforest is like battling illegal narcotics operations elsewhere.

Maria Luisa de Sousa has been co-ordinating a month-long operation to halt illegal logging in northern and eastern Mato Grosso state by the government-funded institute responsible for environmental protection. She says the fight to save the Amazon is increasingly a fight against organized crime. “You can compare it to the struggle against drugs trafficking. The crime and the criminals keep on adapting,” she tells the BBC in a piece today (July 9) on the battle to save the rainforest.

De Sousa’s organization, Ibama, uses helicopters to spot timber poachers from the air. But in the future, unmanned aircraft are expected to join the fight to preserve the Amazon region — which represents over half of the planet’s remaining rainforests and has been called the Lungs of the World. Last May in Atlanta, at the huge annual robotics conference of the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), several unmanned aircraft manufacturers told 4GWAR that they expected the need to persistent aerial surveillance in the Amazon region and elsewhere in Brazil will heat up the Latin American market for drones  — large and small. We’ll be writing more about this at 4GWAR in coming weeks.

Meanwhile, according to the BBC report by ew monthly figures show that deforestation rates in some parts of Brazil have almost doubled compared to last year. Those statistics also show that increasing amounts of wood are illegally taken from protected indigenous reserves.

Back in 2010, Brazil announced a new strategic defense plan calling for increased military presence in the Amazon region to link national defense with national development by protecting and leveraging Brazil’s large water, agricultural and energy resources. That plan called for building up Air Force, Army and Navy capabilities including five new submarines and supplying its own satellite imagery — rather than but it from other countries.

Even though President Dilma Rousseff has cut government spending as the country staggers through a contracting economy, Brazil is still among the top 15 countries with the highest military spending in 2014, according to data gathered by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

*** *** ***

Brazil-U.S. Relations.

Dilma Rousseff Official photo via Wikipedia

Dilma Rousseff Official photo via Wikipedia

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff visited Washington in late June and met with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. And that seemed to signal that after two years of acrimony, the two countries were moving to reset their relations, according to an article in the World Politics Review.

Bilateral relations cooled significantly after revelations in 2013 by rogue National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden of U.S. eavesdropping on Brazilian officials — including Rousseff. The Brazilian president cancelled her state visit scheduled for that October, after the scandal broke.

In the intervening years, Russia has sought closer ties with Brazil — particularly in defense technology sales. Brazil is set to buy Russian Pantsir air defense systems in early 2016.

Last Fall, Brazil announced it was buying its next generation fighter jets from Swedish aircraft manufacturer Saab. Brazile will pay $5.4 billion (39.3 billion Swedish krona) for 36 new Saab Gripen NG jetfighter airplanes.

Brazil (CIA World Fact book)

Brazil (CIA World Fact book)



July 9, 2015 at 10:48 pm Leave a comment

UNMANNED AIRCRAFT: Think Tank Raises the Security Issue of Worldwide Drone Proliferation

A “Drone-Saturated World”.

Within a few years, military drones like this Air National Guard MQ1 Predator are expected to have plenty of company in the skies around the world. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Paul Duquette)

Within a few years, military drones like this Air National Guard MQ1 Predator are expected to have plenty of company in the skies around the world.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Paul Duquette)

Industry is looking to use unmanned aircraft for a variety of commercial purposes — from monitoring crops and livestock to inspecting oil rigs and pipelines  — but a Washington think tank warns that the proliferation of drones poses a national security risk that government leaders must consider before the technology’s rapid development leaves them behind.

The Center for a New American Security this past week issued the first in a series of reports from its World of Proliferated Drones project, which recommends the U.S. government consider foreign policy and national security issues arising from “a drone saturated world” in the future.

The project, which plans a number of reports and war games “engaging international audiences” isn’t anti-drone. And it doesn’t raise the usual privacy or public safety arguments espoused by civil libertarians or pilots groups. Instead, it notes that thousands of drones are here now — mostly used by militaries around the world. But those numbers are going to skyrocket as the technology becomes available for more individuals, companies and industries.

“Over 90 countries and non-state actors operate drones today, including at least 30 that operate or are developing armed drones,” notes the 40-page report, A Technology Primer, adding” This global proliferation raises a number of challenging security issues.” For example: “Are states more willing to shoot down a spy drone since there is no one on board — and if they do, does that constitute an act of war?

"DJI Phantom 1 1530564a" by © Nevit Dilmen. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

“DJI Phantom 1 1530564a” by © Nevit Dilmen. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Small “hobbyist” drones, which can be purchased by anyone and flown without a license or formal training pose a small risk because of their limited payload and range capabilities although the recent incident of a small drone crash-landing on the White House grounds shows they are ubiquitous and hard to detect near even the most heavily-guarded site.

Of more concern are midsize military and commercial drones, which can fly farther, stay aloft longer and carry larger payloads. They are too complicated to operate and too expensive to acquire by most individuals or small groups but the report notes 87 countries from — military powers like the United States and China to small countries like Cyprus and Trinidad and Tobago — are operating  such systems — “and this number is likely to grow in the years to come.” And non-state entities like the terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah have obtained midsize military-grade systems  already.

U.N. peacekeepers have deployed Falco Selex ES2 drones along the eastern border of the Democratic Republic of Congo (Photo courtesy of Selex ES)

U.N. peacekeepers have deployed European-made Falco Selex ES2 drones in the Democratic Republic of Congo
(Photo courtesy of Selex ES)

Larger military drones that can carry bombs and missiles or highly sophisticated surveillance payloads are also proliferating but until they acquire stealth technology or electronic attack capabilities, the report says, they are vulnerable to advanced air defenses and manned fighter aircraft. So far, only U.S. drones have those capabilities but a number of countries including Russia, Israel, China, India, France, Italy, Sweden, Spain, Greece, Switzerland and Britain are working on their own stealth combat drones.

“Preventing the proliferation of armed drones is impossible — drones are hear to stay,” the CNAS report concludes. What that means for international security “is an open question,” it adds noting that the United States, which is the industry leader, “can help influence how drones are used and perceived by others.”

June 13, 2015 at 9:29 pm Leave a comment

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