This roundup, curated by ReThink Media, looks at how the media is talking about drone warfare (and related topics) and what stories are being told.
With little transparency from governments on this topic, this roundup aims to be as comprehensive as possible, identifying breaking news, trends, developing stories, or interesting narratives. Rethink Media also use media coverage to compile a snapshot of strikes each week. The short version can be read here.
An investigation by Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) reveals that the U.S. military has been using the Kenyan base Camp Simba as a launchpad for surveillance aircraft supporting airstrikes in neighboring Somalia, with civilian contractors playing a pivotal role by providing intelligence on targets. Even though they aren’t in combat, these contractors have become “part of the kill chain” by providing intelligence for these airstrikes.
Amnesty’s Brian Castner fears that the lull in air strikes caused by Somalia’s rainy season may soon evaporate and noncombatants will pay the price. “The fact that civilians are still dying, sometimes unlawfully, and not a single family of the victims has yet been compensated, means that, after 13 years, the U.S. government still hasn’t figured out how to fight a war that prioritizes the needs of the people they say they are defending,” he told TIME. “If the U.S. government can’t fulfill its obligations to civilians while fighting a remote war of airstrikes, then it needs to reconsider its methods.” [TIME / Nick Turse]
The U.S. Army is on the hunt for a swarm of drones that can conduct surveillance and reconnaissance, pose as decoys, wage electronic warfare, and even deliver lethal payloads in an airborne assist to the service’s next-generation helicopters, according to a new request for information. [Task & Purpose / Jared Keller]
The Trump White House is quietly planning sales of F-35 stealth fighters and advanced drones to the Emiratis, setting up fights with both Israel and Congress. In other corners of the U.S. capital, reports of the alleged deal were met with surprise. Officials in the State Department office that handles U.S. arms sales to foreign countries were startled, saying that if there is any such agreement, they had not been briefed on it. This was apparently part of a secret push by Trump’s senior adviser (and son-in-law) Jared Kushner.
Five U.S. drone manufacturers have received the Pentagon’s approval for military sales as part of a broader effort to enhance national security and avoid using systems manufactured in China, the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Unit said. [Urdupoint]
Two U.S. MQ-9 Reaper drones reportedly collided over Idlib, Syria. The incident comes after a number of curiously configured Reapers have been spotted in the skies above the country’s western Idlib province in the past few days and the latest strike in that region involving an AGM-114R9X missile, or “knife missile.”
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported last week that a drone strike likely affiliated with the U.S.-led international military coalition in the country was responsible for killing Abu Yahya al-Uzbeki, an independent “military trainer” recently affiliated with the al Qaeda-linked Hurras Al-Din organization, while he was traveling in Syria’s Idlib province. Photos of the aftermath of the strike on al-Uzbeki’s vehicle show a relatively intact car rather than a fiery wreck, suggesting that, as with similar strikes in the region, the coalition employed the notorious R9X variant of the AGM-114 Hellfire missile, a non-explosive weapon that can best be described as a 100-pound flying switchblade. [Task & Purpose / Jared Keller]
In Germany’s left-wing circles, some political figures and activists say the U.S. bases on German soil, including U.S. Africa Command—known by its acronym Africom—in Stuttgart, have made Germany complicit in the U.S. drone wars in Africa and elsewhere that have killed not just militants but many civilians.“It’s good that Africom is leaving,” said one of those politicians, Tobias Pflüger, a parliament member from the left-wing Die Linke party. [FP / Emran Feroz]
Five years on from the UK’s first drone targeted killing, increasing secrecy needs serious challenge. [Drone Wars UK / Chris Cole]
The UK is recruiting RAAF pilots to fly its armed MQ-9 Reaper fleet over Syria and Iraq because of a “challenging” shortage of its own crew. [Australian Aviation / Sandy Milne]
Turkey is gearing up to start production of a new high-altitude, long-endurance drone, hoping to extend its military reach in the region and compensate, even if fractionally, for the loss of the F-35 new-generation jets after a row with Washington. [Al-Monitor / Metin Gurcan]
The “dronization” of Turkey’s power projection abroad continues with a new unmanned aerial vehicle that Ankara plans to use against PKK militants in Iraq and Syria as well as in brewing regional conflicts. [Al-Monitor / Metin Gurcan]
Lebanon’s Hezbollah said it downed and seized an Israeli drone that flew over the Blue Line that demarcates Israel’s 2000 withdrawal from the country. [Al Jazeera]
The Saudi-led coalition in Yemen said it intercepted and downed a booby-trapped drone towards the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. [Reuters]
“The Canadian government’s mirroring of American drone capabilities, its criteria for establishing “guilt” and even its combatant labels, should be highly concerning to Canadians. We shouldn’t tolerate our government waging a drone war on our behalf.” [Passage / Matt Korda]