Drone Roundup September 29 – October 6
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.
Azerbaijani and Armenian forces have exchanged heavy rocket and artillery fire, with each side accusing the other of targeting civilian areas as the fighting over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh intensified. Azerbaijan’s foreign ministry said on Sunday one civilian was killed and four wounded in an Armenian rocket attack on its second city of Ganja, and Baku threatened to retaliate by destroying military targets inside Armenia. [Al Jazeera]
Azerbaijan has a “qualitative and quantitative advantage” and seems to have gained the momentum by taking control of the air, two analysts said, but added that it was too early to be sure of the extent of any territorial gains. Michel said it was likely that Azerbaijan had destroyed at least 30-40 enemy tanks with drones, while losing some of its own. [Reuters]
Brian Castner, an investigator with Amnesty International, said the strikes were “a new and completely unacceptable escalation of the Armenia/Azerbaijan conflict: the use of banned cluster munitions against civilian areas in Stepanakert.” [Storyful]
In an exclusive interview with FRANCE 24, Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta denied reports that the US military had sought authorization to carry out drone strikes inside Kenya. He stressed that if such a request were made, he would refuse it.
COMMENTARY: “More than a decade after the first U.S. drone strikes in Somalia, the security situation continues to be precarious, both in Somalia and in neighboring Lamu and Garissa counties in Kenya. There remains a significant trust deficit between communities and national security forces in northern and coastal Kenya. Conducting drone strikes in these areas would probably add another complex layer to an already fragile region.” [WaPo / Abdullahi Halake]
The US Air Force last month conducted the first flight of an MQ-9A Reaper that had been configured to carry eight AGM-114 Hellfire missiles — twice the number the drone normally carries. [Air Force Times / Stephen Losey]
A group of 15 peace activists wrapped up a week-long nonviolent, socially-distanced protest at a Nevada Air Force base housing a command and control center for unmanned aerial drones. [Common Dreams / Brett Wilkins]
China’s most effective response to a multiple US drone attack could be to hit back at the unmanned vehicles’ base and destroy the entire fleet, a Chinese military analyst suggested after reports that a recent US drone exercise might have been aimed at China. [South China Morning Post / Minnie Chan]
Turkey is developing an increasing variety of lethal armed drones, ranging from large, high-flying, bomb-laden ones to very small, low-flying UAVs that can form deadly swarms. [Forbes / Paul Iddon]