The Origins of Drone Warfare

drone

The unmanned aerial torpedo – the Kettering Bug – 1918

From History Today by James Rogers author of Drone Warfare: Concepts and Controversies:

Drones are controversial weapons. For almost two decades, remotely piloted aircraft have provided the US military and the CIA with the capability to deploy precision strikes globally: killing the ‘bad guys’ while purportedly saving the ‘good’. Yet drones are merely the latest technological incarnation of a long-held ambition in US warfare, one that can be traced back over the last 100 years: the aim to win wars rapidly, but with little cost to US military life. By exploring the history of this ambition and the repeated attempts to make it a reality through investment in advanced weapons technologies, we can begin to understand some of the motivations behind what is now the dominant form of modern warfare.

The first armed drones were deployed by the Bush administration in Afghanistan in 2001. Yet only 57 strikes were undertaken during Bush’s presidency. Drone strikes ‘took off’ when President Obama came to power in 2008. Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) had become the terrorist’s weapon of choice between 2008 and 2010, causing 60 per cent of US military fatalities on the ground. Directly after 9/11 there had been broad public support for the wars on terror, yet the mounting death toll affected public opinion and Obama promised to bring US ground wars to an end. Drones were part of this promise.

Read the rest of the article at History Today

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Categories: Military History

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