The US announces plans to arm drones that will be operating inside the US with missiles and bombs as part of a 30,000 strong domestic deployment.
Fully armed remotely controlled aircraft used by the United States military and its allies in the War on Terror overseas are set to begin a new era of operating over domestic soil.
The US military has revealed that stronger and more powerful versions of the famed Predator drones, known as MQ-9 Reaper drones, are being fitted with missiles and other explosive ordinances as part of a deployment of 30,000 drones authorized to fly over the US by the NDAA and the armed drones will now be operating inside the United States.
A military spokesman at the Hancock Field Air National Guard base in NY said the drones will only be armed with missiles and explosive ordinances when they are operating in airspace over US military bases and are only being armed as part of a program to train others to operate America’s new drone fleet.
Legislation passed by congress authorized the integration of military and public airspace into a single national aerospace grid to support both civil and public drone flights over U.S. skies.
Overseas, the UK has already equipped their once unarmed surveillance drones to carry missiles.
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the U.S. congress is expected to pass legislation that will arm Italy’s fleet of Reaper drone aircraft with missiles in a deal that is likely to pave the way for the roll-out of armed drones across the spectrum of NATO allies.
The news comes as the Obama administration comes under fire for his use of drones in the secret U.S. assassination program.
Recently Obama appointed John Brennan as the first ever Assassination Czar delegating him as the sole authority to designate people for assassination under the United States top-secret assassination program.
The appointment led a public backlash which forced the Obama administration to reveal unprecedented details to the New York Times about the use of the drones in the assassination program.
At the same time it was revealed in accounting for civilian casualties overseas, the Obama administration has categorically counted everyone killed by the program as an ‘enemy combatant’ while even not even knowing their identities with the exception being when US intelligence was able to obtain absolute proof the assassinated person was not a combatant.
In the video Colonel Kevin Bradley, commander of the 174th Air National Guard Fighter Wing, discusses the new special mission assigned to him by the government to transition the MQ-9 reaper drones from overseas deployments in Afghanistan to deployments over US Skies.
The video is embedded on a Post-Register story which was published a week after the NDAA authorized the deployment of Drones over US skies.
Col. Tom Balbierer of the Air National Guard's 174th Fighter Wing stands beneath the wing of the Reaper, an unmanned aerial surveillance plane based at Hancock Field in Mattydale. The drone has a wingspan of 66 feet. The planes are remotely operated from a control room on the base. The Reaper can be used for both surveillance and can be armed with a payload of about 3,000 pounds. Gloria Wright / The Post-Standard
Washington — The Air National Guard’s 174th Fighter Wing is a step closer to gaining federal permission to fly unmanned Reaper drones out of its base at Hancock Field, according to U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer.
The National Defense Authorization Act signed into law last week by President Barack Obama allows for the establishment of six national test sites where drones could fly through civil air space.
Schumer, D-N.Y., said Tuesday he pushed for the establishment of six spots, instead of the planned four, to improve the chances that Hancock Field would be included. The 174th Fighter Wing has been trying for almost five years to convince the Federal Aviation Administration to allow flights of the MQ-9 Reaper drones out of Hancock Field.
Hancock Field, which will eventually host a full squadron of Reaper drones, has the largest potential training space in the Northeast. Most of the drones assigned to the 174th Fighter Wing are now remotely operated in Afghanistan and Iraq by pilots at the Mattydale base.
Schumer said Hancock already meets FAA requirements for unmanned aerial vehicles because about 7,000 square miles surrounding the airport is designated as “special use” airspace.
He said that “making Hancock a test site for this technology would be a boon for Central New York, creating jobs and bringing new investments to our defense contractors that provide thousands of good paying jobs.”
The senator noted that two Central New York companies, SRC and Saab Sensis Corp., are working on technology to help integrate drones into the national airspace with “sense and avoid” ground-based radars. In addition, the Mattydale base employs more than 1,200 people.
“Hancock Field is ideally positioned to be a test site because of its attractive air space, and because the region has two restricted areas, four seasons, a varied terrain, an over water range, air to ground gunnery capability and large airspace volume – all essential to ensuring that our drones and their pilots are able to complete their missions abroad,” Schumer wrote.
Col. Kevin Bradley, commander of the 174th Fighter Wing, has said that any Reaper drones that eventually fly out of Hancock would not be equipped with missiles or bombs. No training would take place within civilian air space, Bradley said.
The drones would be armed with live ordnance only when used at firing ranges at Fort Drum near Watertown.
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration plans to arm Italy’s fleet of Reaper drone aircraft, a move that could open the door for sales of advanced hunter-killer drone technology to other allies, according to lawmakers and others familiar with the matter.
The sale would make Italy the first foreign country besides Britain to fly US drones armed with missiles and laser-guided bombs. US officials said Italy intends initially to deploy the armed drones in Afghanistan.
Lawmakers who question the planned deal say the decision to “weaponize” Italy’s unarmed surveillance drones could make it harder for the US to deny similar capabilities to other NATO allies, and set back efforts to urge sales limitations on other nations that make sophisticated drones such as Israel.
[...]Congress still could block the sale if it passes a joint resolution of disapproval in both the House and the Senate within 15 calendar days, though several members of Congress from both parties say such a move is unlikely.
She added, “The transfer of US defense articles and services to Italy, among other allies, enables Italy to burden-share and contribute capabilities to operations that protect not only Italian troops but also those of the United States and other coalition partners.”
Britain, the first foreign country to get armed Reapers, is considered a “special case” because of its historically close military ties to the U.S.
It deployed its first unarmed Reaper surveillance drone in Afghanistan in October 2007. Surveillance drones gather intelligence and alert ground forces and manned aircraft, which can then fire on the target. Britain soon asked the U.S. to arm its Reapers, which the U.S. did in 2008.
Italy is following a similar path, said Peter Singer, a Brookings Institutionsenior fellow and author of “Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century.”
NATO member Turkey also wants to buy armed Reapers—for use against Kurdish separatist fighters—and the Obama administration supports Turkey’s request. Lawmakers have objected, citing tensions between Ankara and Israel, so far preventing the administration from sending such a proposal to Congress for review.
Some current and former U.S. officials question the standards used by Turkey in selecting targets for strikes, pointing to a strike by Turkish warplanes in December that killed 34 civilians after a U.S. Predator drone provided surveillance footage to the Turkish military.