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[infowar.de] erstmals UAVs zum Kampf eingesetzt
Die US-Drohne RQ-1 Predator, die bereits seit 6 Jahren zur Aufklärung
eingesetzt wird, ist nun mit Hellfire-Antipanzerraketen ausgestattet
worden und wird zum unbemannten Kampf gegen Bodenstellungen der Taliban
eingesetzt. Auch über eine Bewaffnung der RQ-4A Global Hawk wird wohl
Interessanter Punkt: Nicht mehr nur die Air Force, sondern auch die CIA
steuert die Dinger, weil hier die Aufklärungserkenntnisse vorhanden
Pikant: Nach dem INF-Vertrag von 1987 könnten die Kampfdrohnen verboten
sein, weil dieser u.a. alle bodengestützten Marschflugkörper mit einer
Reichweite von mehr als 300 Milen verbietet. RB
U.S. Arms Unmanned Aircraft
'Revolution' in Sky Above Afghanistan
By Thomas E. Ricks
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 18, 2001; Page A01
The United States is for the first time flying armed, unmanned aircraft
into combat and controlling them with operators in the United States
thousands of miles from the battlefield in Afghanistan, Defense
Department officials said yesterday.
The use of the armed RQ-1 Predators is a revolutionary step in the
conduct of warfare. The slow-moving, propeller-driven aircraft have been
flown by the Air Force for six years to gather intelligence, most
recently in combat during the Kosovo war in 1999. But now the Air Force
has outfitted them with Hellfire antitank missiles, powerful weapons
usually carried on helicopters, the officials said.
Not much is known about how the armed Predators have been used in
Afghanistan, but a government official said they have fired their
missiles several times. The attacks by the Predators mark a turning
point in military history because they signal that the Air Force is now
able to survey and then shoot at ground positions from lower altitudes
without putting pilots at risk.
The armed drones also give the military enormous reach and flexibility,
creating the real possibility that the United States could someday fly
combat missions without having to put large numbers of military
personnel on nearby land bases or aircraft carriers.
Military strategists said the Bush administration's war on terrorism
could lead to the use of additional new technologies and methods, some
of them still secret.
"I think this war is going to give you the revolution in military
affairs," said Eliot Cohen, an expert in military strategy at Johns
The Air Force is also believed, for example, to be trying to weaponize
the RQ-4A Global Hawk, a much longer-range unmanned surveillance
aircraft that might eventually be able to carry weapons from the
continental United States to targets around the world. In April, the
craft -- which has a longer wingspan than a Boeing 737 -- flew 8,600
miles from California to Australia.
Predators are usually operated by the Air Force. But in the Afghanistan
conflict, the day-to-day operation has been handled by the Central
Intelligence Agency because of its ongoing effort tracking accused
terrorist Osama bin Laden, according to a source familiar with the
operation. After the Predators take off, control is turned over to Air
Force personnel in the United States. In case the satellite link is
lost, the CIA has backup operators standing by to take over control.
"The more bouncing you have to do off of satellites and relay stations,
the more potential trouble you have to prepare for," one official said.
Cohen, who has written extensively on military innovation, said the
Sept. 11 terrorist attacks have altered the way the Defense Department
thinks about technological change by injecting new funding and clearing
bureaucratic obstacles. Most important, he said, the shock from last
month's attacks has shattered the Pentagon's sense of the United States'
Earlier this year, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld tried to force
change on the military as part of a broad, strategic review. But he was
rebuffed by top generals who argued essentially that the armed forces
were so busy dealing with current threats that they did not have the
resources to meet other, hazily defined future threats.
The deployment of the armed Predators was first reported in the Oct. 22
edition of the New Yorker magazine. At first Pentagon officials
dismissed the report, saying that the Air Force was still experimenting
with putting weapons aboard the aircraft.
Publicly, that is still the Air Force's position. Gen. John P. Jumper,
the Air Force chief of staff, was asked at a congressional breakfast on
Tuesday about putting weapons on drones. "We will have armed unmanned
air vehicles in due course," he responded. "We don't want to push it any
faster than it can reliably perform."
Tests on the unmanned aircraft run by the Air Force's Air Combat
Command, which Jumper commanded until recently, culminated last February
with a successful shot of a live Hellfire missile from a Predator
against a discarded Army tank in the Nevada desert. At the time,
officials said the test was artificial because the Hellfire is designed
to be launched by an attack helicopter flying at treetop levels, while
the Predator usually flies at 10,000 feet and would fire its missiles
from a relatively high altitude as well.
Another impediment to flying an armed drone aircraft was that some State
Department officials objected to the Pentagon effort, arguing that
"weaponizing" any drone aircraft constituted a violation of the
U.S.-Soviet treaty on Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces. That 1987
accord calls for the elimination of, among other things, all
ground-launched cruise missiles with a range of more than 300 miles.
Some State Department officials argued that an armed drone was
essentially a recoverable cruise missile.
But it emerged yesterday that soon after the Air Force test in Nevada
was completed, the CIA took control of two armed Predators and began
using them in its intelligence-gathering effort aimed at bin Laden.
Photographic images taken by the Predators are routinely transmitted
back to analysts in the United States.
The New Yorker article, by Seymour M. Hersh, said the Predator was
tracking a convoy carrying Mohammed Omar, leader of the Islamic Taliban
militia that rules most of Afghanistan. A request for an airstrike was
turned down by officials at the Central Command, which oversees U.S.
military operations in the Middle East and Central Asia, the magazine
said. Instead, it said, the CIA was asked to have the Predator fire a
missile just outside the building where the convoy stopped.
That account could not be confirmed.
© 2001 The Washington Post Company
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