India: Counter Insurgency forces are mis-directed by Israeli surveillance drones, highly over-rated

[As imperialist and reactionary governments have placed exaggerated reliance on drones (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles or UAV’s) for remote-controlled surveillance and  bombing missions, the growing number of civilian casualties (“collateral damage”) from armed missions (in Pakistan and Afghanistan), and confused surveillance intelligence (as reported below, and elsewhere) is generating growing doubts in counterinsurgency circles about this supposedly accurate tool.  They have invested a lot in the promise of this weapon, so they do not want to give it up.  —  Frontlines ed.]

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by Yatish Yadav, India Today, in  New Delhi, January 3, 2012

Images provided by drones are not actionable since it cannot penetrate foliage.

Heron drone proves a dud in tracking Maoists in Chattisgarh

In the second week of December, an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) flew over the Maoist-hit areas of Dantewada district in Chhattisgarh, picking up images of village dwellings and human movement.

At the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) control room the information was treated as a major breakthrough since the drones deployed in the area had so far failed to provide sufficient intelligence inputs.

The state and paramilitary forces were also convinced that the images were of a Naxal camp. An operation was immediately planned. Surprise and speed were to be the key elements.

The operation was to be similar in nature to the ones successfully undertaken by the US-led allied forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan. A surrendered Maoist was also quizzed to clear the doubts about the target location.

Armed with the visuals provided by the Heron drone, a team of two units, comprising paramilitary was dispatched on foot to encircle and sanitize Teriwal village in Dantewada.

Another 125 personnel were to be air dropped at the assembly area which was some kilometres away from the presumed Naxal camp at Teriwal, as was indicated by the footage relayed by the UAV.

But on December 19, an air force MI-17 helicopter with armed personnel on board came under fire while it was carrying out its 10th sortie. Two shots hit the rotor of the helicopter. The men had a lucky escape.

The sudden attack on the chopper caught the forces off guard. The UAV images clearly did not provide any indication of Maoist movement in the area, which was chosen to drop security personnel and was far away from the presumed rebel camp.

The drone image virtually led the forces into a trap. The suspicion about the images grew when it was discovered that the presumed Naxal camp was a nondescript village.

“Several huts and human movement were captured by the UAV cameras in Teriwal village. So it was presumed that it could be a Naxal camp,” a government source said.

Chhattisgarh inspector general of police (Bastar range) T. J. Longkumer said: “Given all the factors, the operation was successful. I will not be able to comment on the UAV images. But it is very difficult to differentiate between a Naxal hideout and a normal settlement.” Continue reading

30% of US Air Force UAS Pilots Suffer from Burnout

[In recent months, much attention has been given to the growing reliance on Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS)–drones–by the US military, and the turning of violent-video-gamers into remote bombadiers.  Now these drones (both drones armed with bombs and unarmed-surveillance drones)  have been deployed in places throughout the world, including in violations of various country’s air space, such as the drone shot down recently over Iran.  From Yemen to Sudan, Uganda to Pakistan, drone bombing missions have killed both military targets and numerous “collateral” civilian victims, prompting ever-growing protests at the “high-tech impunity” of this weapons system.  Are the deadly results of this program inherent in the system, or from the training and imperialist orientation of their targeting systems, or are they the product of inhuman quotas, priorities, stress and “burnout” is a question.  But the article below is only concerned with the health of drone-joystick commanders–and not with the deadly results of the “pilots” instability, and their victims. — Frontlines ed.]

UAS (drone) pilots

December 21, 2011

A new Pentagon study shows that almost 30 percent of UAS pilots surveyed suffer from what the military calls “burnout.” It’s the first time the military has tried to measure the psychological impact of waging a “remote-controlled war.”

Around 1,100 Air Force pilots fly remotely piloted aircraft. These planes soar over Iraq or Afghanistan but the pilots sit at military bases back in the United States.

The report, commissioned by the US Air Force, shows that 29 percent of the UAS pilots surveyed said they were burned out and suffered from high levels of fatigue. The Air Force doesn’t consider this a dangerous level of stress.

However, 17 percent of active duty pilots surveyed are thought to be “clinically distressed”. The Air Force says this means the pilots stress level has crossed a threshold where it’s now affecting the pilots’ work and family life. A large majority of these pilots said they’re not getting any counseling for their stress level. Continue reading