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14 December 2011

Pattern: Lost Drones

RQ-170 Sentinel Spy Drone
 In the news this month was the loss of a drone over Iran on 4 December.  Iran will not return the drone to the United States.  No one should be surprised that Iran is not honoring the request given the history of the United States and England imposing Mohammad Reza Pahlavi as dictator over Iran, overturning a democratically elected government in 1953.  The people of the land once called Persia have a long memory.

MQ-9 Reaper Spy Drone
Nine days later, another drone is down.  This time it is on an island in the Indian Ocean, due east of Kenya.  The Stars and Stripes has the story.
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan – A U.S. drone aircraft crashed Tuesday in the Republic of Seychelles, an island nation east of Africa.
U.S. Air Forces in Europe reported on its website that the remotely piloted MQ-9 Reaper crashed at 10:22 a.m. at Seychelles International Airport on the island of Mahe.
The MQ-9, manufactured by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, was not armed and no injuries were reported, according to USAFE.
“The Government of Seychelles was immediately notified, and the U.S. military and the Civil Aviation Authority of the Seychelles are coordinating the removal of debris,” USAFE said on its website.
My questions are:  What is going on here??!?  Is this a coincidence?  Is this the start of a pattern?

Given that we are sometimes a target for terrorists and given the historic antipathy of some nations to the United States, we do need good intelligence.  The amazing technology in these drones is laudable.  However, that technology is now in the hands of Iran and possibly also that of China or Russia.

As we invest in technologies, we need to invest even more in the personnel who control those technologies, even more in the personnel who maintain those technologies, even more in the infrastructure that surround these vital personnel.  This is counter to popular politics today.  This means government jobs.  This means finding funds, perhaps by raising taxes or shifting funds from spying on Americans and harassing us in airports.

One question that should not be answered in public:  If we have spy drones flying over Afghanistan (and Pakistan), and Iran, and in the middle of the Indian Ocean, we must have a lot of these.  How many and where?

Have we really become the world's police service?  Is that part of our designation now in the United Nations or in NATO?  Is this Constitutional?  Lots of questions with no clear answers.

Update:  NBC News reports that this drone was not involved in any of the wars of the United States.
The MQ-9 Reaper is a medium-to-high altitude unmanned aircraft system with sensors that can provide real-time data. The Seychelles-based MQ-9s, which are used to monitor piracy activities in and around the Indian Ocean, don't carry weapons, though they have the capability to do so.
My earlier questions remain.

1 January 2012, FollowUp 1.
4 January 2012, FollowUp 2.
12 June 2012, FollowUp 3.
1 July 2012, FollowUp 4.

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