Warplanes: U.S. UAVs Shifted To Peacekeeping Duty


December 19,2008: The U.S. Army is taking some of its newly acquired expertise with battlefield UAVs, and applying it to peacekeeping operations. This won't be the first time. Back in the 1990s, UAVs were first used for peacekeeping operations, in the Balkans. Since then, several countries have taken UAVs along on peacekeeping missions.

With the rapid winding down of operations in Iraq, and the smaller buildup in Afghanistan, there are plenty of UAVs, and experienced U.S. Army operators, available for peacekeeping operations. Some are headed for Africa, where most of the UN peacekeeping operations are. Army UAVs consist largely of the 350 pound Shadow 200, and the five pound Raven. The latter can be handed over to foreign peacekeepers, who can be taught how to operate it in a few hours. A few U.S. troops can stick around to help with training and maintenance, but the peacekeepers themselves will quickly find the Raven useful for getting a better view of their immediate surroundings. The Shadow 200 requires more experienced operators, but can give peacekeeper commanders a good look at whatever is happening within 50 kilometers.

UAVs are very popular with peacekeepers because a large part of the job is keeping track of lots of people. This has to be done with innocent civilians, and armed groups of bad guys. The civilians and hostiles often have no way to communicate over long distances, so the UAV is a lot more efficient than manned aircraft for tracking everyone down. The U.S. also provides communications equipment that will enable the video feed from Shadow 200s to be shared with other locations on the ground, or in helicopters or aircraft.

While not operating in a war zone, peacekeeping UAVs do get shot at. Two years ago, a Belgium Hunter B UAV in Congo, supporting UN peacekeeping operations there, was lost when a single shot from an AK-47 brought it down. Examination of the wreckage showed that it was a lucky shot, which hit a key spar, that caused a wing to fold. The guy firing the shot was just popping off, for no particular reason. He was a local thug, not a member of any of the militias the peacekeepers were there to deal with.



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