I’ve added a draft of a new essay, ‘Moving targets and violent geographies’, under the DOWNLOADS tab. It’s a general essay on drones, summarising both their genealogies and geographies, and I would welcome any comments, preferably by e-mail so they don’t get lost in the spam nets: again, this is a draft, so please treat it as such. I wrote it for a volume of essays in honour of the work of my great friend Allan Pred, though I’ll incorporate a different version in The everywhere war. This raw draft doesn’t feature any images (despite the references to Figure 1, etc): I’m still trying decide what to include.
You’ll see that it draws on a number of posts on the blog – a large number, now I’ve realised just how how many drone sightings there have been on geographicalimaginations.com! – as well as recent presentations. I’ve noted before that I find presentations a useful way to prepare for an essay; I treat these visuals as storyboards and, once the essay has been drafted, it’s time to move on to other presentations: reading to an audience from a finalised script seems a waste of time to me. But I’ve also found those scattered posts immensely helpful too, and I’ve been surprised at the consistent themes that emerged from them once I started to put them together. This is more than cut-and-paste (or at least I hope so), and there are new arguments in the essay. Let me know what you think.
Drones are moving targets in all sorts of ways – not only because, as I explain in the essay, they are currently unable to operate in contested A2/AD (‘anti-access/area denial’) environments, and not even because Boeing has recently converted some of its mothballed F-16 fighter aircraft into target drones (see the image above; there’s a long history of target drones, of course) – but also because advanced militaries are re-evaluating their role and capabilities.
The Pentagon issued its first integrated ‘UAS roadmap‘ in 2005, a review of all unmanned systems in 2007 and an update in 2011. The Air Force produced its own ‘UAS Flight Plan‘ in 2009 (see the briefing slides here) and has promised its new ‘RPA [Remotely Piloted Aircraft] Vector’ report in the very near future.
It’s keenly awaited because there are indications that the Air Force is re-thinking its infatuation with Predators and Reapers. The commander of Air Combat Combat, General Mike Hostage, has made it plain that they are ‘useless in a contested environment‘ and so are unlikely to have a prominent place in Obama’s ‘pivot’ to Asia/Pacific.
While you are waiting, you can get a taste of what is to come from this June 2013 briefing by Jeffrey Eggers.