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Drone Wars for March 2014 is ompiled by Elayne Jude for Great North News Service
The month opened with a series of attacks in Yemen, following a long winter hiatus.
MBDA has also announced its successful demonstration of the Dual Mode BRIMSTONE missile on an MQ-9 REAPER , scoring nine direct hits against a range of targets including very high speed and manoeuvring vehicles. Dual mode Brimstone has been widely praised by UK ministers and RAF personnel for its contribution to the Libyan campaign. More on both on next page.
Dual Mode BRIMSTONE is designed for the engagement of moving and manoeuvring targets, and targets in high collateral risk / urban environments. MBDA claims that BRIMSTONE 'reduces collateral damage risk and demonstrates first pass, single shot lethality against high speed manoeuvring targets on land and at sea and in complex environments'.
Trials were conducted in December 2013 and January 2014 at US Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, by the RAF's Air Warfare Centre Unmanned Air Systems Test and Evaluation Squadron, Defence Equipment & Support Weapons Operating Centre, United States Air Force's BIG SAFARI Organisation, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Incorporated and MBDA.
The trials began with captive carry of Avionics and Environmental Data Gathering Missiles, followed by a series of live Operational Missile and inert Telemetry Missile firings.
The firings were taken from realistic 'middle of the envelope' profiles; typically 20,000ft release altitude and 7km - 12km plan range, with the platform being remotely piloted in operationally representative beyond line of sight (SATCOM) conditions. http://www.mbda-systems.com/mediagallery/#/news/3255
Further evidence of UAV penetration of the popular culture and imagination: James Bridle's site specific installation 'Drone Shadows' has been nominated for a Design Museum Designs of the Year Award 2014, in the Graphics category. In May 2013 digital arts organisation Lighthouse commissioned one of James' Drone Shadows, Under The Shadow of A Drone, for Brighton Festival. A one-to-one rendering of a military craft, Under The Shadow Of A Drone tells of the conflicts in war zones declared and undeclared.
3 March - Yemen.
Three AQAP fighters killed. The strike is the first recorded in Yemen in more than five weeks. The target was a senior AQAP commander..
A missile was launched at a vehicle near Mayfa, in Shabwa province. Mujahid Jaber Saleh al Shabwani and two other AQAP operatives are reported to have been killed.
In August 2013 l Shabwani was on a list of 25 wanted al-Qaeda operatives that was released by the Yemeni government in August 2013. He was among those who are wanted for attacking Yemeni government and security installations.
Abdul Razzaq al Jamal, a Yemeni journalist who is closely tied to AQAP and who often releases the group's propaganda, reported on his Facebook account that the target of today's airstrike was Sheikh Ma'moun Abdulhamid Hatem, an AQAP leader and cleric who is also a tribal leader in Ibb province. Hatem "escaped," according to al Jamal. US officials contacted by The Long War Journal would not comment on the target of the strike, but one intelligence official said Hatem is "a person of interest."
Hatem was interviewed by al Jamal in March 2013, and said he did not fear death from US drones as martyrdom while waging jihad is welcomed. Hatem also said that the drone strikes were increasing local support for AQAP. AQAP is known to operate in Shabwa province. Most of the province was under AQAP control between May 2011 and May 2012.
5 March - Yemen.
Today the US launched the second drone strike in Yemen in three days. The strike, which took place in northern Yemen, killed a jihadist who fought in Iraq.
The remotely piloted Predators or the more deadly larger Reapers fired two missiles at a vehicle as it traveled in the Khalka area of Al Jawf province province. Four "militants," including a local commander known as Ali Juraym, were killed in the strike.
Yemeni news sources claim that Ali Juraym, whose full name is Ali Saleh Juraym Al Olyan, was an al Qaeda commander known to have returned from Iraq. Al Olyan was reportedly from the Al Sayda tribe hailing from the Al Jawf province in northern Yemen. Yemeni tribal sources said that they could not identify the other AQAP fighters who were killed with Al Olyan due to the severity of their injuries. They also confirmed that al Qaeda operatives arrived at the scene shortly after the drone strike to collect the militants' remains.
Yemenis are known to fight in Iraq and in other theaters of jihad. In the past, the government encouraged its young men to fight in Iraq and then return to fight against the Houthis, a Shia rebel group in the north. In early 2007, a Yemeni newspaper counted more than 1,800 Yemenis who had traveled to Iraq for jihad; their families said the young men were trained by top-level Yemeni military commanders.
10 March, Yemen.
Late last night a US drone strike killed four al Qaeda commanders and fighters in Marib province east of Sana'a, the Yemeni capital. The strike is the third in Yemen so far this month.
Arabic media reports indicate that the drones fired two missiles at two vehicles carrying al Qaeda operatives as they traveled in the Wadi Abida area of Al Shabwa district in Marib.
The two al Qaeda leaders confirmed killed in the attack were identified as Ebad Mobarak Al Shabwani and Ja'afar Mohammad Jaber Al Shabwani. Ebad and Ja'afar were not on Yemen's most recent list of wanted al Qaeda leaders. The identities of the other two killed in the strike were not confirmed, but Arabic new sources suggest that they too were members of al Qaeda.
The Al Shabwan tribe has been recurrently involved in al Qaeda activity in the country, and drone strikes have targeted a number of the tribe members. Most recently, Mujahid Jaber Saleh al Shabwani, an AQAP leader who had returned from fighting in Iraq, was killed in Shabwa province by a US drone strike [see LWJ report, US kills 3 AQAP operatives in Yemen drone strike]. AQAP is known to operate in Shabwa province, where much of the Shabwan tribe is based. Most of the province was under AQAP control between May 2011 and May 2012.
The US has targeted AQAP in Wadi Abida in Marib four other times in the past.
12 March - Yemen.
The US killed a local al Qaeda Arabian Peninsula commander and his bodyguard in the fourth recorded strike in Yemen so far this month.
Today's airstrike, which was carried out by the remotely piloted Predators or Reapers, targeted a vehicle as it traveled in the Jebel Jame area in the northern province of Al Jawf. The strike killed a local AQAP military commander known as Moajab bin Aziz, as well as his bodyguard, according to reports.
Al Jawf is a known haven for top al Qaeda leaders. US drones have struck AQAP in Al Jawf five other times since the beginning of 2010. The last strike in the province took place just one week ago, on March 5. That attack killed Ali Saleh Juraym Al Olyan, a local al Qaeda commander said to have returned from fighting in Iraq, and three other AQAP fighters.