Pine Gap Alice Springs Company targeted by protesters

Media Release

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Pine Gap Alice Springs Company targeted by protesters

Raytheon the private contractor behind much of Pine Gap’s work has become a target of protesters who are in Alice Springs to commemorate Pine Gap’s 50 year history of creating instability and war.  Situated in a non-descript building in Whittaker Street, Raytheon Australia, the subsidiary of one of the largest arms dealers in the world, expects to ply its trade without hindrance.

“We mean to upset this smugness which permeates this horrendous corporation whose self-advertising slogan is laughingly ‘keeping the world safe’, it means to do this by massive weaponised force!  Said Denis Doherty of the Anti-Bases Campaign.


“In regard to Pine Gap alone Raytheon has much to answer for, creating the software to spy on civilians, to direct drones and to target areas of the world where Australia is not at war with such as Yemen and Somalia. Said Nick Deane from Independent and Peaceful Australia Netowork.


“Commentary on Raytheon in the US says the following Raytheon doesn’t have an army of tax collectors, but they certainly do have the money to buy off politicians, and then get those politicians to buy their products with tax payer money.  Now they are doing the same in Australia where Raytheon has big contracts with the Government for a huge range of expensive items.  We call Raytheon a public funded merchant.  Said Dr. Hannah Middleton Anti-Bases Campaign


“It is time to shine a light on this massive corporate giant which leeches resources away from much needed services such as health and education to weaponry which in turn creates more use of weaponry and more distress.  Mr Deane continued.


Raytheon is not a good corporate citizen but simply a privatized conglomerate to wage war for 0.1% of the USA.

Details: 8 Whittaker St Alice Springs Sept 29 2.30 pm

For more information:  contact Hannah Middleton 0418 668 098, Nick Deane 0420 526929, Denis Doherty 0418 290 663


Rise of Civilian Drones


Foregn Correspondent

By Mark Corcoran, Foreign Correspondent online editorUpdated Tue Sep 4, 2012 2:00pm AEST

The Australian Defence Force is quietly resurrecting plans to buy seven huge intelligence and surveillance drones that could cost up to $3 billion.

The unmanned aerial vehicles will be used for maritime surveillance and intercepting asylum seeker boats. The decision comes despite claims that the Royal Australian Air Force’s top commanders have long opposed the acquisition of unmanned aerial vehicles because they will put pilots out of a job and threaten RAAF culture.

The $200 million Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk reconnaissance drone is the largest, most expensive unmanned aerial vehicle in the world today.

Its vast wingspan of 39.8 metres can lift the craft to 65,000 feet and stay airborne for 35 hours with a non-stop range of 16,000 kilometres – eclipsing the endurance of similar manned aircraft.

Quick facts: MQ-4C Triton

  • Role: Broad Area Maritime Surveillance
  • Built By: Northrop Grumman
  • Wingspan: 39.9 metres
  • Height: 4.6 metres
  • Maximum take-off weight: 14.62 tonnes
  • Internal payload: 1.45 tonnes
  • External payload: 1.08 tonnes
  • Range: 15,168 kilometres
  • Maximum altitude: 17.2 kilometres
  • Maximum speed: 613 kmph
  • Endurance: 28 hours

Source: Northrop Grumman

In 2004, the Howard government was so impressed with Global Hawk that plans were announced to buy a fleet of 12 of the spy drones for $1 billion.But in 2009 the acquisition was cancelled by Labor’s Joel Fitzgibbon, who was defence minister at the time.In May 2010, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott announced a Coalition government would buy three Global Hawks.

Despite this erratic political flight path, the idea of Australian Global Hawks remained in bureaucratic mothballs until July this year, when the latest Defence Capability Plan was quietly released.Buried in the document were plans to bring forward by three years the acquisition of “high altitude, long endurance” unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

The RAAF now wants seven large UAVs flying by 2019.The favoured option is a new, maritime surveillance version of the Global Hawk – the MQ4C Triton.

The estimated cost of the project is between $2 billion and $3 billion.

Triton had a shaky take-off in June 2012, when a demonstration version of the maritime drone crashed just three days before the official unveiling ceremony at Northrop Grumman’s Californian factory.A company spokesman insists the demonstrator that went down was an old, worn-out Global Hawk, bearing little resemblance to the new, improved Triton.

When it takes to the skies for the first time later this year, Triton will appear to be a slightly larger version of its cousin, Global Hawk.

Triton was designed for broad area maritime surveillance – following ships from high altitude.

Intelligence analyst Matthew Aid

However, leading American intelligence analyst and author Matthew Aid says they are two very different drones.”Global Hawk was designed for pin-point imagery or eavesdropping on land targets, by over flight, or by flying obliquely up to 450 kilometres off an enemy’s coastline,” he said.

“Triton was designed for broad area maritime surveillance – following ships from high altitude.”The US Navy expects to start flying the first of 68 Tritons on order by 2015.Some will be based on the US territory of Guam to cover the Asia-Pacific region, while another detachment will fly out of Diego Garcia to monitor the Indian Ocean.

In March, the Washington Post reported that the US is also considering basing Global Hawk/Triton on Australia’s Cocos Islands.

The US Navy claims a single Triton 24-hour surveillance mission can cover nearly 7 million square kilometres of ocean – identifying every vessel in one vast sweep of the ocean. But Mr Aid remains unimpressed.

“Triton does not have anywhere near the range or payload capability of the Global Hawk, and from what I can gather its imaging sensors are nowhere near as good,” he said.

Worth questioned

The Royal Australian Air Force now wants Triton to support a new generation of manned maritime patrol aircraft, the P-8A, which looks like a converted 737 airliner.Together, these two systems will replace the RAAF’s aging fleet of P3 Orions that have spent decades patrolling the vast expanse of ocean surrounding Australia – about 20 per cent of the world’s sea surface.Capable of being armed with both missiles and torpedos, the 8 P8 Poseidons already on order will also be capable of anti-submarine warfare.

But is Global Hawk/Triton worth the hefty price tag of at least $200 million each? Andrew Davies of the Canberra-based Australian Strategic Policy Institute is not so sure.”That’s still a question to be answered. It can fly high and fast, but is really expensive. Each UAV plus ground support systems costs about $200 million each – you can buy a P8 for that,” he said.

“So they’re not cheap. The question is can you do the job with a cheaper UAV? “The Mariner is the maritime version of the Reaper (flown in Afghanistan and Pakistan). It flies slower and lower which can be a good thing as it can drop down and take a closer look at asylum boats for instance, with decks covered by tarps.”The Mariner is much cheaper, priced in the tens of millions.”

In 2006 the Mariner was put through its paces in a trial off Australia’s North West Shelf. Mariner supporters say it offers 80 per cent of the capability of a Triton for one-tenth of the cost. That is a powerful argument in Canberra these days, where the Defence budget has just been slashed by $5.5 billion.Unlike the high flying unarmed Triton, the Mariner is also designed to carry missiles.

Mr Davies says low cost and an armed capability will be a big plus when flying into regional uncertainty.”It’s about the Indian Ocean and securing our sea lanes,” he said.”In the Indian Ocean we see growing competition between the navies of China, India and the US. US attention is now pivoting towards this part of the world.” Other experts argue there is a far more urgent, humanitarian task to perform – border protection.

As Australia’s refugee boat crisis escalates and with the Navy reportedly stretched to breaking point intercepting asylum seekers, drones could provide a timely solution in saving more lives.

Kym Bergmann, the editor of Asia Pacific Defence Reporter and a former defence industry executive who worked on UAV projects, says Global Hawk should have been in Australian service years ago. He claims this did not happen because RAAF pilots feared UAVs would threaten their jobs and traditions.


Drone journalism takes off
As the media starts to deploy small toy-like drones to cover stories, what ethical and safety issues are arising?

The kill chain: Australia’s drone war
Find out how Australia deploys a fleet of Israeli-owned Heron drones to support its troops in Afghanistan.

Revealed: US flew spy drone missions from Australia
Read how a group of part-time aviation historians helped lift the lid on how the US flew spy drones from an Adelaide RAAF base.

“Early in 2008 the new Labor [Defence] Minister [Joel Fitzgibbon] had some sort of brain snap and made a very dramatic announcement to the effect that the acquisition of Global Hawk was going to be deferred for a decade,” he said.”At the time as a relatively inexperienced minister, he was stampeded by some of the advice that was coming from the Air Force in particular.

“It was because [the RAAF] really preferred the idea of having a manned aircraft.”It’s because a manned aircraft is flown by guys with moustaches and flying allowances, rather than being operated by hyper intelligent nerds sitting in front of computer terminals, which is essentially how you operate a Global Hawk.”

The high-resolution cameras and synthetic aperture radars mean that from an altitude of 60,000 feet at a distance of several hundred kilometres, you can use both your radar and your camera to give you crystal clear imagery right down to very, very small boats.

Asia Pacific Defence Reporter editor Kym Bergmann

Mr Bergmann claims the RAAF senior commanders dropped their opposition to Global Hawk/Triton only after they were promised the P8 planes that still need pilots to fly them.”It’s been quite a dramatic conversion. They’ve now become enthusiasts for the technology, when in fact for the previous decade they’d done everything that they could to resist it,” he said.

He says Australia urgently needs a maritime UAV capability and that Global Hawk/Triton is the drone for the job.”It’s highly likely that we’re going to see more asylum seekers coming to Australia, there’s going to be the possibility of increased transnational crime, there’s going to be the possibility of increased illegal activities,” he said.”The high-resolution cameras and synthetic aperture radars mean that from an altitude of 60,000 feet at a distance of several hundred kilometres, you can use both your radar and your camera to give you crystal clear imagery right down to very, very small boats.  “You can really get down to rowing boat sizes. The quality of the imagery is quite phenomenal.”A growing number of younger RAAF officers now enthusiastically endorse a rapid expansion of the drone fleet.Since 2009 the Air Force has been flying leased, Israeli-owned Heron surveillance drones in support of Australian troops in Afghanistan.Displaying the zeal of a convert, Wing Commander Jonathan McMullan, an RAAF pilot-turned-drone commander, recently returned from Afghanistan, declared: “The capability? It’s like crack cocaine, a drug for our guys involved.”

Rise of civilian drones

Tonight on ABC1, Foreign Correspondent sounds the alarm on the swarms of private and government drones gathering in American skies and surely bound for the rest of the world.Some of the drones have live streaming cameras and the ability to carry other payloads, and tens of thousands of them are expected to take to the sky.

But who’s at the controls? Potentially anybody.





Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, drones) are the world’s latest space-based weapon and in just 10 years a ‘must-have’ item on the shopping lists of state and non-state military organisations. It is bringing profound changes to military technology and the nature of warfare. Many wise voices are warning of dire consequences if the world does not bring the military use, proliferation and development of drones under strict control.


The drone has become the USA’s weapon of choice for its counterterrorism program of intentional and predetermined killing, or ‘targeted killing’. This use of drones is eroding moral and legal norms because:

  • People of nations at peace with the USA are being killed and injured, and communities terrorized, by drone strike. In Pakistan, it is estimated that only 2% of militants killed are so-called ‘high value’ militants
  • Arguably, the sovereignty of those nations not at war with the USA but whose people are being harmed by US drone strike is being violated.
  • The obligation of nations to be accountable to international law is being undermined.
  • Extrajudicial execution (death penalty without trial) is in danger of being legitimized.
  • Targeted killing by US drone strike is fueling worldwide proliferation of drone surveillance and drone weapon systems, and rapid uncontrolled research and development in the technology.


The use of drones by states for targeted killings is being led by the USA, and practised also by Israel and the UK. Notoriously, US drone strikes have killed and injured people of nations it is not at war with: Yemen, Somalia, the Philippines and, principally, Pakistan. The practice is also seriously devaluing international law because the USA refuses to abide by the rules of war and provide information necessary for legal scrutiny. Effective international control measures of drone use, proliferation and development are urgently needed. After 10 years of drone-enabled targeted killings, it is more than time that UN member states responded appropriately.


The US drone program has set a dangerously seductive precedent both in war-making and in avoiding legal accountability. When free of legal accountability, use of drones makes the decision to go to war too easy; it is relatively cheap and presents no risk to operating personnel. In his 2010 report on targeted killings to the General Assembly as UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary killings, Philip Alston states that the relevant legal frameworks – customary norms of war, nations’ own domestic laws, International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law – are, in combination, adequate tools for establishing the legality of the US drone programs, but these frameworks are losing their authority because they cannot compete with the attractiveness to other nations of the precedent of law-free, risk-free war set by the US drone war. The USA refuses to make itself accountable and the world community can’t find the political will to insist that it does, with the result that international law is being eviscerated. For US Congress member Dennis Kucinich, the drone program “… bespeaks an approach which depraves moral law, the constitution and international law.”


One of the latest US drone strikes on Pakistan illustrates what is morally abhorrent and legally unacceptable about drone strikes. Mid-afternoon on 24 October 2012, in Tappi Village near Miranshap, North Wazirstan, a CIA drone strike killed an elderly woman and critically burned 2 to 6 of her grandchildren. Two drones lingered in the sky (‘hang time’ in military jargon) delaying rescue. Another 1 to 4 people were killed, either summarily executed or incidentally. As with thousands of its covert counterterrorism operations, the USA defied its responsibility to make itself accountable for the action, maintaining a strict silence about details necessary to establishing its legality. To comply with the law, the USA must show that it has means to, firstly, obtain detailed and reliable information identifying those to be targeted by its attacks as well as those who may also suffer, and, secondly, restrain its practices accordingly. Essentially, the USA must have evidence to show that those it intends to kill pose an imminent threat to life and are unstoppable by other means, which is the only legitimate justification for targeted killing under International Human Rights Law.


According to the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ), reputed to be among the most reliable of those media and academic organisations trying to fill the transparency gap left by US silence, the death of the Tappi Village grandmother brings the estimates of civilians in Pakistan killed in drone strikes, in the period 2004–2012, to between 472–885, 176 of whom were, reportedly, children. The estimated total number of civilian deaths in US covert counterterror operations (Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia) is in the range 543–1105. Even more damning is the allegation that a portion of US drone deaths results from deliberate targeting of civilians: from 2009 to 2011, at least 50 civilian deaths allegedly resulted from so-called ‘double tap’ strikes, follow-up strikes deliberately targeting rescuers; and approximately 20 from attacks on funeral-goers. TBIJ estimates of total drone killings in US covert operations are: 2586–3375 in Pakistan (2004–2012); 362–1052 in Yemen (2002–2012); and 58–170 in Somalia (2007–2012). These totals are particularly significant given the allegation that approximately 98% of militants who are killed are classified ‘low value’ or foot soldiers.


The US claims its covert counterterrorism drone programs are legally justified on the grounds of self-defence, and has asserted the right to wage global war on an adversary vaguely designated as ‘Al Queda, as well as the Taliban and associated forces’. The claims that pre-emptive attacks on suspected terrorists are acts of national self-defence and that nations have the right to wage ‘global’ war are legally controversial. What isn’t controversial, as highlighted by Philip Alston, is that no state may invoke self-defence as justification for its violation of International Humanitarian Law (IHL). For targeted killing to be legal in the context of armed conflict, those that are targeted must be combatants and the killings must meet the IHL requirements of necessity, proportionality and discrimination. “Targeted killing is only lawful when the target is a ‘combatant’ or ‘fighter’ or, in the case of a civilian, only for such time as the person ‘directly participates in hostilities’. In addition, the killing must be militarily necessary, the use of force must be proportionate so that any anticipated military advantage is considered in light of the expected harm to civilians in the vicinity, and everything feasible must be done to prevent mistakes and minimize harm to civilians. These standards apply regardless of whether the armed conflict is between States … or between a State and a non-State armed group …”


Arguably, none of the three IHL requirements are being met by the US covert drone programs. Prima facie, harm caused to civilians far outweighs any self-defence gains. Analysis also suggests that the USA could better meet its self-defence aims by capturing militants or using less-than-lethal incapacitation. It is likely that political aspects of the relation between the USA and Pakistan have at times been a stronger influence on the intensity of strikes than ‘military necessity’. Comments of former and current administration officers, even the president himself, indicate that US methods of differentiating civilian from militant are often blatantly cavalier: targets do not necessarily have their identities verified but are targeted on the bases of what is assessed as suspicious, that is ‘signature’, behavior. It is also reported that all ‘military-age’ males within strike areas are automatically counted by the USA as militants. More damming still is the alleged deliberate targeting of civilians. Deliberate attacks on civilians who are not directly and at the time partaking in hostility are war crimes.


Although drone technology is not yet particularly reliable, it promises what war makers have long fantasised. Hard to detect, potentially anonymous and relatively cheap, the drone is a precision weapon that can spy and kill without risk to the operating personnel. The world seems mesmerized, blind to the dangers of such weaponry; 76 countries already have rushed to acquire or develop some sort of UAV. Proliferation dangers are emphasised in ‘Living Under Drones’, the recent report of the schools of law of Stanford University and New York University: “We are in the midst of a significant period of drone proliferation …. Unchecked armed drone proliferation poses a threat to global stability, and, as more countries and non-state actors obtain access to the technology, the risk of US-style practices of cross-border targeted killing spreading are clear.”


At the same time as it has avoided legal scrutiny, the USA has showcased to the world a radical and peculiarly deviant method of waging war and it has ignited a global arms race in drones, seriously compromising safety of its own people, and of people everywhere. “… [I]f the drone programs are not shut down”, says Dennis Kucinich, “then what we are looking at is the potential of war of all against all, a pulverisation of national sovereignty and a rejection of the structure of international law.” The observation of Clive Stafford Smith, director of the UK legal charity Reprieve, is equally bleak, “We sleepwalked into a nuclear age, now we ar

Drones flown from Adelaide

Revealed: US flew spy drone missions from Australia

Updated 3 September 2012, 9:52 AEST

A group of part-time aviation buffs has helped lift the lid on how the United States flew highly classified giant spy drones from an Adelaide RAAF base.

Secrets uncovered: Members of the West Beach Aviation  took a picture a Global Hawk touching down at RAAF Edinburgh in February 2006.The operations were detected by a group of Adelaide aviation historians who had a member monitoring aircraft radio frequencies 20 hours a day.

With a wingspan greater than a 737 airliner and a $200 million price tag, the RQ-4 Global Hawk is the biggest, most expensive unmanned aerial vehicle to ever take to the skies. The spy drone is the jewel in the crown of America’s global electronic intelligence-gathering network. Global Hawk operations are cloaked in secrecy, and the US Air Force likes to keep it that way.

But perhaps the Pentagon severely underestimated the vigilance of Adelaide aviation historians the West Beach Aviation Group (WBAG).WBAG members have told ABC’s Foreign Correspondent that they monitored the flights until Australian defence security officials paid them a visit and demanded they not publish material revealing the presence of the Global Hawks.

“[The Global Hawks] usually approached and departed at night, although there were a few exceptions – and then they were photographed by the group,” WBAG spokesman Paul Daw said.”But there were sensitivities. A photographer (from the group) was visited unannounced by Australian military security and questioned for putting movements onto an international web site.

“They claimed he showed vulnerabilities of the base.”

WBAG group members say they take national security seriously, but argue there are no restrictions on photographing or monitoring US aircraft in Australian skies.Despite the heavy-handed attempt at suppression, details of Global Hawk movements were published in the group’s limited-circulation newsletter.

Still, the US government was determined to keep a lid on the spy drone missions.

Unusual chatter provides drone giveaway

Foreign Correspondent understands that in 2004, the then-Australian defence minister, South Australian Liberal senator Robert Hill, notified the Americans of his intention to announce the flights to the Australian public. But the US Air Force vigorously opposed the defence minister’s planned disclosure, demanding all Global Hawk operations remain classified. Mr Hill, who has since left federal Parliament, did not respond to requests to comment on this story.South Australia’s then Labor premier, Mike Rann, who at the time was lobbying for a greater Defence presence in his state, was not told of the sensitive US military flights.

Global Hawk’s only official visit to Australia was in April 2001, touching down at RAAF Edinburgh amid a blaze of publicity as it completed a record-breaking 14,000-kilometre flight across the Pacific from California. But after the terrorist attacks of September 2001, Global Hawk disappeared off the public radar.As Washington ramped up its declared war on terror, the spy drones were dispatched worldwide. They were seen flying from bases in California and the United Arab Emirates. But the covert reach of Global Hawk went much further.

Mr Daw says the spy drones began quietly slipping into South Australia two months later, in November 2001.”The reason we knew a Global Hawk was coming is we’d see a C141 Starlifter arrive up to a week earlier and unload a shipping container or two. These were for command and control – to control the approach of Global Hawk,” he said. Mr Daw says the group’s 30 volunteers include a retired airline captain, commercial pilots, photographers and an air traffic controller, so they knew exactly what to expect. He explains that to get a heads-up on approaching aircraft, “one of our guys monitors aircraft radio frequencies 20 hours a day”. Mr Daw says unusual radio chatter on local air traffic control frequencies heralded the approach of a spy drone.

“They used a strange call sign. The Global Hawk would line up to land from 200 nautical miles out over Port Augusta,” he said. Global Hawk’s American manufacturer, Northrop Grumman, provided civilian ground crews to service the drones at the RAAF base.

Why fly from Australia?

The Australian Defence Department now confirms US Global Hawks visited Australia, but plays down the significance of the missions. In an email response to our questions a Defence spokesperson said: “Global Hawk visits to Australia are rare but have previously occurred, principally to RAAF Base Edinburgh nearAdelaide. Global Hawk visits to Australia since the 2001 trial have been for short replenishment purposes.”Adelaide was initially a transit stop for Global Hawks en route from the west coast of theUS to the Al Dhafra air base in the United Arab Emirates, but a number of aviation industry insiders claim that is not the whole story.

Mr Daw says “the flights were believed to be surveillance missions of Afghanistan”.Later the drone stopovers were extended.”Sometimes a Global Hawk would go out [from RAAF Edinburgh] on two or three flights. The aircraft would climb to 60,000 feet,” Mr Daw said.”Who knows where they went … they had enough fuel for 30 to 35 hours, and they’d return.” The aviation enthusiasts say they spotted 10 missions to Adelaide. “But they are just the ones we know about”, concedes one member.

While the Australian public and the South Australian Government were left in the dark, there were no restrictions on the international media. In February 2006, an American journalist from industry publication Aviation Week and Space Technology was given access to report on a single Global Hawk reconnaissance mission from RAAF Edinburgh to southern Japan and back again.

Officially, this was a demonstration flight for the Japanese, who were keen to acquire Global Hawk.The timing of the mission was intriguing, launched just one week after North Korea had conducted a series of failed missile tests.

At the time,US intelligence was intensely focused on determining North Korea’s offensive military capabilities.Were the US Global Hawks targeting countries in our region? And why did the drones need to fly specifically to Edinburgh for “replenishment”, requiring such a huge detour from the international hotspots they targeted?

The Australian Defence Department refuses to comment.Mr Daw thinks location was a key factor.”I believe RAAF Edinburgh was chosen because it is close to but outside a major city, had hangars that could conceal the Global Hawk and back then, it was a quiet base,” he said.

American author Matthew M Aid, an analyst specialising in US intelligence operations in the post-9/11 world, agrees.He says Global Hawk operations in the Asia-Pacific region have been based out of Andersen Air Force Base on the US territory of Guam– but only since 2010.He says concealing the presence of the spy drones has always been a priority “The problem with Andersen was the lack of hangars.US intelligence doesn’t like the drones parked out in the open … they’ve got to be in hangars and these weren’t completed until mid to late 2010 to avoid Russian and Chinese satellite detection,” he said.

“Almost every day one of the US Air Force Global Hawks based on the island of Guam can be found flying off the North Korean coastline taking pictures of targets deep inside the country that are more detailed than those coming from satellites.”They fly at 60,000 feet, 75 miles off the North Korean coastline, taking grainy shots taken from a 45-degree angle.” Mr Aid says that before 2010 “a forward operation location at Edinburgh would have been a perfect place”.

Obsessive secrecy

Mr Aid says Global Hawk operations are cloaked in obsessive secrecy. This may explain the heavy-handed response toAdelaide’s West Beach Aviation Group.”The US Air Force, for some bizarre reason, classifies everything to do with drones as ‘codeword’ top secret – that means above top secret,” he said. While Australian military officials were allegedly attempting to suppress disclosure of the flights, it appears Global Hawk’s targets already knew when the spy drones were coming.”Global Hawk is so big – with sharp angles, with no stealth at all – even a third-rate nation can pick up Global Hawk flights using airport radar,” Mr Aid said.

He says that between 2002 and 2005, Iranian diplomats routinely lodged diplomatic protests over US spy drones “flying daily signals intelligence and imagery collection missions along Iran’s borders with Iraq and Afghanistan and along Iran’s Persian Gulf coastline”.

When Global Hawk first visited Australiaon its public-relations flight in April 2001, the drone was still in its development phase and there were concerns over its reliability, Mr Aid says.He says after September 11 “the Air Force didn’t really have time to flight-test the Global Hawk, they had to get it operational ASAP”.

“They required hundreds of man hours before every flight – 45 men and women working on each one non-stop to keep it mission capable. The sensors are incredibly complex,” he said. Mr Aid says maintenance and refuelling stops at Edinburgh made sense on the completion of missions or when the drones were in transit from theUS to the Middle East and other locations.

Adelaide was also considered friendly territory.Mr Aid says the US and Australia share much of the highly sensitive signals intelligence gathered by assets such as Global Hawk.”Australia is a member of the so-called Five Eyes intelligence club that also includes the US, the United Kingdom, Canada and New Zealand,” he said.

At the time Australia was considering buying Global Hawk, the missions could have given RAAF officers a chance for a closer inspection.Mr Daw says the Adelaide group last spotted a Global Hawk in 2006. Other aviation industry sources claim the spy drones continued to fly to Australia beyond that date and that RAAF Edinburgh remains on the approved list of landing sites.

Global Hawk sightings have since been limited to a full-size promotional mock-up wheeled out at the Avalon Air Show nearMelbourne.

Plausible deniability?

The US Air Force now operates a fleet of 23 Global Hawks from a headquarters at Beale Air Base in California and a facility at Grand Forks, North Dakota. The spy drones maintain global surveillance coverage by rotating through three forward operating bases: Al Dhafra in the UAE, Sigonella US Naval Air Station on Sicily and Andersen Air Force Base on Guam. Now Russian and Chinese satellites have been joined by commercial competitors in photographing the elusive drones on the ground.

Mr Aid says despite the capability to fly non-stop missions around the globe, the $200 million Global Hawk still has many critics in the US Air Force: a so-called ‘white-scarf brigade’ of pilots who fear drones will put them out of a job.”They complain they can’t get the same capability as the U2, which has the advantage of bigger, better cameras, so senior people in the USAF advocate bringing back the U2,” he said.”The Global Hawk without a driver is nowhere near as sexy and has severe limitations.”

Facing major budget cuts, the US Air Force’s top general considered mothballing some Global Hawks and cancelling future orders because the drone costs too much to fly.”The reality is that the Global Hawk system has proven not to be less expensive to operate than the U2,” General Norton Schwartz said in January.Global Hawk got a temporary reprieve in July when Congress blocked plans to reduce the size of the fleet.

The ‘white-scarf brigade’ may still prefer to get behind the controls of the venerable U2 but Mr Aid says America’s diplomats have become big fans of Global Hawk.”The State Department likes Global Hawk because there is a certain degree of deniability. The advantage of Global Hawk is that it is designed for over-flight in ‘denied territory’ at high altitude,” he said.”If it gets shot down, you don’t lose a pilot – and that allows public deniability for the State Department.”

If the US military was seeking plausible deniability, then perhaps the Global Hawks should have stayed well away from Adelaide and the city’s vigilant aviation enthusiasts.

Rise of the Machines – Drones

Some of the drones have live streaming cameras and the ability to carry other payloads, and tens of thousands of them are expected to take to the sky.But who’s at the controls? Potentially anybody.

The Australian Defence Force is quietly planning to buy seven huge surveillance drones that could cost up to $3 billion.

Additional credit: Foreign Correspondent executive producer Steve Taylor.



From: Marlene Obeid <>
To: KeepWarFrom KeepWarFrom <>
Sent: Sunday, 2 September 2012 9:25 AM
Subject: [KeepWarFromOurDoor] Australian intelligence…
Dear all,
I suggest you read the following article, which will provide further insight into the Australia-US alliance, and the Australian govt continued involvement in belligerent activities and war crimes:

Will Australian intelligence agencies or special forces troops find themselves operating inSyria?

…United States is already deeply involved in a secret operation to support the revolt currently underway in Syria…The US system of covert and clandestine warfare, which has assumed an even greater prominence under President Obama, has now assumed a major role in the Foreign Policy arsenal of the US…
…It is of note that the ABC in Australia reported on 13th August that the US was not ruling out employing and enforcing a no-fly zone in north- western Syria. This report derived from a revealing aet of answers on the question of Syria by John O Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism when speaking to the US think tank…
…This is symbolic of the deep commitment of Australian political and military institutions to strategic and tactical orientations recently derived from the US alliance.


Drones upfront and personal

Drone warfare’s deadly civilian toll: a very personal view

I was minutes from ordering a drone strike on a Taliban insurgent – until I realised I was watching an Afghan child at play.

Predator drone in Afghanistan

A US Predator drone in Afghanistan. The strike in Somalia means armed drones are operating in six countries. Photograph: Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images


I find myself caught between the need to follow the drone debate and the need to avoid unpleasant memories it stirs. I used drones – unmanned aerial vehicles – during the nadir of my military career that was an operational tour in Afghanistan. I remember cuing up a US Predator strike before deciding the computer screen wasn’t depicting a Taliban insurgent burying an improvised explosive device in the road; rather, a child playing in the dirt.

After returning from Afghanistan at the end of 2009, I left the British army in 2010. I wanted to put as much distance as I could between myself and the UK, leaving to study in America (where I still reside). By doing so, I inadvertently placed myself in the country that is spearheading development in drone technology and use, highlighted by each report of a drone strike and the usual attendant civilian casualties.

Political theorist Hannah Arendt described the history of warfare in the 20th century as the growing incapacity of the army to fulfil its basic function: defending the civilian population. My experiences in Afghanistan brought this issue to a head, leaving me unable to avoid the realization that my role as a soldier had changed, in Arendt’s words, from “that of protector into that of a belated and essentially futile avenger”. Our collective actions in Iraq and Afghanistan after 9/11 were, and remain, futile vengeance – with drones the latest technological advance to empower that flawed strategy.

Drones are becoming the preferred instruments of vengeance, and their core purpose is analogous to the changing relationship between civil society and warfare, in which the latter is conducted remotely and at a safe distance so that implementing death and murder becomes increasingly palatable.

James Jeffrey serving in Iraq, 2004The author (at far left) as a lieutenant Challenger 2 troop leader in al-Amarah, Iraq, 2004. Photograph: James Jeffrey.

Hyperbole? But I was there. I sat in my camouflaged combats and I took the rules of engagement and ethical warfare classes. And frankly, I don’t buy much, if any, of it now – especially concerning drones. Their effectiveness is without question, but there’s terrible fallout from their rampant use.

Both Pakistan and Yemen are arguably less stable and more hostile to the west as a result of President Obama’s increased reliance on drones. When surveying the poisoned legacy left to the Iraqi people, and what will be left to the Afghan people, it’s beyond depressing to hear of the hawks circling around other theatres like Pakistan and Yemen, stoking the flames of interventionism.

I fear the folly in which I took part will never end, and society will be irreversibly enmeshed in what George Orwell’s 1984 warned of: constant wars against the Other, in order to forge false unity and fealty to the state.

It’s very easy to kill if you don’t view the target as a person. When I went to Iraq as a tank commander in 2004, the fire orders I gave the gunner acknowledged some legitimacy of personhood: “Coax man, 100 meters front.” Five years later in Afghanistan, the linguistic corruption that always attends war meant we’d refer to “hot spots”, “multiple pax on the ground” and “prosecuting a target”, or “maximising the kill chain”.

The Pentagon operates about 7,000 drones and asked Congress for nearly $5bn for drones in the 2012 budget. Before retiring as air force chief of staff, General Norton Schwartz was reported as saying it “was ‘conceivable’ drone pilots in the air force would outnumber those in cockpits in the foreseeable future”. That’s not a brave new world, far from it.

The encroachment of drones into the civilian realm is also gaining momentum. President Obama signed a federal law on 14 February 2012, allowing drones for a variety of commercial uses and for police law enforcement. The skies above may never be the same. As with most of America’s darker elements, such as its gun culture, there’s profit to be made – the market for drones is already valued at $5.9bn and is expected to double in 10 years.

During my time in Afghanistan, drones were primarily supplied by the US as our drone capability was miniscule in comparison. The British military still relies on US support, only owning about five armed drones. They have been busy, though: as of May 2012, the Ministry of Defence confirmed these had flown a total of 34,750 hours, and fired 281 missiles and laser-guided bombs.

With continued cuts to the British army’s personnel levels, it isn’t hard to envisage drones increasingly replacing boots on the ground. And since the UK already has the world’s highest number of CCTV cameras, the intrusion of drones into surveillance Britain doesn’t require much imagination.

Technological advancements in warfare don’t have a good track record in terms of unintended consequences. As Chris Hedges reveals in his book War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, an estimated 62 million civilians perished in the 20th century’s wars – “nearly 20 million more than the 43 million military personnel killed”.

Will the 21st century repeat such foolish tragedy? Many years still remain. I’d argue we should err on the side of caution and remain immensely wary of drones

Drones are Anti-Bases Business

Drones are Anti-Bases business. Mainly because of the US satellite ground stations it hosts, Australia is implicated in the summary execution of suspected terrorists and the incidental, sometimes deliberate, killing of civilians that characterise the USA’s covert counterterrorism drone campaign.

Scroll below for an excerpt from an article by AABCC spokesperson Hannah Middleton Drones—the Australian Connection.

US drone strikes indisputably offend against moral norms. Do they offend against the law? Many international law scholars believe the USA is not only acting illegally but devitalising the rule of law. Ian Seiderman, director of the International Commission of Jurists, insists that “immense damage [is] being done to the fabric of international law”.

Find on the webpage AABCC’s backgrounder Drones, targeted killing and international law

Check out the wealth of information in the recent (Sept.)report of the schools of law of Stanford University and New York University, Living Under Drones : Death, Injury and Trauma to Civilians from US Drone Practices in Pakistan . If you are as impressed with the report as me, please email a message with the report’s URL to the Minister for Defence and the Minister for Foreign Affairs . If 100 or so of us do this, the staff members vetting emails just might let their bosses know.

Here’s an excerpt from a recent article by AABCC spokesperson, Hannah Middleton. For the complete article, go to

Drones—the Australian Connection

Given Australia’s commitment to furthering US military policy in the Asia-Pacific and maintaining a high level of integration with US armed forces, it is unsurprising that Australian Defence is eager to follow the US and embrace the military drone. US drones have been flown from Australia, the Australian Defence Force (ADF) is using drones in Afghanistan, and the Australian Government is planning to buy drones. While there is no official confirmation, the US spy base at Pine Gap is in all likelihood complicit in the targeted assassinations and indiscriminate murder of civilians by US drones in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia.


The Royal Australian Air Force has deployed Israeli-owned drones for battlefield surveillance and to select targets in Afghanistan since December 2009.

Australia buys time on Heron drones from a Canadian company that leases them from Israel Aerospace Industries which is wholly owned by the Israeli government.

So far none of the unmanned aerial vehicles employed by Australian forces carry weaponry but US armed drones have conducted strike missions at the direction of Australian special forces troops.

It is hard to see the difference between the lethal power of an American missile-armed Reaper and that of an unarmed Australian Heron capable of calling in an airstrike or artillery.

Buying drones

The Australian Defence Force is planning to buy seven Northrop Grumman Global Hawk intelligence and surveillance drones that could cost up to A$3 billion.

The idea of Australian Global Hawks remained in mothballs until July this year when the government’s latest Defence Capability Plan was quietly released.

The Royal Australian Navy is also planning for drone warfare. Lieutenant Commander Bob Ferry, who runs the Navy’s UAV development unit, has said that the Navy will soon start 300 hours of trials with small ex-Army Scan Eagle drones.

Four Navy frigates have already been converted to support Scan Eagle launch and recovery operations. Eventually all Australian warships will have a UAV capability.

US drones in Australia

The United States flew highly classified Global Hawk spy drone missions from the Royal Australian Air Force base at Edinburgh in South Australia from late 2001 until at least 2006.

Some aviation industry sources claim the spy drones continued to fly to Australia beyond that date and that RAAF Edinburgh remains on the approved list of landing sites.

The operations were detected by a group of Adelaide aviation historians who had a member monitoring aircraft radio frequencies 20 hours a day.

Adelaide was initially a transit stop for Global Hawks en route from the west coast of the US to the Al Dhafra air base in the United Arab Emirates. However, it is widely believed that some flights were surveillance missions of Afghanistan.

In 2004 former Australian Defence Minister Robert Hill told US officials that he intended to announce the flights to the Australian public. The US Air Force opposed the disclosure, demanding all Global Hawk operations remain classified.

While the Australian public was left in the dark, an Aviation Week and Space Technology journalist was given access to a report on a single Global Hawk reconnaissance mission from RAAF Edinburgh to southern Japan and back again. The mission was launched just one week after North Korea had conducted a series of failed missile tests.

Cocos Islands

In late March this year, Australian and US media reported that Australia was planning to allow the United States to use its territory to operate long-range spy drones, as part of an increased US presence in the region. The new base would be on the Cocos Islands, atolls in the Indian Ocean off northwest Australia.

Australian Defence Minister Stephen Smith said the key priorities in closer US co-operation were the rotation of Marines through Darwin, greater air access and more use by the US of the Stirling naval base in Perth (West Australia). Significantly, he did not deny the Cocos Islands plan, merely commenting that it was something to be considered “down the track”..

A new maritime surveillance version of the Global Hawk – the MQ4C Triton – is the favoured option for the Cocos Island basing. The US Navy expects to start flying the first of 68 Tritons on order by 2015.

Some will be based on Guam to cover the Asia-Pacific region, while another detachment will fly out of Diego Garcia to monitor the Indian Ocean.

The Australian owned Cocos Islands are seen as an ideal location to base unmanned patrol planes to keep watch on the world’s busiest shipping routes and the South China Sea.