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”. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jun/21/drone-strikes-international-law-un

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 http://livingunderdrones.org/report/ . If you are as impressed with the report as me, please email a message with the report’s URL http://livingunderdrones.org/report/ to the Minister for Defence Stephen.Smith.MP@aph.gov.au and the Minister for Foreign Affairs senator.b.carr@aph.gov.au . 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 http://www.space4peace.org/newsletter/Space%20Alert%2027.pdf

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.