Remote Warfare Roundup 002

The Remote Warfare roundup is a weekly digest of news, op-eds, podcasts and other media relevant to remote warfare. 

Syria Drone Strike raises questions about ‘Sword Missile’ 

A US drone strike on two senior Al-Qaeda officers earlier this week appears to have involved a rarely-used ‘Ninja Missile’. Pictures of the car hit show no signs of explosive damage, indicating the missile was a Hellfire R9X, which carries six sword-like blades rather than an explosive payload in order to minimise the risk of collateral damage. Some fear this may lead to the missile being used more frequently in built up environments.

Trump seeks to relax drone export controls 

Reuters reports that President Donald Trump is seeking to reinterpret a Cold War-era arms control treaty in order to sell more American-made drones internationally. Previously, the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) has prohibited the US from selling armed drones to less-stable governments. If successful, this move would open up new markets for US defence contractors General Atomics and Northrop Grumman, who have already been notified of the Trump administration’s plans.

UK Government considers restricting technology takeovers

Amid growing concern about the risk of China buying high-tech companies, the UK is planning new measures to restrict foreign takeovers on security grounds. This follows the intensely-debated role of Chinese company Huawei in installing 5G networks over the past few years. As new technologies such as AI are increasingly regarded as matters of national security, a BBC R4 programme asks if we are on the brink of a new “Tech Cold War.” This programme features Eric Schmidt, former Google executive and current chair of the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Board (DIB).

Norwegian pension fund told to divest from autonomous weapons

The ethical committee for the Norwegian Government Pension Fund recommended it divest from companies involved in developing or producing autonomous weapons, PAX reports. As the fund is a major financial actor internationally, this development is regarded by PAX as building the norm against “weapons causing indiscriminate harm and against the controversial arms trade.”

US Africa Command claim Russian activity in Libyan airspace

The US Africa Command (AFRICOM) has claimed that Russian aircraft are now active in Libyan airspace. As many as 14 MiG-29s and several Su-24 aircraft appeared in Libya despite a UN arms embargo on the country, and are alleged to be supporting Private Military Companies (PMCs). AFRICOM claims this development which “changes the nature of the current conflict and intensifies the potential of risk to all Libyans, especially innocent civilians.”