Occasionally, I've heard that the plot of my first novel, "The Missile Game," was "hard to believe." Those comments don't bother me too much ... because I agree with them! The story in that book revolves around a civilian drone operator who becomes involved in his own personal war with ISIS terrorists. It is, indeed, very hard to believe. I'm afraid most people aren't even aware that civilians are already operating drones in war zones. Though those civilian contractors aren't operating "combat drones" yet, they could be someday soon. The exerpt below is from US News and World Report.
"Private contractors may play a more significant role in armed drone warfare in the coming years, thanks to a Pentagon plan designed to drastically boost the ranks of drone operators amid an ever-increasing need for the missions they conduct.
"Following widespread reports that America's drone force cannot keep up with its demands, the Pentagon announced this week it would increase the total number of active worldwide drone missions from current levels of roughly 65 to about 90 by 2019.
"The military will draw the resources – including pilots and the drones themselves – for 60 of these round-the-clock missions from its Air Force ranks, with assets for 10 to 20 coming from the Army or special operations forces and the remainder from private contractors.
"Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Thursday the contractors' role would be limited to reconnaissance flights conducted with drones owned by the government. They would not engage in the armed drone attacks that have helped define modern warfare, he said.
"'We don't envision a time when they will be armed or need to be armed," Carter said, adding that these flights will be supervised "like everything else we do [with] contractors.'
"Still, some worry Carter's bureaucratic response, coupled with the military's need, leaves open the possibility of a troubling future for modern warfare."
The spokesmen in high places are careful to point out that so far, there haven't been any contractors operating drones with weapons aboard, but my guess is that as the demand for services increases, and if the independent contractors operate more efficiently than the military, perhaps the situation could evolve in that direction. Also, I would imagine it will only take a couple of missed opportunities for the rules to change. If unarmed drones start stumbling across high value targets which they cannot destroy, there may be calls to arm them. Regardless, to my friends who've said that the plot of "The Missile Game" is a little too fantastical, I can only say, "I'm afraid it's only a matter of time." Best wishes to everyone, GS