25/09/2012 02:07 BST | Updated 25/09/2012 05:35 BST

US Drones: The State-Of-The-Art Pilotless Technology Waging War In Pakistan

The drones deployed by America with the aim of wiping out insurgents in north-west Pakistan are state of the art.

The two types currently deployed are the MQ-1B Predator and the MQ-9 Reaper.

The Predator is lightweight and can spend 24 hours in the air at heights of 26,000 feet.

The Reaper is heavier and more powerful and doesn't come cheap, costing $36.8m (£23m) each.

Both carry lethal hellfire missiles that have a blast radius of up to 20 metres and are equipped with incredibly powerful imaging equipment.

Independent defence analyst Paul Beaver describes the hellfire missiles as very effective.

He told Huffington Post UK: “Hellfire missiles are accurate to within metres, compared to the Second World War, where bombs were accurate to miles. They are hugely effective. They are surgical in their capability and should be capable of hitting targets with pinpoint accuracy.

“In theory you should be able to eliminate two or three people in a crowded street without much collateral damage. Identify a window to go in, that sort of thing.”

Mr Beaver explained that the missiles had been incredibly effective in decimating Al Qaeda’s command.

However, he acknowledged that drones do have their weaknesses.

First of all, their effectiveness depends a great deal on how well trained the operators are.

Drone operators are often thousands of miles away

He said: “They are as precise as the operators who fly them.”

There is also a known problem with latency between images captured by drones and operators seeing them in the US and acting on them.


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“That’s one of the problems with the weapon being half a world away,” said Mr Beaver. “That’s why other nations are now looking at putting drone pilots in Kabul [Afghanistan], so there isn’t that problem of latency.”

Mr Beaver also agreed with one of the key findings of Tuesday’s report on drone strikes, that the killing of civilians is actually swelling the ranks of jihadists.

He added: “You could make more recruits than you eiliminate.”