Military drones have revolutionized modern warfare. Drones are proving to be the most important technological development in years. They allow military personnel to conduct surveillance and even execute missile strikes from the safety of a tech bunker thousands of miles away. If your nation’s military is utilizing a drone, it’s a win/win. Drones have proven highly effective at gathering surveillance as well as taking out hostile combatants. Furthermore, they promise to greatly cut down on your own casualties as, if a drone gets shot done, you’ve not lost any life, only an expensive piece of equipment.
However, as with all things in warfare, drones can be problematic. With drone technology having advanced so much, one could argue that their usage has become too easy. When not having to commit your own troops, generals could, in theory, be more cavalier when ordering drone strikes. And we have heard of many stories where the U.S. and other governments have killed many innocent civilians either as collateral damage in taking out a known terrorist or in a mistaken strike entirely. What’s more, drones know no borders, and the international legality of taking out combatants in nations with whom you are not officially at war is questionable. Nevertheless, they are fascinating, so this article contains some of the best available footage of drone strikes. Warning, though: these are military drones. Some of these videos show the deaths of real human beings and therefore must be treated with gravity and sincerity, even if you believe these strikes are entirely justified.
15. Predator Drone
No tiptoeing into the water with this list, this first entry sees us dive head first into the deep, murky waters of war. This video cuts between the camera on a U.S. Predator drone and a camera on the missile itself. The drone is monitoring the behavior of what the uploader claims are two Iraqi insurgents. They appear to have a Rocket-Propelled Grenade launcher (RPG). With grainy footage and no audio, you can be forgiven for viewing the video as if it were some kind of video game or feeling otherwise detached from it. But this is a video of two human beings dying, nasty though they may be. The missile cam shows the missile approaching faster and faster, but the two men are never aware of it. The camera feed just ends as we go back to the drone camera which shows the explosion.
14. Drone Strike in Afghanistan
This video depicts footage of a drone strike in Afghanistan. It is narrated by Captain Adam Brockshus, which helps us to understand exactly what goes on during these drone strikes. The drone in question is another Predator drone and it fires a Hellfire missile. The Afghani insurgents gave themselves away when an IED they were setting up goes off prematurely. The strike was successful and the missile hit its target. Cpt. Brockshus discusses the feeling he had the first time he fired a drone missile. This helps us to understand that, even though drones are piloted remotely, they are still a weapon wielded by one human being to injure and kill others. Cpt. Brockshus reveals the “white knuckle” sensation that drone pilots experience when at work.
13. Damage in Aleppo
This video is a bit different as the damage it depicts is not necessarily from drone strikes. The footage was captured by a drone which flew over the Syrian city of Aleppo which has tragically been ravaged by the Syrian Civil War over the past several years. The area surveyed is of Eastern Aleppo which was held by the Rebel Forces, at least at the time of publication (September 2016). The Rebel Forces oppose Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad. What jumps out most about this video is that…this is a city. Not some long-lost, long-forgotten, abandoned city, but a city that was actually functioning and beautiful just a few years ago. At the time of publication, an estimated 250,000 civilians were trapped, living in this desolate and destroyed area of the city.
12. Four Videos of Drones vs. ISIS in Tikrit
This video is a bit complicated as it depicts footage from four different drone strikes, which we will go over individually here. All four videos are alleged to be of the Iraqi city of Tikrit and show strikes against Daesh fighters (AKA: the Islamic State, ISIL and ISIS). My first bit of advice is to not read the comments. That’s generally good advice for any YouTube video, but especially one of this nature. The first section shows a drone targeting what looks to be the fuel supply of a Daesh camp. The subsequent black, billowing smoke is as impressive as it is ominous. The video has a “LiveLeak” stamp in the top left-hand corner, so presumably it was originally posted by LiveLeak, but this has been difficult to confirm.
11. Attack on a Convoy
This second part of the video is similar to the first in that it appears to depict an attack on a supply line. In such a sparsely populated area as much of Iraq and Syria both are (indeed, they are deserts), supply lines are of the utmost importance. However, there isn’t much cover in a desert. This is why terrorist groups like Daesh like to hide both their supplies and their fighters among civilians to go undetected. The end result is, tragically, many innocent people end up dying. It is sad and there is no clear solution. In this video, however, it seems to work out all right and the convoy is destroyed. Any Daesh-held city or camp would have been left badly under supplied after such an attack as this.
10. Awesome Power on Display
Without context, it is very difficult to understand what’s going on here. What is clear is that, much like the previous section of video, the power of the missiles on display here is truly terrifying. The uploader describes these videos as Iraqi military strikes using U.S. and Russian drones. It’s unclear which drones are American and which ones are Russian and indeed if the drones are delivering the attacks or the missiles are coming from elsewhere. Due to the shear number of missiles detonating in this and the previous section, I can only assume that not all of these are drone missiles. But again, without context, all we can do is sit back and watch the destruction. The target appears to be a Daesh camp or perhaps even a factory of some kind.
9. Air-to-Air Combat
Here we see a drone targeting what is either another drone or perhaps a helicopter. Again, the footage is a bit grainy and there’s no explanation for any of this. But the details aren’t as important for this one as the emotion one gets from watching this. One second it’s there. Then you see a missile coming in like a Formula 1 car. And then, the target is gone. Transformed into an inky black explosion. The impact here is breathtaking. By watching videos like this, we can truly get a sense of how stealthy these drones can be. Most of the targets literally don’t know they’re there until a fraction of a second before they die. These missiles are sudden and deadly. When used properly, they can clearly be a great asset to any military.
8. Drone Strikes from RAF Waddington
In this video, published by the Daily Mail, we see a successful Royal Air Force (RAF) Tornado strike against Daesh troops. The caption underneath refers to Daesh troops using human shields as a way of dissuading drone attacks, though that does not appear to be what’s happening in the video. Setting up shop in crowded cities, disguising their operatives as civilians, and literally using human shields have become favored tactics by groups such as Daesh. The days when they could hide out in the desert or in caves are quickly receding due to the success of drone programs. As such, they have resorted to far more sinister tactics. It proves a huge problem for Western militaries. Do they hold off on attacks on terrorists for fear of killing innocent people and thus letting these terrorists live to fight another day, perhaps to kill innocents themselves? Or do they strike, risk killing innocent people, and all the moral and public baggage that comes with it?
7. Airstrike in Harasta, Syria
This video, uploaded by Russia Insider, is drone footage (presumably from a Russian drone) surveying the damage done by a Syrian airstrike against Daesh in Harasta, Syria. Russia’s role in Syria has been quite controversial. Like the United States, the United Kingdom, Iraq, and other Western allies, Russia has committed to fighting Daesh. However, in Syria, Russia openly supports Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad, to whom Vladimir Putin and Russia has been supplying arms for years. While one could make the argument that Assad is “the lesser of two evils” in comparison to Daesh, it is a wretched and depressing argument to make. And possibly a false equivalency. Western nations have generally tried to support Syrian rebels. But there are a number of rebel groups and it’s difficult to know the motives of all of them. Sadly, the rebel groups’ power and territory have gradually been dwindling in the face of Assad and his Russian allies.
6. Iraqi Air Force Drones
This video shows several drone strikes executed by the Iraqi Air Force against Daesh terrorists. We will focus on the first two strikes. The footage was ostensibly released by the Iraqi military. The footage isn’t the clearest so it can be tough to make out details. What is clear, though, once again is the suddenness of these drone strikes. It’s very much, “One second it’s there; the next it isn’t”. One can totally understand the fear these drones strike into the hearts of those they target. This, of course, is a good thing as it pertains to Daesh, as we want these terrorists to fear the drones. But it is less positive when innocent people in these regions live in fear of drone strikes, because they too, sadly, often get caught up in them.
5. Panic and Chaos
The second part of this video gives us a different view of a drone strike. Here, we see some survivors of a strike. In a weird way, this makes the drone strikes seem even scarier. Again, we see the suddenness of these strikes. But because there are a few survivors here, we see what they do. And what they do, is scramble. Although I, like most of you reading this (I assume) am fortunate enough to have never experienced a drone strike, I can easily imagine what these Daesh terrorists are thinking in this moment: panic. They’re scrambling madly to get out of the area. This is “fight or flight” at its most primal. Keep in mind that military drone technology is still in its relative infancy. Who knows to what power they may grow.
4. High Resolution Footage
This is perhaps the best quality footage we have on this list. The colorized footage here is so clear that you can imagine that, instead of a drone, it could have been filmed by some guy sitting on a roof with his cell phone. But it’s not just some guy, which becomes clear as the drone flies higher up, we go to black and white footage, and then -bam!- again, out of nowhere, comes an explosion. One can’t help but think how these people (in this video, the Taliban in Afghanistan) don’t hear these drones. They look to be right above their heads, not even thirty feet up. Again, this is a testament to how quiet and stealthy these machines are. It’s also important to remember that these are all clear skied days; drones don’t work very well on cloudy days. The drones are also probably much higher up than it seems.
3. RAF Drone vs Taliban
This footage is from a Reaper, a RAF Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV – the technical term for a military drone). In it, we see the Reaper launch Hellfire missiles at Taliban targets in Afghanistan. The caption stresses the remoteness of these drones. The RAF pilot is operating the drone from Lincolnshire in East Anglia, England, roughly 8,000 miles away from the Afghanistan battleground he is surveying. Despite all the talk of collateral damage and the deaths of civilians, drones can actually be incredibly accurate and precise. This is not to excuse or dismiss the deaths of civilians in any way, but if you compare drone strikes with say, the fire bombings or V2 rockets of World War II which just indiscriminately killed civilians, drone strikes are actually a far “cleaner” way of conducting warfare.
2. Footage of Fallujah
This footage of an Iraqi Air Force strike, published by the UK’s Daily Mail in June 2016, is from Fallujah in Iraq. At the time, Fallujah had been a stronghold for Daesh fighters for about two years. The footage is once again grainy, but the power of these missiles is clear. Watching the explosion and the dust and debris it kicks up, it is evident that this is no Roman Candle or children’s firecracker. These are awesome explosions capable of delivering death and destruction on a startling scale. However, when that death and destruction is reigned upon Daesh terrorists, you can be forgiven for not having any sympathy. The article claims that Daesh had been using 20,000 children as human shields, but it is the Daily Mail, so take it with a grain of salt.
1. Death of Mohammed Emwazi
This video purports to show the death of Mohammed Emwazi, AKA “Jihadi John”. Emwazi is sitting in a car at the time of the video. And, just like in the other videos we have seen, first the car is there, then it is not. And Emwazi is no more. Emwazi was born in Kuwait and moved to the United Kingdom at the age of six. At 21, he was working as a salesman in an IT company but at some point he became radicalized. Later, media outlets began using the epithet “Jihadi John”. Emwazi is responsible for the beheadings of no fewer than seven foreign aid workers and journalists and for leading a group of Daesh terrorists in beheading 21 Syrian soldiers, the latter video actually showing Emwazi decapitating a soldier. Apart from demonstrating just how disgusting and evil a human being can be, Emwazi is also a worrying case study in that he was a British citizen, showing that even people living in the relative luxury of Western society can fall prey to this type of radicalization. It’s sad to think that the world can benefit from the death of a human being. But if it can, this is certainly a case. The world is a better place without Emwazi in it.