Inside the lethal world of drone warfare
Mark McCurley and Kevin Maurer
Published by Allen and Unwin
RRP $32.99 in paperback
This is a book that will not be to everyone’s taste. The use of remotely piloted aircraft in warfare, commonly known as drones, divides opinion.
In Hunter Killer, Air Force LTCOL Mark McCurley writes of his experience as an RPA pilot from a ‘ground-level perspective’ during the period 2003-2012.
It is also, he writes, the story of the Predator and its evolution from an aviation backwater joke to the ‘tip of the spear’ in the war against terrorism.
McCurley was one of only four volunteers in the class of twenty-nine new pilots who commenced training in December 2003. Most had been forced out of their preferred manned aircraft options or had injuries that kept them out of the cockpit.
He had volunteered because he saw his chances of becoming a fighter pilot disappear, yet most viewed the move to flying remotely piloted aircraft as the last stop on their career paths.
If you can get past the fairly typical narrative style of the book, there will be much to interest the reader who would like to know more about how the program works, how the chain of command works and how the order to engage is given.
The aircraft themselves are not without their problems, as you might expect with something of such technical complexity. There was one aircraft with a software bug that had a history of starting itself. Imagine if it had taken off by itself! It could have been a full ‘horror movie’ scenario of an uncontrolled unpiloted aircraft going rogue!
McCurley talks about the practical problem of arming the Predator with Hellfire missiles, which could take up to half an hour to retrieve from the ammo supply point, too long a timeframe in the rush to get the aircraft airborne.
I’m sure there will be many readers who find this book interesting, simply for the fact that not much has been written about remotely piloted aircraft in the military operational context.
Remotely operated aircraft will undoubtedly play a bigger role in future conflicts as perhaps will other remotely operated platforms. It’s the rules of engagement that might need to catch up as this future arrives sooner than expected.