Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Rest Of The Story

Nick Turse writes a rather odd piece which seems to tell us that the U.S. drone program is headed for failure because no fewer than 13 of its drones “crashed in spectacular fashion” this year. I’m guessing Nick would say that the Ford F-150 is a massive failure as well, given how many of those trucks have crashed in spectacular fashion.

His report has lots of big numbers, like that the MQ-1 Predator flew 228,000 hours this year so far, but is remarkably lacking in actually useful numbers, like how many drones that was. Some thirteen drones crashed, but at least 182 did not crash as far as I can tell, and probably quite a few more than that, because the Air Force had 195 of these things in 2009 but continued to take delivery of them until March of this year. Even with the 2009 count, though, that makes a 6.7% crash rate, which I’d consider to be somewhat less than disastrous.

Apparently his "crashed in spectacular fashion" is based on the fact that each crash caused $2 million or more in damage, but since the Predator itself costs $4.2 million I'm not sure how "spectacular" the crash has to be to exceed $2 million in damage. It doesn't even have to total the aircraft.

It also works out to one crash every 17,538 hours of operation. I suspect Ford would be delighted if one of its vehicles crashed only every 17,538 hours of operation, since that's almost precisely two years. The planes operated by airlines do better, of course, but then they have pilots. Ones who are not texting while driving, and are not drunk. Okay, I might be getting a little bit off track here, and maybe not making much sense, but then, I'm not sure Nick Turse is either.

Anyhow. Compare that 6.7% with the beginning of the program when, in 2001-2002, 50% of the drones crashed. I’d say the drone program is improving rather spectacularly, wouldn’t you?

I’m all in favor of criticizing the government and the military, and I am strongly opposed to drone warfare. But let’s oppose it for valid reasons, like the fact that it too often kills civilians, and that it violates the sovereignty of nations with which we are not at war. We just need to stop this endless nonsense of making up bogus arguments because we don’t like something.

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