Senate report recommends that France can use armed drones
France must lift the taboo of armed drones to increase the effectiveness of its forces on the ground, and fill its gaps in surveillance drones, advocates a Senate report, “Drones of observation and armed drones: a sovereignty issue” , Drawn up on behalf of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defense and the Armed Forces, and tabled on 23 May 2017.
“Many countries now use armed drones (…) In our country the decision has been made, implicitly, not to arm drones … It is time to open this debate,” say Cédric Perrin (LR ) And Gilbert Roger (PS), co-chairs of the working group that drafted this information report.
The United States and Israel were pioneers in this area, followed by the United Kingdom. In Europe, Italy also obtained in 2015 the authorization of the United States to arm its American drones Reaper. Outside Europe, the following countries would also use armed drones: Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Iran, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Turkey. These would be either Chinese drones or models made from Chinese drones or, more rarely, drones developed by user countries (Turkey, Iran).
More efficient and reactive French forces
According to their detractors, armed drones “dehumanize” the war, with pilots who act at a distance and “targeted assassinations” that are questionable from an ethical and legal point of view. But senators observed that “arming some drones would make the French forces more responsive and efficient and would optimize the use of combat aircraft.” They note that “capitalizing on the long-term overflight capability of MALE Reaper in surveillance, the carriage of missiles or guided bombs would in some cases” reduce the loop “between” High value added “and its neutralization, saving the time required for the arrival of the” effector “(the combat aircraft), Which may be significant in a large-scale theater of operations (such as the Sahelo-Saharan Strip). ”
“The endurance of the drone (about fifteen hours on site, less with heavy weaponry, versus about three hours for a fighter plane and one to two for a helicopter) allows it, in the depth of a The theater of operations, to await the disclosure of concealed targets and to observe the environment and the behavior of these targets at great length. Rapid firing would optimize the effectiveness and accuracy of the target’s treatment, and be sure to benefit from the best conditions of engagement. In addition, the effects of the strikes could then be analyzed by the same drone. “
Strict rules of engagement
They must respect the same rules of engagement as airplanes, helicopters and even artillery. “It should be emphasized that the use of armed drones is not inherently contrary to international law. Armed drones do not differ, under international law, from other weapon systems. “ The authors note.
The use of armed drones can and must be compatible with the principle of non-aggression. The report recalls that international law prohibits in principle the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State (Article 2.4 of the UN Charter). However, the use of force may be legitimate in three cases:
– if the State in whose territory the attack takes place consents;
– in the case of self-defense;
– with the authorization of the UN Security Council.
In conflicts where armed drones are likely to be employed, the legality of this use would be subordinated to that of France’s intervention with regard to jus ad bellum .
France’s recent interventions in conflicts are based on a clear legal basis in this respect, since France believes that an order based on law rather than on force is an essential condition for security, the authors emphasize Of the report.
Drones can be a tool to better respect international humanitarian law (“jus in bello”), the senators stress. The second aspect of international legality relates to the right in war, jus in bello , also known as international humanitarian law (IHL). Under this legal corpus, lethal force can only be used in the context of conflicts; Civilians should be spared as much as possible; The use of the right power be proportioned to the expected military advantage and the collateral damage limited to the maximum. The drones’ intelligence qualities are an asset to better respect the principle of distinction between civilians and combatants. “Drones, because of their ability to carry a full range of sensors,
Senators are reassuring about the use of drones in terms of French military culture. “International humanitarian law, as much as more than a constraint, is a true instrument of the conduct of the operations it legitimizes, thus contributing to their acceptance by public opinion. Beyond the strict respect of the law, the French forces see their use of force constantly framed by a corpus of rules and directives which makes it possible to minimize collateral damage. This is a part of the military culture of the French forces. Thus, “the essential element of the soldier’s code of ethics is that it is expressed by the notion of” controlled force “, the force, that is, the capacity to take the ascendancy, physical and moral, But mastered,
“At present, for each mission, the chain of commitment of the soldiers is very clear and guarantees the legality and political legitimacy of this mission. Targeting always requires the validation of five steps: preliminary and then visual identification, verification of the rules of engagement, estimation of collateral damage, and authorization from the theater authority, with a level of ‘The higher the risk of collateral damage is strong. “
“The concern, reflected by the application of this chain of commitment in each operation, to respect the principle of proportionality, would therefore be the same in the case of the use of armed drones,” stress the senators.
Improve Reaper waiting for European MALE drone
Pending the development of a European MALE (Middle altitude, long endurance) drone, France could arm its Reaper bought “on the shelf” in the United States, five of which are currently deployed in the Sahel. More widely, including in intelligence, the “rise of the drones remains slow and incomplete in the French armies” , the report notes.
The two senators advocated first of all to improve the capabilities of the Reaper delivered to France, providing it with electromagnetic monitoring and high definition imaging. The armed forces must also gradually free themselves from the “tutelage” of the United States which imposes an American maintenance on the French Reaper and retain a right of view on any new zone of deployment beyond the Sahel.
To reduce this dependence, “we must (imperatively) win the bet of the European drones” by developing a MALE system “ realistic in terms of costs” , insist the parliamentarians. Europe must not miss the turning point of the combat drone, “ they continue.