America's secret empire of drone bases

They increasingly dot the planet. There’s a facility outside Las Vegas where “pilots” work in climate-controlled trailers, another at a dusty camp in Africa formerly used by the French Foreign Legion, a third at a big air base in Afghanistan where Air Force personnel sit in front of multiple computer screens, and a fourth at an air base in the United Arab Emirates that almost no one talks about.

And that leaves at least 56 more such facilities to mention in an expanding American empire of unmanned drone bases being set up worldwide. Despite frequent news reports on the drone assassination campaign launched in support of America’s ever-widening undeclared wars and a spate of stories on drone bases in Africa and the Middle East, most of these facilities have remained unnoted, uncounted, and remarkably anonymous – until now.

Run by the military, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and their proxies, these bases – some little more than desolate airstrips, others sophisticated command and control centers filled with computer screens and high-tech electronic equipment are the backbone of a new American robotic way of war. They are also the latest development in a long-evolving saga of American power projection abroad – in this case, remote-controlled strikes anywhere on the planet with a minimal foreign “footprint” and little accountability.

Using military documents, press accounts, and other open source information, an in-depth analysis by TomDispatch has identified at least 60 bases integral to US military and CIA drone operations. There may, however, be more, since a cloak of secrecy about drone warfare leaves the full size and scope of these bases distinctly in the shadows.

8 comments to America's secret empire of drone bases

  • steeleweed

    Now we have to be afraid of Big Brother droning us.

    And now that the quaint concept of Rule Of Law has been discarded as old-fashioned and we can execute citizens without warning, charges or trial, maybe we should start a betting pool to guess where the first drone strike in CONUS will take place.

    Maybe a handful of OWS protesters in Oakland? Denver?


    “When you live on cash, you understand the limits of the world around which you navigate each day.
    Credit leads into a desert with invisible boundaries.”
    – Anton Chekhov

  • Chickadee

    Do you know if these electronic launching pads are in addition to the USA’s 175 world-wide military bases?

  • Chickadee

    Cause I’m only quoting some tube show that said they were happy to be broadcasting to 175 US military bases around the world.

    International War on the other hand, suggests there may be thousands of them.

    Is there an exact number anywhere?

  • Lex

    was between 700 and 800.

  • JustPlainDave

    …seven or eight hundred as I recall, but that doesn’t translate well into something that would usefully be identified as “bases”. The figure is really a measure of facilities (i.e., mostly buildings) valued above a certain capital value. As an example, the guys advancing this view would classify as a “base” a 10 by 10 hut somewhere in Canada that contains some valuable equipment (I mean that literally BTW the hut is on the list). At the same time it overlooks a lot of austere facilities that are where a decent chunk of the action is these days. All in all, the 150 figure may well be closer to reality.

    In combat one should be very suspicious of painless moral choices. When you are confronted with a seemingly painless moral choice, the odds are that you haven’t looked deeply enough.” ~ Karl Marlantes

  • JustPlainDave

    …bases. There is a good deal of activity at bases in Afghanistan and Iraq, but there are very few “lillypad’ bases where there’s a GCS out in the middle of nowhere.

    In combat one should be very suspicious of painless moral choices. When you are confronted with a seemingly painless moral choice, the odds are that you haven’t looked deeply enough.” ~ Karl Marlantes

  • Chickadee

    As mentioned, my previous source for reliable data was the last episode of “Dancing With The Stars” whose host took a moment to welcome “America’s men and women serving on 175 military bases around the world.”

    For some reason I wondered if there might be other available stats.

  • Chickadee

    Oh gee. CNO bets on underwater drones for future fleet

    Washington: Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead is betting that unmanned underwater systems will be the future for the Navy, and he is already taking steps to ensure that future becomes reality.

    As questions circulate over the feasibility of the Navy’s shipbuilding plans and the viability of its current surface fleet, unmanned underwater vehicles will be invaluable in its future force strategy, Roughead said in a speech today.

    To get there, Roughead nominated Rear Adm. Matthew Klunder, current director of the Navy’s intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance shop in the service’s information dominance division, to head up the Office of Naval Research.

    (Parallel in-yer-face musical response from AQ terrorist trained whales, seems to already be scrubbed from the net.)

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