Η Τουρκία αγόραζε UAV από τον εφευρέτη τους, Abraham Karem
Απόσπασμα από το βιβλίο “Ghost Wars“
The CIA and the Pentagon had each experimented with unmanned reconnaissance drones since the early 1980s. In the first years of the agency’s Counterterrorist Center, Dewey Clarridge had sought drones to help search for American hostages in denied areas of Beirut and rural Lebanon. As early as 1987 the CIA secretly adapted kit airplanes manufactured in California to carry cameras in a highly classifed project called the Eagle program. Clarridge hoped to operate the drones out of a hotel room in Beirut. The agency bought special wooden propellers made in Germany to help the drones fly quietly.
Clarridge also experimented with arming the drones with small rockets that could be fired by remote control, but the rockets selected proved wildly inaccurate.3 In the same period, and sometimes in cooperation with the CIA, the Pentagon’s laboratory for experimental security technology, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, funded prototypes of a long-endurance, unmanned drone called Amber.
This was an extraordinarily lightweight (815 pounds) wasplike drone invented by Abraham Karem, the former chief designer for the Israeli air force. A lively engineer with unbounded imagination, Karem immigrated to the United States in the late 1970s and started an experimental aircraft company in California. The Amber prototypes he produced flew longer and better than any drone to date. But Karem’s company went bankrupt amid bureaucratic battles in Washington. The Pentagon tended to invest in large, fast, complex drones that resembled pilotless fighter jets. These were very expensive, technically sophisticated, and politically unpopular. The CIA preferred smaller, lighter, cheaper drones that could take pictures and intercept communications in situations where satellites or high-flying spy planes did not offer enough coverage. Its experiments were easier to fund, but many at the Pentagon and in Congress dismissed the smaller prototypes as clunky toys of marginal value.4
The Predator had gasped to programmatic life in the early 1990s as an awkward bastard child of the Amber. A large defense contractor bought up Karem’s assets, including his designs, and the U.S. Navy pitched in funds for more prototypes. The CIA’s director of espionage operations in the early Clinton administration, Thomas Twetten, held a review of the agency’s own secret drone projects, all still in experimental stages. When he listed options for CIA director James Woolsey, the director’s eyes lit up. Woolsey had met Abe Karem in Israel, and he also knew about Amber. “I know the guy” who can get this done,Woolsey told Twetten. The pair flew to California and tracked Karem down at the defense contractor who had bailed him out. They were selling prototypes to Turkey.
Woolsey declared that he would take five on the spot for the CIA. The only problem was that the nascent Predator—long and ungainly—sounded like “a lawnmower in the sky,” as Twetten recalled it. The CIA managers told Karem he had to silence the motor, and he agreed.5
From the CIA’s first purchases Predator operations required close cooperation between the agency and the Pentagon. This was never easy. The Air Force howled when it learned Woolsey had bought Predators in secret. The CIA chafed as it tried to sort out budgetary and operating rules with the Air Force. There were times when it seemed that the Predator’s chief innovations lay in its ability to generate table-thumping, vein-pumping bureaucratic agitation inside secure Virginia conference rooms. Ultimately the CIA arranged for Air Force teams trained by the Eleventh Reconnaissance Squadron at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, to operate the agency’s clandestine drones. First in Bosnia and then in Kosovo, CIA officers began to see the first practical returns on their decades-old fantasy of using aerial robots to collect intelligence.6
The Predators deployed secretly to Bosnia in 1995 were designed to loiter over targets for twenty-four hours and could fly as far as five hundred miles from their home base at an altitude of up to twenty-five thousand feet. They were extraordinarily slow—their average speed was just seventy miles per hour—and they were so light that they sometimes drifted backward in the teeth of headwinds. A Predator’s “pilot” sat with several enlisted “payload specialists” inside a sealed, unmarked van near the runway of the drone’s operating base. (In its Balkans operations, the CIA flew Predators secretly out of Hungary and Albania.) At first the Air Force recruited pilots for the drones who had been grounded from normal flight by medical disabilities. Generators and satellite dishes surrounded the flight van. Inside, the pilot toggled a joystick before a video screen that showed the view from the Predator’s nose. Radio signals controlled the drone’s runway takeoff and initial ascent. Then communications shifted to military satellite networks linked to the pilot’s van. The Predator’s nose carried a swiveling Sony camera similar to those used by TV station helicopters that report on freeway traffic. It also could carry radar imaging and electronic intercept equipment.7
In the first flights over Bosnia the CIA linked its Langley headquarters to the pilot’s van.Woolsey emailed a pilot as he watched video images relayed to Virginia. “I’d say, ‘What direction for Mostar? . . . Is that the river?’ ”Woolsey recalled. “And he’d say, ‘Yeah. Do you want to look at the bridge? . . . Is that a guy walking across the bridge? . . . Let’s zoom further, it looks like he has a big funny hat on.’ ”8
There were serious glitches. Pilots struggled to learn how to fly such a light, awkward plane from satellite-delayed television images. After tugging their joysticks, it would take several seconds for the plane to respond. There was no adequate system to control ice on the Predator’s wings.