A former British commander believes the RAF need to hire teenage video gamers to carry out deadly drone strikes in Syria.
Air Marshal Greg Bagwell, who oversaw the use of Reaper unmanned aircraft in the region until his retirement earlier this year, believes that testing ’18- and 19-year-olds straight out of the PlayStation bedroom’ could be the way forward.
Put them into a Reaper cabin and say: ‘Right, you have never flown an aircraft before [but] that does not matter, you can operate this’.
Riiiight, this all sounds very Black Mirror-esque, but his reasons behind the move to employ gamers kinda makes sense- when you consider the skill-set needed to be a drone operator.
In order to be a very good Reaper operator you need that three-dimensional view of what is going on around you, even though you are 3,000 miles away. You are playing three-dimensional chess in your mind, so you understand how the various pieces fit together in terms of prosecuting a target.
The former RAF deputy commander of operations also claimed that the psychological pressure on drone operators in the UK was so much that some had quit due to mental stress or illness, meaning the demand for strikes wasn’t being fulfilled.
Bagwell oversaw two controversial drone strikes last year on two UK citizens supporting the so-called Islamic State in Syria and despite insisting they were legal, he believes there should be a rethink of the law governing drones, The Guardian reports.
He also noted that advances in technology would lead to even more of this type of weaponry and the British military should be prepared for that.
His sentiments were echoed by Gen Sir Richard Barrons, the joint forces commander until his retirement in April.
We need to set ourselves up for a future where a combination of robotics, autonomous systems and artificial systems will create capabilities that our enemies may have before we do – where machines kill on the basis of an algorithm without a human in the room. That is not science fiction and it will not be very long before western armed forces are acquiring capability like that, and they will need to be absolutely clear what rules we have and when they apply.
There’s no doubt that this is an interesting idea, but whether it could ever work in practice is a whole other thing.