An intimate look at the beginnings of the drone war

After 9/11 the Pentagon and the White House have embraced drone technology and remote warfare. The U.S. has nearly a thousand Predator drone pilots. Drones in the sky have reshaped how the military gathers intelligence and conduct strikes. It has reshaped American foreign policy as well.

It wasn’t always like that. Air Force pilot Scott Swanson will go down in history as America’s first drone pilot, but also first to pull the trigger and kill enemies from a Predator:

When the order came through to take the shot, Swanson pulled a trigger on his joystick. A little more than a second later, a Hellfire missile slid off an aluminum rail on the Predator’s wing and sailed into the Afghan night.

Swanson’s target was a pickup truck parked outside a compound thought to be hiding Mullah Omar, the supreme commander of the Taliban. The missile killed two unidentified men believed to have been his bodyguards. It was the first time a US drone had fired a weapon in combat. It was the first time a modern drone had ever killed a human being.

With nicknames like Big Safari (the secretive Air Force skunkworks) and the Man With Two Brains, how can you resist not reading the whole fascinating story from Wired


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