12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), also known as Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPAs), have played an increasingly influential role in air warfare. Initially used only for photo recce, UAVs have evolved into armed sentinels, endlessly circling over battlefields until their pilots, usually located half a world away, unleash deadly Hellfire missiles, JDAMs or other munitions. Lieutenant Colonel Matt Martin, a UAV veteran, and Charles Sasser describe the THE REMOTE-CONTROL AIR WAR OVER IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN in this fascinating Zenith Press release.
Martin, a USAF RC-135 navigator longing to be a pilot, volunteered for UAV training, learning to fly the Predator in 2004. Martin subsequently logged Predator combat missions, helping Coalition forces locate - and terminate - al Qaeda and Taliban bad guys, supported Special Ops missions, etc.. He later commanded the Predator-equipped 46th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron stationed in Iraq.
While other books on UAVs are out there, Martin's book provides an insider's view of how the Predator was developed and transformed over the years and its use in combat along with the mindset and experiences of a Predator pilot. As borne out in Martin's book, Predator missions are not bloodless video games; UAV operators can see quite clearly their targets and what happens to them when a Hellfire hits. Martin presents his experiences against the backdrop of the Gulf Wars, providing some insightful analysis into events past and present in those troubled countries.
In short, PREDATOR 'draws back the drapes' on what was a highly classified part of the Iraq/Afghanistan air war and provides the reader with a glimpse into how air wars will be fought in the future. Recommended.
FYI. Last-minute text changes due to security concerns have produced typos running throughout the book. Headquarters, for instance, is scrambled into HeadBobbys!?! Zenith has offered to replace defective copies with corrected editions.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Through the 1990s and 2000s, the world witnessed revolutions in warfare. In the 1990s, the United States Air Force introduced the world to Global Atomic's MQ-1 Predator remotely piloted aircraft (RPA). Also in this war, what went unnoticed was the Air Force's revolution in fighting from a garrison installation. Strike pilots would leave their Italian homes well before sunrise, plan and execute strike missions in the Balkans, and then return home to their families. This new pattern broke the tradition of warriors secluding themselves in a war zone. With this insulation from the families, warriors would be able to use peers as a support group to help deal with the horrors of combat. With these revolutions of the 1990s, the newest generation of Air Force strike pilots has been deprived of that support group. Instead they are faced with a psychological dichotomy of trying to provide a loving, stable family live & dealing with the psychological trauma of death. "Predator: The Remote-control Air War over Iraq and Afghanistan", by Lt Col Matt Martin and Charles Sasser, offers a glimpse into how both of these revolutions of the 1990s have forever changed combat.
The MQ-1 Predator is an incredible new capability for American and allied forces. From this ultimate high ground, commanders can watch or track targets without the slightest hint of the aircraft's presence. Major Martin, one of the Predator pilots, shares insights into how the Predator weapon system supported many of the significant periods of recent Iraqi and Afghan history. His stories range from the humorous to the somber. Yet the common thread through all of his experiences was the life he shared with his wife, Ruby. In one of his stories, Martin shares how his now-armed Predator engaged a hostile target and accidentally killed a bystander. Readers learn how he wrangled with the remorse of taking an innocent life. His personal perspectives of this experience will remove all credence to the concept that the Predator represents "robot warfare".
This book is significant in that it offers the first person account of how this revolutionary system is being used in combat, and also from Martin's insights in how to mentally compartmentalize the psychological trauma of long range combat. More importantly, the book was an easy read. I highly recommend this book for every military historian's library.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on January 25, 2011
The Predator is the signature weapon system of the War On Terror (for our side, the IED being the signature weapon of the enemy). This book is an appealing and interesting first-hand account written by a USAF Predator pilot. The author does a nice job of explaining the odd situation where a Predator pilot kills by remote control and then goes home, picking up some groceries on the way.
While a good book, it has several flaws that prevent it from being an excellent book. At several points in the book, the author provides an overview of the "big picture" in the theater. It's pretty much boilerplate, and presumably the readership of this book will already know something about the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. The book would have greatly benefited from a more detailed description of the Predator weapon system.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on August 20, 2011
They should change the title of this book. "Predator" is a Patricia Cornwell novel and an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie (neither of which has *anything* to do with the other) and frankly a non-fiction book with the same title is just dumb. How are they going to market it, and get people to buy it? Perhaps a more descriptive title, like "The Predator's War?"
Author Matt Martin is an Air Force officer who wanted to be a pilot, and was thwarted by circumstances. Instead, he contrived to get into the Predator program, learning to fly an MQ-1 Predator, our first generation armed drone. These unmanned aerial vehicles can stay in the air for hours and hours (sometimes as long as a day or 2) and are crammed with various cameras, radars, and other detection devices. They also can carry a pair of Hellfire missiles, destroying tanks and taking out what the military refers to as "point targets."
Martin first flew Predators from Nellis AFB outside Las Vegas Nevada. His missions, controlled from there, were mostly over Iraq or Afghanistan. Later he was sent to Iraq, first to teach a contingent of Italian pilots to fly the early Predators their government had bought from ours, and later working as a Launch-and-Recovery Officer at Balad Air Base near Baghdad. The Predator is launched locally in Iraq, flown to its target area by local controllers, and then control is handed over to the people in Nevada. This is largely because the drones are so far from Nevada that the satellite uplink takes about 2 seconds to transmit commands from Nevada to the Middle East; this is sufficient to control the drone, launch missiles, etc., but it's inadequate to take off and land the aircraft. Anyway, from there the author went back to Nellis and did another bit of duty, before the book ends.
This book is plagued by a weird typo of a sort I've never seen in a publication before. Apparently (according to an insert in the front of the book) late in the publishing process some of the people mentioned in the book requested that their names be changed, because of death threats made against drone pilots. In their haste to do this and get the book out promptly, someone at the publisher inadvertently replaced the word "quarter" with the word "Bobby" wherever it appears. As a result, the author cites an article in the "Wilson Bobbyly," the 82nd Airborne and Republican Guard have "headBobbys," and the author watches a "Bobby horse" in a horse race. It's a weird mistake, disconcerting and somewhat distracting, especially when you get to part 3 and one of Maj. Martin's subordinate pilots is actually named Bobby. Then you have to straighten out when it's the guy he's referring to, and when it's the place where he sleeps while he's in Iraq.
Truly, this is an interesting and for the moment pretty much unique book. The author mentioned several books that he thinks are instructive with regards to the phenomenon of shooting at someone when they're essentially powerless, often even unaware, but I'd respond by arguing that probably the best book in science fiction that explores this issue is Orson Scott Card's "Ender's Game." I'm not a sci fi fan, but a friend pretty much demanded I read it, I did, and frankly it deals with pretty much the same subject. Martin's book is intersting too, though, and I'd recommend it.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 1, 2013
Matt Martin's book is an important contribution to a fuller understanding of an issue that is garnering more and more attention thanks to activists like Medea Benjamin and her organization CODEPINK. If you can set aside the healthy dose of bravado (he is a pilot after all) and his too many disparaging cracks at ICBM professionals (he was one once - I am proud to be one now), Martin's first-hand account sheds light on the role that Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPAs) have on today's modern battlefield. It sometimes has to come from reading between the lines, but Martin's humanity is clearly revealed as he recounts the frustrations, the successes, and the horrors that he witnessed through the live video of his weapon system. It's important to remember the human frailties on both ends of whatever kill-chain you want to talk about. Martin does an excellent job of reminding us that war - no matter how remote or how sanitized - has real consequences.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on July 3, 2012
Packed with technical information and war stories from both Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as interesting historical notes about the war on Terrorism and the use of drones in combat, I'll call it an indespensable reading for those who want to know more about this new form of warfare.
The author doesn't neglect the psychological side of the story, telling us the inner thoughts of pilots sitting in an air conditioned shelter, partecipating in war action from thousends of miles away, sometimes bringing death at the switch of a button upon an unsuspectiong enemy, before ending their shift and going back to their suburban house, stopping to pick up milk at the grocery store along the way.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on January 17, 2011
PREDATOR: THE REMOTE-CONTROL AIR WAR OVER IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN: A PILOT'S STORY offers a fine first-person account of fighting the global wars on terror. Predator missions and personal insights into a program only recently classified as 'secret' make for exciting stories of armed insurgency and urban warfare, bringing a 'you are there' feel to the idea of the Predator - a remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) - as a cold killing machine. No military collection should be without this unique assessment.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on July 16, 2015
Fails to capture the full extent of the right seat operator's (Sensor Operator) contributions and responsibilities. This book, along with the recent movie "Good Kill" glorifies pilot contributions, but fails to capture the position that is equally responsible for prosecuting missions in my opinion.
on February 14, 2014
Predator: The Remote-Control Air War over Iraq and Afghanistan: A Pilot's Story (2010) by Matt Martin and Charles Sasser is a book that relates the experience of being a Predator drone pilot and officer during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
Martin was a college ROTC Air Force Officer who wanted to become a fighter pilot but who then wanted to fly for the Air Force. He took the opportunity as soon as he could to pilot Predator drones and became one of the first group of pilots to fly the plane. One of the remarkable things about the predator is that it is flown in Iraq and Afghanistan from US soil except for landing and takeoff that are done by crews on base. Martin relates how strange it is to drive to work in a US city, work flying an aircraft observing and striking at the Taliban and then return home for dinner.
The book provides more detail about the Predator than the interesting but flawed Wired For War. The weaknesses in the system are discussed. The Ku band data link used by the vehicle sometimes goes down and the plane flies itself autonomously. However during these times any target being tracked is lost. Predators have also had fairly high loss rates due to accidents while few, if any, have been lost in Iraq and Afghanistan due to hostile fire.
The Predator carries Hellfire missiles that allow targets to be struck very accurately. Initially the command loop for using these missiles was very time-consuming and insurgents were often able to escape before an order to fire was received but the way in which the drones are controlled has been changed.
The book is also interspersed with descriptions that Martin uses to describe himself that feel a little contrived. His description of his relationship with his wife is better done. There is also a bit of the usual office gossip in a military setting of these books. Martin also gives his view of the war which is the very standard US military view of how righteous the US military is and how he is 'saving lives' which is a bit strange. His inability to see that perhaps the US killing people on the other side of the planet in their country may be a little morally ambiguous, to say the least, is probably what you need to be a successful soldier in an imperial army though.
Martin's descriptions of hitting civilians when attacking insurgents are heartfelt and he conveys his own sense of sorrow well. He also legitimately rationalises the actions of the Predator as being far more precise that most airborne weapons. Given this Martin makes an interesting point that he has to get more authorisation to fire a Hellfire than a fighter has to get to drop thousands of kilograms of bombs. Martin also gives figures and relates how he believes that the Predators are, contrary to some accounts, efficient in terms of the numbers of insurgents they kill compared to the numbers of civilians killed. He also points out that insurgents deliberately hide in friendly civilian dwellings in order to make it so that civilian casualties will occur if they are attacked.
The book is an interesting insight into what is likely to become a far more common way of fighting in the twenty-first century. Martin's account is an account of a pioneer flying a new kind of aircraft in conflict. It's well worth reading for anyone interested in robotics or in the conflicts that the US is now fighting in.
on May 18, 2013
This book gives a rough and ready first-hand account of America's war against terror from the perspective of a Predator pilot. For the uninitiated, the Predator is a US-manufactured drone or Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) which provides airborne surveillance and attack capabilities. It can perform missions in Iraq and Afghanistan while being remotely controlled some 7,500 miles away from Nellis Air Force Base back in the US.
The book offers a good mix of what a general reader might want: a taste of the Predator's pretty formidable capabilities; a window into the psychological tensions that UAV pilots go through killing insurgents on the "warfront" then returning home for breakfast on a daily basis; insights into the insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan and how they work.
Altogether the book is a rare and compelling read and makes a special contribution to our understanding of a lesser known aspect of military operations. This book is also worth reading given that UAV operations are set to expand greatly in the coming decades.