The US now has the go-ahead to launch drone strikes from Italian soil, according to recent reports. This news comes just days after a rash of almost 50 US airstrikes pounded the hell out of a bunch of Islamic State targets, including training camps in Libya.
It probably won’t come as a huge shock that there’s a connection here. But the fact that the US has been pestering the Italians for more than a year about this, and the fact that the airstrikes come shortly after Italy appears to have approved the launch of US drone strikes, is a bit curious.
To start, the Italians didn’t give a blanket approval for armed drone strikes to be launched. The approval covers only US forces stationed at Sigonella, on the island of Sicily, and the US still needs to get permission for each strike on a case-by-case basis. But going from “Absolutely no, never” to “Convince me” means something.
The favored US drone for blowing crap up is the MQ-9 Reaper. The Reaper has a one-way range of somewhere around 3,500 miles, which is quite a long haul. However, the one-way range and the combat range are two entirely different things. First off, combat range means you have to get there and fly back. So, immediately, we can cut max one-way range in half if we don’t want the drone running out of fuel on the way back.