Terrorism is not a new phenomenon to the world, yet it remains difficult to define and counter. Countering terrorism requires several measures that must be taken simultaneously; however, counterterrorism strategies of many countries mostly depend on military measures.
In the aftermath of the 2001 terrorist attack on the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, the United States (U.S.) has started and led the campaign of Global War on Terrorism. They have invaded Afghanistan and Iraq and have encountered insurgencies run by terrorist organizations, such as al-Qaeda and its affiliates. The U.S. made the utilization of Air and Space Power very intensively during these operations. In order to implement operations; Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) assets were used to collect the necessary information. Before the successful insertion of a small number of U.S. Special Operation Force (SOF) teams into Afghanistan, the U.S. Air Force attacked al-Qaeda and Taliban’s targets such as infrastructure, airfields, ground forces, command-control facilities etc. As soon as the U.S. troops got on the ground and started to marshal to Kabul, the Air Force supported them by attacking jointly determined targets. The Air Force continued to carry out the missions and played a significant role to achieve the objective of operation during all the time.
This is not the only example of utilization of Air and Space Power in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations. All around the world, many countries have also made the utilization of Air Power in different missions ranging from ISR to attacking. Thinking that terrorism has a psychological dimension and losing a pilot during operations may result in decreasing the population support to operations, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) started to be used by practitioners and took priority over other assets. Although UAVs have been on the theatre for a long time used for ISR mission in conventional conflicts, with the advent of drones, UAVs have also started to be used for attack missions in counterterrorism operations.
In this study, it is aimed to determine whether UAVs are appropriate assets that can be used in counterterrorism operations. The study starts by examining the term terrorism and counterterrorism and discusses the role of the Air and Space Power in counterterrorism operations. After proposing that UAVs are appropriate assets for counterterrorism operations, it continues by explaining types and common usage concepts of UAVs. The advantages and disadvantages of UAVs are put forward from the counterterrorism operations’ perspectives. It finally examines the utilization of UAVs in counterterrorism operations. In this context, as much as obtained from open sources, countries’ roadmaps, usage concepts, experience, and current structure are examined to determine whether UAVs are appropriate assets in counterterrorism operations. When the advantages of UAVs and the disadvantages of manned systems are analyzed, other findings of our survey will show us that UAVs will be increasingly used in counterterrorism operations