Yesterday, when Afghan president Hamid Karzai boasted that the U.S. was about to give him his own fleet of drones, you may have been tempted to see the mercurial leader with his hand on the joystick of an armed Predator. Please disabuse yourself of that notion. The Pentagon confirmed on Tuesday that it's in talks to sell the Afghans drones. But the drones will be tiny, low-flying, and unarmed.
The Defense Department is currently negotiating with the Afghan government to sell it military helicopters, airlift transport planes and other hardware. That weapons package "does include unmanned systems," Lt. Cmdr. William Speaks, a Pentagon spokesman, tells Danger Room.
But don't expect the Afghans to suddenly get Predators — or anything like them. The iconic armed American drone can stay aloft for an entire day until it takes out a suspected militant with a Hellfire missile. The Afghans will likely get the Raven, a four-pound, hand-launched surveillance drone that can fly for an hour or so. The U.S. Army alone has over 5,300 unarmed Ravens at last count. Replace the high-end infrared camera with something more modest, and you buy something awfully similar yourself for a couple hundred bucks.