Author Biography

Lt Col Mike Fowler is an Assistant Professor of Military & Strategic Studies at the United States Air Force Academy.



Subject Area Keywords

Counterterrorism, Foreign policy, Intelligence collection, Military affairs, Security studies, Small wars and insurgencies


There is a budding controversy with the combat use of Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA). Also known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), there is a growing literature critiquing the use of RPAs, often using the pejorative term “drone.” RPAs seem to get the blame for a variety of complaints about policy and employment that have little to do with the airframe or its processes. While all of the military functions of an RPA can and are done by manned aircraft, the RPAs must endure additional scrutiny. The decision to employ RPAs requires additional considerations at both the strategic and operational levels of war. This article explores the strategic issues that govern the decisions to employ RPAs in combat. The decision to employ RPAs involves a variety of strategic and operational concerns involving legal issues, technological constraints, operational efficiency, and an interdependency upon information operations.


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the U.S. Air Force Academy, the U.S. Air Force, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.