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Hunter Killer: Inside the lethal world of drone warfare

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Hunter Killer is the first ever inside look at the US military's secretive remotely piloted aircraft program-equal parts techno-thriller, historical account and war memoir. Remotely piloted aircraft (RPA), commonly referred to by the media as drones, are a mysterious and headline-making tool in the military's counterterrorism arsenal. Previously, their story has been pieced Hunter Killer is the first ever inside look at the US military's secretive remotely piloted aircraft program-equal parts techno-thriller, historical account and war memoir. Remotely piloted aircraft (RPA), commonly referred to by the media as drones, are a mysterious and headline-making tool in the military's counterterrorism arsenal. Previously, their story has been pieced together by technology reporters, major newspapers, and on-the-ground accounts from the Middle East, but it has never been fully told by an insider. In Hunter Killer, Air Force Lt. Col. T. Mark McCurley provides an unprecedented look at the aviators and aircraft that forever changed modern warfare. This is the first account by an RPA pilot, told from his unique-in-history vantage point supporting and executing Tier One counterterrorism missions. Only a handful of people know what it's like to hunt terrorists from the sky, watching through the electronic eye of aircraft that can stay aloft for a day at a time, waiting to deploy their cutting-edge technology to neutralize threats to America's national security. Hunter Killer is the counterpoint to the stories from the battlefront told in books like No Easy Day and American Sniper. While special operators such as SEALs and Delta Force have received a lot of attention in recent years, no book has ever told the story of the unmanned air war. Until now.


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Hunter Killer is the first ever inside look at the US military's secretive remotely piloted aircraft program-equal parts techno-thriller, historical account and war memoir. Remotely piloted aircraft (RPA), commonly referred to by the media as drones, are a mysterious and headline-making tool in the military's counterterrorism arsenal. Previously, their story has been pieced Hunter Killer is the first ever inside look at the US military's secretive remotely piloted aircraft program-equal parts techno-thriller, historical account and war memoir. Remotely piloted aircraft (RPA), commonly referred to by the media as drones, are a mysterious and headline-making tool in the military's counterterrorism arsenal. Previously, their story has been pieced together by technology reporters, major newspapers, and on-the-ground accounts from the Middle East, but it has never been fully told by an insider. In Hunter Killer, Air Force Lt. Col. T. Mark McCurley provides an unprecedented look at the aviators and aircraft that forever changed modern warfare. This is the first account by an RPA pilot, told from his unique-in-history vantage point supporting and executing Tier One counterterrorism missions. Only a handful of people know what it's like to hunt terrorists from the sky, watching through the electronic eye of aircraft that can stay aloft for a day at a time, waiting to deploy their cutting-edge technology to neutralize threats to America's national security. Hunter Killer is the counterpoint to the stories from the battlefront told in books like No Easy Day and American Sniper. While special operators such as SEALs and Delta Force have received a lot of attention in recent years, no book has ever told the story of the unmanned air war. Until now.

30 review for Hunter Killer: Inside the lethal world of drone warfare

  1. 5 out of 5

    Hana

    This is a memoir more than a history of the evolution of 'drone' warfare. Interesting, but somewhat limited in perspective. Also I got bogged down in the acronyms and military jargon. This is a memoir more than a history of the evolution of 'drone' warfare. Interesting, but somewhat limited in perspective. Also I got bogged down in the acronyms and military jargon.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    Everyone has heard of drones, those unmanned, mysterious planes controlled remotely from an air-conditioned office on a military base in America. However, drones are the future of military flying technology as they are now a key counterterrorism tool. They contain cutting edge technology, powerful cameras to zoom right in to verify that the correct target has been located and are armed with Hellfire missiles, packing a lethal punch. McCurley is uniquely qualified to part the curtains on this sec Everyone has heard of drones, those unmanned, mysterious planes controlled remotely from an air-conditioned office on a military base in America. However, drones are the future of military flying technology as they are now a key counterterrorism tool. They contain cutting edge technology, powerful cameras to zoom right in to verify that the correct target has been located and are armed with Hellfire missiles, packing a lethal punch. McCurley is uniquely qualified to part the curtains on this secret world; he was one of the guys who volunteered to serve and has since become commander of a squadron and written the operating manual for the entire Predator programme. McCurley recounts his time spent in the squadrons he served in, describing the missions that he flew or was involved with and the emotions he had in his role. When based in America he was flying sorties over Afghanistan and in no danger, but it was a struggle though to drive home through the Los Angeles traffic with the images still rolling round his mind. That all changed when he was posted to Iraq and placed on the front line. They were still flying remote, but they occasionally had insurgents fire RPGs at the base. He made is briefly back to America, before being deployed to Africa to continue the work tracking Al Qaeda operatives and running a squadron that was last in the line for logistic support. It is a strange book in some ways, it is dry, full of technical and military jargon and on the other hand compelling as McCurley describes the missions tracking his targets. It is terrifying too, when you stop to consider where they can go and what they can do when they get there. It was thought that the removal of pilots from the front line and turning the killing into a video game would sanitise what they were doing; but the impression that you get from this book is that they are far more affected than regular pilots who do not have the high spec cameras to see the targets before and after. The writing is reasonable and worth reading if you have an interest in military technology.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Scott Swanson

    I struggled with what to write regarding this review. I have a unique perspective from most readers. I was an early leader in the Predator UAS program. I find Mark's book is an easy read, however buyer beware…you need to realize it is strictly a memoir. Amazon does a disservice to Mark by describing it as something it isn’t. The book does an ok job explaining his limited experiences in the program. Yes, they were limited because it presents a single perspective, from a small portion, of what has I struggled with what to write regarding this review. I have a unique perspective from most readers. I was an early leader in the Predator UAS program. I find Mark's book is an easy read, however buyer beware…you need to realize it is strictly a memoir. Amazon does a disservice to Mark by describing it as something it isn’t. The book does an ok job explaining his limited experiences in the program. Yes, they were limited because it presents a single perspective, from a small portion, of what has been the fastest growing aerospace program that the USAF has seen in decades. The book is NOT the first ever look inside the program. It is not a historical perspective about how or why decisions were made across all levels of the program. Nor is it a well-researched description of the technology, its breakthroughs and their impact. If you want a true 360 exploration of the origins of the Predator program, insight into some of the key members involved and a skillfully researched look at the decisions made; take the time to read Richard Whittles book Predator- The secret origins of the drone revolution. Full disclosure, I was interviewed for that book because of my role in the development of the program. Don’t’ shy away from Mark’s memoir but buy it with your eyes wide open understanding they type of book it really is.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jerome

    A well-written memoir, written at a brisk pace and with a tense style. McCurley describes the tedium of piloting a drone, the technical details of drone operations, the patience and planning that goes into a lethal strike, the process of approving and engaging a target, the effectiveness of the strikes and the sensation of observing the enemy during a strike. Among the more well-known operations McCurley describes are the rescue of Marcus Luttrell and the hunts for Zarqawi and Awlaki (the firstha A well-written memoir, written at a brisk pace and with a tense style. McCurley describes the tedium of piloting a drone, the technical details of drone operations, the patience and planning that goes into a lethal strike, the process of approving and engaging a target, the effectiveness of the strikes and the sensation of observing the enemy during a strike. Among the more well-known operations McCurley describes are the rescue of Marcus Luttrell and the hunts for Zarqawi and Awlaki (the firsthand account of the latter is particularly interesting). He also covers how drone operators are immune from the physical risks but not from the psychological trauma of war; he describes observing Americans suffer IED attacks, observing the Taliban execution of spies but being unable to retaliate, and attacking targets that drone crews have observed for hours or days. The style is a bit breathless, though, and some critics of the program will probably object to McCurley’s own views of the program’s utility.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Joe

    Wowza, a real inside the Predator Command Trailer story Very grateful I got to read this book. “Hunter Killer” takes you inside a young MQ-1 Predator program all the way to the al-Awlaki strike. You can read all about the struggle of flying remotely, dealing with the bureaucracy and also building up standards in the Remotely Piloted Vehicle community. It’s definitely engrossing, engaging and well worth the read.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Stingray

    With „Hunter Killer“ T. Mark McCurley describes his experiences as a pilot, instructor and unit commander operating with armed unmanned aerial systems over several years conducting operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Middle East and Africa. This book provides a good inside into the tactical conduct of operations, the actual concerns of operators and the experiences they encounter. The reader gets a good feeling for the situation of the people conducting these missions. What McCurley describes is With „Hunter Killer“ T. Mark McCurley describes his experiences as a pilot, instructor and unit commander operating with armed unmanned aerial systems over several years conducting operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Middle East and Africa. This book provides a good inside into the tactical conduct of operations, the actual concerns of operators and the experiences they encounter. The reader gets a good feeling for the situation of the people conducting these missions. What McCurley describes is thus very authentic but also limited to his own experiences and views, which necessarily are not objective and will describe situations only as well, as memories go. Although this is not completely a memoir as it focusses on McCurley’s time with the Predator program, his firsthand account is neither as comprehensive, nor descriptive as a researched outsider’s account would have been. Nevertheless McCurley’s account is an easy read, provides unique first hand insides and is authentic. Therefore it is well suited to be read alongside other more comprehensive descriptions of the program. The reader should not expect any soul searching on the morality or discussion of the legality of the operations conducted. The professional soldier he is, McCurley describes his missions without moralizing them. In summary this is an authentic and easily readable book describing one man’s experiences inside the Predator program. This is an interesting perspective on the program but should not be mistaken for a comprehensive description and analysis.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Adam

    Was like reading about a Commodore 64 video game I played as a child. Yes, drone controllers are better trained but they no doubt learned on machines just a few generations newer than Gunship or Silent Service by Microprose in the 80s.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Dr. Phoenix

    This book, once again struck me as a love/hate relationship. The story line is fabulous as are the details involved in explaining to the reader the various strategic, operational and tactical aspects involved in the operation of RPAs, more commonly referred to as "drones." In this respect it is an outstanding tale with enough biographical information to to keep it both interesting and lively. Where it fails miserably is in the unmitigated arrogance of the author who tries to play himself of as hu This book, once again struck me as a love/hate relationship. The story line is fabulous as are the details involved in explaining to the reader the various strategic, operational and tactical aspects involved in the operation of RPAs, more commonly referred to as "drones." In this respect it is an outstanding tale with enough biographical information to to keep it both interesting and lively. Where it fails miserably is in the unmitigated arrogance of the author who tries to play himself of as humble. He is also very rude, petty and obnoxious at times: On page 244 we read, "Worm [an unfortunate coincidence], a Navy helicopter pilot, was a short, fat. pig-nosed man whose mannerisms reminded me of the "Lethal Weapon" character Leo Getz. >The fact that he did not care for this Navy lieutenant, in no way excuses his public degradation of a naval officer. Making fun of the man's physical appearance is petty and reflects poorly upon the author--who fails the test of officer and gentleman. > On page 255 The author accredits Anwar al-Awlaki with having gained a Ph.D at George Washington University, which is patently false. A bit of research would have clarified this detail. Awlaki dropped out long before ever coming close to terminating his doctoral studies. > On page 256 the author bemoans the injustice of his fate, despite the fact that he has done all in his power to arrive at that particular point. > While there has always existed a certain amount of inter service rivalry, McCurley liberally heaps criticism and scorn upon any Naval officer he happens to encounter, that does not cede to his wishes. > Consider the following lines which struck me as particularly nauseating: P. 219: "And all this would be for nothing if I didn't get promoted." p. 219: "While my hair was graying on the sides, his had receded significantly. His rude arrogance is unsettling and despite the fact that he presents good solid information, this may tend to also annoy other readers. The way the author boasts of his own achievements and blows his own horn, while deriding others, means that he comes off as smug; a braggart and a pompous fool. He would do well to look up the definition of humility in the dictionary. All I can say is I am happy I read him as an author...and never served alongside him.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Wendy

    I have many different genres that I read and as a women not many would think I would be interested in a book about war and the hunt for terrorist and military , but I do because these are the men and women that keep us safe. This book is a great understanding of the different aspects of war and how it is fought. I have great respect for our military and the gruelling hours of stress and frustration they have trying to keep people around the world safe. I really liked the detailed information on I have many different genres that I read and as a women not many would think I would be interested in a book about war and the hunt for terrorist and military , but I do because these are the men and women that keep us safe. This book is a great understanding of the different aspects of war and how it is fought. I have great respect for our military and the gruelling hours of stress and frustration they have trying to keep people around the world safe. I really liked the detailed information on how technology can now keep our military safer. Thank for this amazing book. Everyone please read this,it will give you a good prespective on how hard and rewarding it can be to stand up for your country.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Al

    Fascinating history of the MQ-1 Predator's history in the Global war of Terror by one of its early pilots, who later became a squadron commander. He discusses the program's growing pains, from being seen as a negative assignment for pilots, to its later growth, maturation and acceptance by the greater military community. He also relates his and the aircraft's involvement in some key engagements, including supporting the rescue of "Lone Survivor" Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, the Predator's first us Fascinating history of the MQ-1 Predator's history in the Global war of Terror by one of its early pilots, who later became a squadron commander. He discusses the program's growing pains, from being seen as a negative assignment for pilots, to its later growth, maturation and acceptance by the greater military community. He also relates his and the aircraft's involvement in some key engagements, including supporting the rescue of "Lone Survivor" Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, the Predator's first use in direct armed support of troops on the ground and the targeting of terrorist leaders Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and Anwar al-Awlaki.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Anibal Baranek

    The book is well written and easy to read. It gives a pilot's perspective to the development of the Predator. Highly recommended to understand the way these systems work. I think the main strength of the book is that it takes a rather dry subject and gives it a human face. The book does not get into the Why of these aircraft but goes in deep detail into the How. If that is what you are looking for this book is for you. The book is well written and easy to read. It gives a pilot's perspective to the development of the Predator. Highly recommended to understand the way these systems work. I think the main strength of the book is that it takes a rather dry subject and gives it a human face. The book does not get into the Why of these aircraft but goes in deep detail into the How. If that is what you are looking for this book is for you.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jesse Morrison

    Great historical account of an Air Force Officer during an awe inspiring period of innovation in aerial the fight for right and justice against a societal menace to life and freedom. I applaud LtCol McCurley for his writing an in depth memoir of his progression in the development of innovative actions with UAV technology. As well as enduring extreme conditions while maintaining/building moral among his fellow airmen. Thank you Colonel

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jerry W Stachowski

    A good description of what the unmanned aerial vehicle program is about from someone who has lived it. I enjoyed the fact that this is not SkyNet from the Terminator movies, but there are real folks in the virtual cockpit.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Stewart Cotterill

    A really fascinating look at drone warfare from its practical inception to the early 2010s. The author writes in such a way as if you are in the seat behind him, flying to far away lands. Very interesting and enjoyable.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Eric

    An interesting read on the Air Force squadrons that fly the Predator remote piloted aircraft. It explored how their training and how some of their tactics have developed in the War on Terror.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    This is a great book for a behind the scenes look at Drone and Remotely Piloted Vehicle warfare in the modern age. I learned a lot from reading it.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Trevor

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. good, enjoyed it and provides window into the drone history of the predators.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Red Lioness

    Well written book, and gave you a bird's eye view into the operators behind the Drones. Well written book, and gave you a bird's eye view into the operators behind the Drones.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Rupin Chaudhry

    An excellent memoir chronicling yet another evolutionary step in human conflict.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    Enjoyed the book. It doesn't truly dive into the history of RPA aircraft but does tell the storyline how RPA aircraft is slowly get more attention and use in the military. Enjoyed the book. It doesn't truly dive into the history of RPA aircraft but does tell the storyline how RPA aircraft is slowly get more attention and use in the military.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Pat

    Great book that dives into the virtually unknown drone program In the US military.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Koppelmann

    The author was totally arrogant but it was an interesting read about how the unmanned aircraft started and progressed in the military.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Nick Hernandez

    Great insight into how remotely piloted aircraft (aka “drones”) actually work and were used in combat in several instances.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Beaver

    Alrig h t for what it is.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    Great and educational read One of the best books in the last year. I have been a private pilot for more than 50 years, and so the flying aspects are especially interesting. Highly recommend

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jon Ellis

    Fascinating insight into a new form of warfare. quite scary in how mundane and ordinary it all is. The descriptions of the difficulties in flying these unmanned planes was very interesting.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Joseph M. O'Connor

    Realism, dedication and professionalism... ... shine through in this fascinating description of not only a successful strike against terrorism, but also of the evolution of an entirely new weapons system, remotely piloted aircraft. This book is also a very accurate description of the many pitfalls facing a professional seeking advancement in our modern military. Careers have to be planned carefully; choices have to be made judiciously; decisions have to be considered from every possible angle. Mem Realism, dedication and professionalism... ... shine through in this fascinating description of not only a successful strike against terrorism, but also of the evolution of an entirely new weapons system, remotely piloted aircraft. This book is also a very accurate description of the many pitfalls facing a professional seeking advancement in our modern military. Careers have to be planned carefully; choices have to be made judiciously; decisions have to be considered from every possible angle. Members of the officer corps in today's all-volunteer military need to be as astute politically as they need to be well-trained technically. "Zoomies" don't just jock jets and kill commies anymore. Lt. Col. Mccurley has managed to mix these themes nicely, covering the technical details of Predator and Reaper operations, showing clearly how these rather amazing machines can fight, and documenting how a single mission can be executed seamlessly even though its various components may be separated by thousands of miles. I think it was Arthur C. Clark who once said "... any sufficiently advanced technology is, in fact, indistinguishable from magic." That is the way my 1950's-vintage brain sees RPA technology. Magic. Buy it. Borrow it. Read it. Learn from it not only how kids from your home town can put on Air Force Blue and help to pull off these fabulous "drone strikes" at the drop of a hat (it seems), but also how the technology and systems evolved, and what it takes to get the job done. Many thanks to Lt. Col. Mccurley for pulling this story together and telling it well. He'd be the first to tell you it's not his story - rather, it's the story of a team, and he's proud to be part of that team.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Roger Burk

    I can't give it five stars because the writing is not great (though perfectly readable). It is a memoir of a rare pilot Air Force pilot who volunteered for the unmanned program, and who seems to have done well in his chosen profession, no more and no less. But if you want to know what these newfangled remotely piloted aircraft have done to your Air Force, as this grizzled veteran does, then this book is a great view into squadron life. Of course, the hardships of the Predator cockpit crews are n I can't give it five stars because the writing is not great (though perfectly readable). It is a memoir of a rare pilot Air Force pilot who volunteered for the unmanned program, and who seems to have done well in his chosen profession, no more and no less. But if you want to know what these newfangled remotely piloted aircraft have done to your Air Force, as this grizzled veteran does, then this book is a great view into squadron life. Of course, the hardships of the Predator cockpit crews are not to be compared with those of airmen deployed to theater, but that does not mean that they actually have it easy. The hours are grueling and the work often crushingly boring. Sometimes they spend months watching one individual round the clock, shift after shift, to understand his pattern of activity and whom he interacts with. Then they may hit him with a Hellfire missile. Some complain that remote-control war is too impersonal. It turns out it's not that way. You get to personally know your target pretty well, his habits and associates, and you can watch on the video when his head snaps up at the sound of the approaching missile that brings his doom.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Scott Hanson

    Totally amazed ! Outstanding read about these marvelous flying machines and the men and women who fly them. I was curious about the aircraft, the pilots, sensor operators, and accomplishments in the unmanned air war. The author took you on a eye opening inside tour into the world of information gathering, flight operations, and new technology relating to flight dynamics in the unmanned aircraft world. I can think of many applications in using this technology benefiting humankind when wars are no Totally amazed ! Outstanding read about these marvelous flying machines and the men and women who fly them. I was curious about the aircraft, the pilots, sensor operators, and accomplishments in the unmanned air war. The author took you on a eye opening inside tour into the world of information gathering, flight operations, and new technology relating to flight dynamics in the unmanned aircraft world. I can think of many applications in using this technology benefiting humankind when wars are no longer needed. In part, because of the developing technology advancing unmanned flight. We are witnessing this phenomenon in it's infancy. Much like those that witnessed the Wright brothers first flight. Now, we can fly, fight, and win while not exposing our flight crews to the harm's way in the fog of war. This author as a storyteller kept me reading his story in one sitting. I couldn't put it down. Hence, the five stars.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Gregg

    I'm amazed with the "drone" technology and fascinated by the idea of fighting wars with unmanned vehicles. The authors (co-author is Kevin Maurer, who co-authored No Easy Day) do a nice job covering the technology at a level non-technical readers, like me, can understand. They only briefly mention the debate about the morality of unmanned warfare. The book is mostly a bunch of war stories about McCurley's time as a pilot of these vehicles. It seems like it's a boring job the vast majority of the I'm amazed with the "drone" technology and fascinated by the idea of fighting wars with unmanned vehicles. The authors (co-author is Kevin Maurer, who co-authored No Easy Day) do a nice job covering the technology at a level non-technical readers, like me, can understand. They only briefly mention the debate about the morality of unmanned warfare. The book is mostly a bunch of war stories about McCurley's time as a pilot of these vehicles. It seems like it's a boring job the vast majority of the time, even when they were involved in a fairly important mission, and the narrative can't really overcome that. Decent story, just not a "page turner."

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