Air Force Suspends Teleworking Drone Operator After Wedding Party Bombed
LAS VEGAS, NV — The Air Force is rethinking its liberal telecommuting policy after a drone operator working from home accidentally incinerated a Yemeni wedding party in what Air Force officials are calling a “whoops-my-bad” incident.
According to the Air Force, the now-suspended operator, whose name is being withheld for security reasons, was in the midst of both controlling his MQ-9 Reaper over a suspected enemy compound in Yemen while simultaneously playing with a kitten on his desk.
Apparently the cat suddenly jumped on the keyboard, resulting in the Reaper launching half-a-dozen missiles at a wedding party, killing fifteen.
"An air strike missed its target and hit a wedding car convoy, ten people were killed immediately and another five who were injured died after being admitted to the hospital," one security official said following news of the strike. "Whoops. Our bad."
Senior U.S. officials were at a loss to explain why a heavily-armed aircraft was being remotely operated from someone's house, recalling shades of an incident involving Gen. Ricardo Sanchez letting a group of preschoolers play in the combat operations center of Central Command in 2004 when they accidentally started the Battle of Fallujah.
This isn't the first time a mistake of this magnitude has occurred. Last October, a drone operator hitting the "enter" key in what he thought was a chat window instead released a missile aimed at a busload of civilians in northern Pakistan.
The U.S. later admitted the drone missed its intended target, which was an elementary school filled with civilians who fit a terrorist "signature" of breathing oxygen, living in Pakistan, and being between the ages of four and 90.
Duffel Blog investigative correspondent G-Had contributed to this report.