Drones – unmanned aerial vehicles – come in many forms and shapes. What connects them more than anything are the insane names they carry. Predator, Reaper and Avenger. Or the new Locust that releases many small ‘Cicades’. Who comes up with these names? No really, who?
In the sparse slow moments here at the IKV Pax Christi office I’ve been investigating the mystery of drone naming on the internet. I’ve learned many things, for example that the naming of U.S. military ships is overseen by Congress. But apparently that’s just the big ships. I also found manuals. Many manuals. Long manuals on the naming of military tools. So long were the manuals, that only a military bureaucracy could ever produce them. They made me bang my head on the table, but in the end they told me nothing about the naming of aircraft, manned or unmanned, armed or unarmed.
I then looked to drone manufacturers as the prime suspects. It would make a lot of free-market sense. Congressmen and their aides pass by countless military ads on their way to the office and decide on their Monday morning military purchases by looking at the coolest posters. Fighting ‘Falcons’ (F-16) or ‘Eagles’ (F-15)? The Eagle is clearly the cooler plane (two tails!), but the Fighting Falcon is the cooler bird. It’s leaner, meaner and more mysterious. The alliteration also helps! It would at least explain why the inferior F-16 pushed out the much more reliable F-15.
But then I found out that the manufacturer of the Reaper originally christened it ‘Altair’, not Reaper. Altair is a star. You get the logic: A weapon flying high overhead, hardly visible except for a little twinkle at night – name it after a star! Very romantic. Altair comes from the ancient Arabic, it means bird. Perfect. A mysterious flying starbird.
But then, when the U.S. Air Force started to purchase Arabic starbirds, they were renamed…. Reaper. So now you’re not killed by an Arabic starbird (which could indeed lead to confusion in many of the battlegrounds where these weapons are used to assassinate people without due trial). Nonono. You’re killed by an uber-white guy in black robes with a stainless steel scythe …. Nothing you can do about it. Your time is up.
I now suspect it’s a commission of nearly retired corporals. I imagine lengthy caffeinated discussions – manuals close at hand – on what best conveys the message the U.S. wants to convey to the people down on the ground. They are prey.
Or maybe it’s much more of an after work drinking game. A betting pool set up at the closest bar to the office to see how far the most preposterous names will really go.
If it’s a drinking game , my money is on the “Exterminator”.
What do you think?