Italian Mafia tested killer drones decades before the U.S. used them in Afghanistan

Cosa Nostra tested remotely controlled aircraft loaded with bombs to attack and kill rivals from the sky in the early 1990s, well before the U.S. Air Force and CIA used them in Afghanistan, Pakistan or Iraq.

This is what former mobster turned into informer Gaspare Spatuzza revealed an Italian court on Jun. 11, 2013.

According to the ex “mafioso”, he was given the task by one of the Graviano brothers, two Palermo bosses in the 1990s, to buy and flight test rc airplanes carrying explosives.

“Graviano told me to buy a remotely controlled plane. He explained that others had already bought them and we had to test the way to turn them into flying bombs by loading them with explosives,” Spatuzza said.

“I bought it, it  cost me more than 1 million [1 million Lira, more or less 500 Euro] and I did some testing. We had to learn how to fly it and then direct them to targets charging them with a small amount of explosives.”

killer drone

Although it’s not clear whether a small remotely piloted plane turned into flying bomb was ever used by Cosa Nostra to murder someone, claims by the turncoat mark one of the first attempts by mafia to design more sophisticated attacks.

Nevertheless, big targets were hit with “traditional” tools: on May 23, 1992, Cosa Nostra killed anti-mafia magistrate Giovanni Falconi by detonating about half a ton of explosive underneath the motorway between Palermo airport and the city of Palermo.

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About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.