To many, modern warfare, and particularly drone warfare, can seem like a video game. Successive waves of war movies and video games have managed to replicate the images of the modern battlefield. Images, however, are just that: visual interpretations of events. They don’t show the impact, physical or mental, that the participants experience. Dr Peter Lee, a British academic and former Royal Air Force (RAF) chaplain, is trying to explain the feeling behind the images of drone warfare.

As a chaplain, Dr Lee had extensive access to the RAF’s Reaper crews and their U.S. partners both in Britain and the U.S. (he specifically spent a lot of time at the Creech Air Force Base in Nevada and RAF Waddington base in Lincolnshire). Having completed his service with the RAF, Dr Lee published a book describing his experiences with the Reaper Force.

The British Ministry of Defence (MoD) established the Reaper Force in 2007. Since then, it has kept information about its activities as a closely guarded secret. Decades of warfare, however, have produced many occasions that wouldn’t jeopardise operations security (OPSEC). A few months ago, for instance, the MoD released video footage of a drone strike in Syria. The target was an Islamic State (ISIS) mob preparing to execute two prisoners. Moments before the Jihadists could carry out their odious actions, a Hellfire missile fired from an RAF drone killed the would-be executioners and allowed the two men to escape shaken but unscathed.

Moreover, there is an increasing wave of veterans who wish to share their experiences and stories. And Dr Lee, who was present on numerous missions, describes that pilots would spend countless hours watching a group of individuals or a single person. Although the physical distance was in the thousands of miles, pilots would feel the exact opposite.