‘UK Troops Use ‘War Crime Drones’ In Israel was a rather surprising headline this week from the sensational Sun Sky News. Behind the headline was the news that British troops are being trained by Israeli company Elbit to use Hermes and its Watchkeeper drones replacement in Israel.
As is well known the UK is currently renting Hermes drones for use in Afghanistan until the new Watchkeeper drones, built under a joint UK-Elbit venture, can be deployed next year. (see British Drones the Israeli Connection)
In 2008 the UK government insisted that trials for the Watchkeeper should not be undertaken in the occupied territories but was seemingly happy enough for the testing to take place in Israel. Amnesty International was quoted in the Sky News article as saying “It would seem wholly inappropriate for UK forces to be trained in the use of drones by a country with a track record of applying this technology in grave abuses of people’s human rights.” Quite. No one could disagree with that (except perhaps commentators on The Jersualem Post version of the story)?
Meanwhile the battle to replace the British Reaper drone is sparking into life. EADS, which is developing the Talarion drone, urged decision makers to ‘make a choice’ with regard to the future armed UAV. Two drones, BAE’s Mantis and EADS Talarion are the main contenders but there are also other possible candidates which could be developed to fulfil the Scavenger requirement to be in service around 2015-2018. The joint UK-France treaty signed late 2010 seems to imply that these two main programmes will somehow be merged but it seems progress is slow and frustrating for EADS.