British drones over Afghanistan to be piloted from UK

STOP PRESS

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has announced today that it is forming a second, RAF drones squadron to be based at RAF Waddington in Lincs.  RAF pilots will control the UKs armed Reaper drones that fly in Afghanistan from Waddington rather than as at present,  from US Air Force base Creech in Nevada.   The Reaper drones themselves will continue to be based in Afghanistan.

UK Defence Secretary, Liam Fox, says in the statement:

“Reaper aircraft are providing valuable support to our front-line troops in Afghanistan. We are committed to providing the best available equipment to our Armed Forces. The formation of this new Squadron follows our doubling of the Reaper capability to ten aircraft, which represents an increased investment of £135M. This extra Squadron will help us get the best out of this valuable armed reconnaissance aircraft.”

 More to follow.



Categories: British Reapers, UK Drone Operations

Tags: ,

6 replies

  1. Excellent news for the UK military generally and RAF in particular!

    There is no difference to operating sensors and weapons via a small screen at 20 000ft in a manned aircraft above the target area and doing likewise on another continent for a UAS.

    Exactly the same procedures and rules of engagement are applied and the aircrew will be just as aware of the need for precision.

    • Hi

      It seems to me there are a number of differences between operating manned systems within the battlespace and operating unmanned systems from several thousand miles away.

      Firstly there is the ‘risk free’ element which, as the MoD has itself admitted, may make war more likely. Secondly, and I know defence personnel do not like this notion, there is the ‘push button warfare’ element whereby the geographic and Hi

      It seems to me there are a number of differences between operating manned systems within the battlespace and operating unmanned systems from several thousand miles away.

      Firstly there is the ‘risk free’ element which, as the MoD has itself admitted, may make war more likely. Secondly, and I know defence personnel do not like this notion, there is the ‘push button warfare’ element whereby the geographic and psychological distance makes launching weapons easier. And final there is the ‘expansion of the battlefield’ whereby we believe, for example, that we can use armed unmanned systems in populated areas safely, where we would never used manned systems. All of these make unmanned systems very different from current systems. Please see the MoD’s own document The UK Approach to UAVs

      With best wishes

      Chris Cole

      • Hi Chris,

        I think you underestimate the people who fly in our military. They are fully cognisant of the moral and operational implications of their actions.

        I also do not understand why you believe the fact a weapons launch platform is unmanned makes it more likely to ‘expand the battlefield’ into areas manned types would not engage.

        This is defined by the weapon type employed rather than the launch platform. Reaper and Predator use a combination of weapons identical to those employed on a wide variety of manned combat types.

        Regards

      • Mr Smith

        Thanks for your reply.

        I very much hope, as you say, that all RAF officers, think about and are aware of the implications of their actions. Nevertheless, simply because military officers are content ‘morally and operationally’ to employ certain weaponry, that does not make it acceptable to wider society. Just as in the very recent past RAF officers were no doubt happy about the ‘moral and operational’ implications of dropping cluster bombs and anti-personnel mines, wider society found that it was unacceptable, and after a great deal of work, these weapons have now been banned. And rightly so I hope you would agree.

        I’m suggesting that unmanned platforms expand the battlespace because they give military commanders (and no doubt political leaders) the illusion that we can engage in an attack on a vehicle/compound or whatever ‘safely’ (i.e. not causing civilian casualties or indeed casualties to our own forces) because we know all that there is to know about the target. This false illusion come from the persistence of unmanned systems such as Reaper, where it sits over a target for however long and we therefore ‘must’ know everything about it. The illusion also comes from the huge amount of data that is generated from the system (particularly FMV) which again gives the illusion that we know everything. I wonder how many of the targets we have attacked using Reapers we would have attacked if we did not have Reaper? . And the crucial thing of course is how many times is Reaper ‘right’ and how many times is it ‘wrong’?

        Certainly we have evidence that attacks by Reapers go wrong and do kill civilians The US also reported recently that two members of its own forces were killed in a US drone attack – so much for the accuracy of Reapers cameras) . Much of the evidence of civilian casualties though comes from Pakistan, where of course the US operates Reapers. There is no information about the use of Reapers by the UK in Afghanistan because it is all kept secret. And that is a real problem. How are we to judge the efficacy of using unmanned systems if any and all information about the use of UK Reapers is classified?

        Look forward to your reply

        Chris Cole

  2. Hi Chris,

    I suspect we may have to agree to disagree! However, what is the difference between the persistence offered by a single unmanned sortie compared to that offered by several manned missions? Both may well have identical sensors and weapons.

    Similarly, how often have civilian casualties actually been avoided by such persistence? Moreover, how many soldiers lives have been saved?

    My point is that I fail to see any difference between manned and unmanned aircraft in this respect.

    Regards

    • Mr Smith (or should I say Wg Cdr!)

      As you say maybe best to agree to disagree. This could be sorted though if the MoD, or someone within the MoD released more info about the circumstances of UK drone strikes (hint, hint!). I know the argument against releasing ROE (not sure I buy it though) but there MUST be more info that could be released.

      Anyway, best wishes

      Chris Cole

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