UK launches drone strikes in Iraq (again)

Reaper-17The MoD has announced the first UK drone strike in Iraq against ISIS militants. The strike come almost exactly a decade after the first UK drone strike in Iraq in 2004 when RAF pilots operated US drones as part of the Joint US/UK Combined Joint Predator Task Force

Yesterday’s MoD statement said:

This weekend saw the first air strike by a Royal Air Force Reaper remotely piloted air system (RPAS) as British forces continue to assist the Iraqi Government in their fight against ISIL.

A series of coalition missions were conducted near Bayji, north of Baghdad, where ISIL terrorists were laying improvised explosive devices.

The Reaper RPAS, using procedures identical to those of manned aircraft, successfully attacked the terrorists using a Hellfire missile.

UK Reaper continued to provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assistance to coalition aircraft which enabled them to conduct further strikes.

The strike comes just days after the UK announced it was redeploying further British Reaper drones from Afghanistan for missions over Iraq and Syria. However there are reports that weather conditions in the region – particularly sandstorms – are limiting the ability of drones to fly missions.

Multiple media sources are now reporting that the UK’s drones are based in Kuwait although this is still to be confirmed by the MoD.

While this is the first UK drone strike of Operation Shader, it is unlikely to be the last. Although the MoD likes to insist the UK drone strikes happen on “rare occasions” their own figures show that over the past three years 80% of RAF air strikes in Afghanistan were carried out by drones.

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