The UK deployed an MQ-9 Reaper drone to Sudan as part of the military operation to support the evacuation of UK personnel the RAF has reported.
This is the first public acknowledgment of the deployment of UK Reaper drones outside of operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. Drone Wars UK has been fighting a long FoI battle with the Ministry of Defence (MoD) about a possible further unacknowledged deployment. The drone provided intelligence gathering and surveillance cover for UK military operations during the evacuation, but it is not known if it was armed during the operation.
In a brief 3 May 2023 press release, the Royal Air Force (RAF) stated
“The RAF’s Reaper, an uncrewed aircraft that is designed for Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) missions has been supporting by providing up to date imagery of the port, airfield and ground environment. This includes highlighting unsafe and potentially dangerous areas to troops on the ground. It has also allowed for identification of buildings which would be suitable for temporary shelter, medical facilities, or locations to process passengers.
The Reaper was operated by XIII Squadron based at RAF Waddington. The Squadron Executive Officer said: “For XIII Squadron to operate the RAF Reaper over two separate continents on two different missions, having eyes on the ground in Africa and the Middle East simultaneously shows the flexibility of the aircraft and our people, a remarkable effort from all the Squadron”.”
The MoD reported that the military operation to safely evacuate UK personnel from Sudan had concluded on 3 May with the last flight departing from Port Sudan airport. It reported that almost 2,500 personnel, including 1,200 non-UK nationals from 20 different countries had left via flight from Wadi Saeedna airfield and Port Sudan airfield. The UK Reaper drone had been tasked in particular with monitoring the UK’s processing station at Cora Hotel, Port Sudan where HMS Lancaster was based, as well as the two airfields from where evacuation flights too place.
Reaper video feed images released by RAF of operation in Sudan