“Here’s their actual stories, make of them what you will.” Dr Peter Lee on ‘Britain’s Reaper Force’

Dr Peter Lee

On 4th October, a ground-breaking book on the UK’s use of armed drones will be published by John Blake Ltd.  Reaper Force: The Inside Story of Britain’s Drone Wars‘ is the result of conversations that have taken place over several years between Dr Peter Lee of Portsmouth University and RAF Reaper crews and their partners at Creech AFB in Nevada and RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire. A week before publication, Drone Wars sat down with Peter to chat about the new book.

CC: We’ve met each many times having discussed these issues at conferences and in broadcast studios, but for the benefit of our readers, can I ask you to say a little about how you got into this field of research? Read more

MoD accidentally reveals British drones firing thermobaric missiles in Syria

The Ministry of Defence has revealed for the first time – seemingly accidentally – that British drones are firing thermobaric weapons in Syria.  The disclosure comes in an Freedom of Information (FoI) response to Drone Wars detailing the use of Reaper drones over the previous three months.

In the response, officials give a breakdown of the type of Hellfire missiles fired, stating that 19 AGM-114N4 and 44 AGM-114R2 had been used. Read more

UK drone strike kills civilian in Syria admits MoD

For the first time, the Ministry of Defence has admitted a civilian death in its air campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.  The strike, from an RAF Reaper drone, occurred on 26 March according to a written statement by the Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson.  The strike itself was reported by the MoD on its website on 4 April.  It stated:

A Reaper tracked a group of terrorists in a vehicle in the Syrian Euphrates valley on Monday 26 March, and successfully destroyed it and its occupants with a precision Hellfire missile attack.

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Cost of UK air and drone strikes in Iraq and Syria reach £1.75 billion

Analysis of figures released in response to Freedom of Information requests by Drone Wars UK indicate that the UK has spent £1.75bn on armed air missions against ISIS in Iraq and Syria since August 2014. It should be noted that the overall cost of UK military operations in Iraq and Syria will be much higher.

Strikingly, the data shows that at £268 million, the cost alone of the weapons fired over the last 3½ years is more than the total amount the UK has spent on humanitarian assistance in Iraq (£210 million) in the same time period.  The full cost of flying the UK’s armed aircraft (Tornado, Typhoon and Reaper) for more than 42,000 hours is almost £1.5 billion. Read more

Watching, Killing: The Evolution of RAF Drone Warfare in the 21st Century’ – Dr Peter Lee

Dr Peter Lee

Anyone who has conducted interviews with around 60 Reaper drone crew members and given evidence to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Drones will have learned a thing or two about the Royal Air Force’s armed drone programme.  Step forward Dr Peter Lee, a former Air Force chaplain now Director of Security and Risk Research at Portsmouth University, who over the past few years has been undertaking a detailed study into the human dimension of RAF Reaper drone operations.  Dr Lee recently lectured at the Royal Aeronautical Society about his research and his forthcoming book on the RAF’s drone community. Read more

New Report: British Drone Operations Against ISIS, 2014-2016

feb-17-report-coverbDrone Wars UK is today publishing a new report detailing UK armed drone and air operations against ISIS.  The report contains data on UK operations in Iraq and Syria gained through Freedom of Information requests since 2014 as well as background and a timeline of UK air operations.  In addition, the report highlights continuing issues of concern about the use of armed drones reflected through the lens of UK drone operations.

The data shows that

  • The UK has launched just over 2,500 missiles and bombs in 1,200 air strikes against ISIS until the end of 2016
  • The number of UK drone flights in Iraq and Syria declined by 23% in 2016.  Despite this, weapon launches from UK Reaper drones increased by 30% (from 274 in 2015 to 358 in 2016).
  • 22% of the UK’s 726 air strikes in Iraq and Syria in 2016 were carried out by Reaper drones
  • Since parliament approved the expansion of air strikes into Syria in Dec 2015, just 9% of UK strikes have taken place in Syria.
  • In the final quarter of 2016, only 5% of UK air missions took place in Syria.

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