UK increases drone missions in Syria

Armed RAF Reaper Aircraft Approaches Kandahar Airfield, AfghanistanThe MoD has released new data on UK drone operations in Iraq and Syria to Drone Wars in response to a Freedom of Information request.

Figures for the second quarter of 2015 show a significant rise in the number of Reaper drone flights in Syria since the beginning of the year.  In January just over 10% of UK Reaper drone sorties took place in Syrian airspace.  In June 2015 this had risen to 40%. Read more

UK’s armed drones now in Middle East and UK say MoD

reaper being assembled at Kandahar (ops update 26 dec 2010)Following a Freedom of Information request from Drone Wars UK the Ministry of Defence has revealed for the first time that the UK’s Reaper drone fleet has relocated partly to the Middle East and partly to the UK after the withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The MoD stated in its FoI response to Chris Cole, Director of the campaign group:

“I can confirm Reaper, the RAF’s Remotely Piloted Aircraft System, has relocated to the United Kingdom and the Middle East. Under Section 16 of the Act (Advice and Assistance), you may find it helpful to note that the Reaper aircraft being returned to the UK will be kept in storage.”

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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.

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UK Reaper drones to be sent to Iraq

 UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has announced that two armed Reaper drones will be sent from Afghanistan to Iraq to take part in military operations against ISIS. The drones will no doubt soon be undertaking airstrikes alongside RAF Tornados and US aircraft.   It is expected that further RAF Reapers will join this initial deployment once UK forces withdraw from Afghanistan.  The MoD has refused to disclose where the drones will be based (except to indicate they will not be based in Iraq) – RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus and Al Minhad airbase in United Arab Emirates are possibilities. Read more

UK’s much delayed Watchkeeper drone deployed to Afghanistan

Watchkeeper at Camp Bastion Sept 2014 - Crown Copyright
Watchkeeper at Camp Bastion Sept 2014 – Crown Copyright

The UK’s new Watchkeeper drone has finally been sent to Afghanistan.  Well over three years late and just weeks before UK forces are due to be withdrawn, the MoD announced that Watchkeeper had become “fully operational.” However it is not clear what this means especially as all remaining UK troops in Afghanistan have been withdrawn to Camp Bastion and with the MoD announcing last month that all UK “offensive operations” have ceased.   The MoD refused to tell journalists how many Watchkeepers have actually been sent to Afghanistan. Read more

UK doubles armed drone fleet in Afghanistan

RAF Reaper MQ-9 Remotely Piloted Air SystemThe MoD have announced today (3 July 2014) that the additional five armed Reaper drones purchased as an urgent operational requirement (UOR) in December 2010) have begun operations in Afghanistan.  Questions have been asked about why equipment bought urgently has taken over three and half-years to come into service with Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Drones, Tom Watson MP, telling the Bureau of Investigative Journalism:

“‘Urgent Operational Requirements’ are meant to be used for emergencies in combat zones. This revelation, that approximately £100m of taxpayers’ money used has been used to purchase equipment that may never be used in Afghanistan, is a scandal at a time when service personnel are being made redundant.”

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