In December 2015 the US announced plans to vastly expand its drone programme including increasing the number of drones to be purchased, doubling the number of drone operators and opening new drone bases.
A map in the USAF’s new ‘RPA Vector Report’ released on April 4 2014 confirms that ‘Project Crossbow’ based at RAF Marham in Norfolk is part of the intelligence backbone guiding the growing use of US and UK drones.
While British Reaper drones based in Afghanistan are being remotely controlled from RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire, RAF Marham near Kings Lynn is home to Crossbow, a joint UK-US intelligence analysis project. Operated by the RAF’s Tactical Imagery Intelligence Wing (TIW) but “under the tactical control” of a USAF Squadron, Crossbow receives and feeds information into the US Distributed Common Ground System (DCGS). Read more
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has admitted that British RAF pilots have borrowed USAF Reaper drones more than 250 times in Afghanistan, launching weapons on at least 39 occasions. However the numbers of strikes by RAF pilots using US Reapers drones is likely to be higher as the MoD are keeping secret the number of weapons launches by RAF pilots when they have been officially embedded with the USAF. Read more
On both sides of the Atlantic, legal challenges related to US drone use are about to hit the courts.
Tomorrow the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) will take the CIA to court for refusing to comply with a Freedom of Information request for copies of documents related to the CIA’s drone strike programme.
The CIA has refused to comply with the FoIA request on the grounds that it is forbidden to talk about the secretive programme. The ACLU say that the CIA cannot on the one hand refuse documents on the grounds of secrecy while at the very same time regularly give briefings about its drone strikes. Jameel Jaffer, the deputy legal director of the ACLU told the Guardian: Read more
On the day that 12 British parliamentarians wrote a joint letter to The Times calling on President Obama to stop drone strikes in Pakistan, it has been revealed that RAF pilots flew US drones during the Libyan conflict last year.
The UK has repeatedly insisted, in response to questions about UK involvement in the US drone strikes in Pakistan for example, that it has only every operated drones over Afghanistan. However in a written answer in the House of Lords, on the last day before recess, UK Defence Minister Lord Astor revealed: Read more
The Daily Telegraph is reporting that two British citizens have been killed in a US drone attack in North Waziristan. The drone attack took place on Friday December 10th when local Pakistani media reported that US drones fired four Hellfire missiles at a vehicle and compound near Datta Khel.
If reports are correct – and the British Foreign Office are saying at this stage that they are investigating the reports – it will be the second time in three months that British citizens have been killed in US drone strikes in Pakistan. In October, as we reported at the time, Abdul Jabbar a British citizen reportedly from Birmingham, was killed in Waziristan.
No doubt there will be more on this story soon.