“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

Could British Reaper drones be deployed to the Sahel?

Although British Reaper drones currently continue to operate over Iraq and Syria, the real desire by British political and military leaders to prove that despite Brexit, the UK is willing, ready and able to co-operate in militarily operations with other European nations could potentially see British drones deployed to the Sahel region. No doubt the recent questions about the viability of NATO in light of Trump’s political manoeuvring makes co-operating militarily with European partners seem even more important to the UK government. With France and the US engaged in separate counter-terrorism operations in the Sahel, and other European nations contributing to a peacekeeping mission there, over the past few weeks there have been some signs – including the deployment of UK troops and military helicopters – that the UK may join other Western forces in the area. Read more

2018: British armed drone operations reach a crossroads

In December 2017 the RAF announced that British Reaper drones had reached the significant milestone of flying 100,000 hours of combat operations. First deployed in Afghanistan in 2007 and, on operations against ISIS in Iraq and Syria since 2014, the UK’s Reapers have been continuously engaged in surveillance and strike operations for a decade. However, with the collapse of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, ten years of continuous drone operations should be coming to an end. But statements by British government ministers as well as senior military officers indicate that the UK wants its Reapers to continue to fly, seemingly indefinitely. 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.

Read more

UK setting dangerous precedent in refusing basic information about drone use

8 March 2016 - FCO - UK Against Daesh -fulltweetb
Sssh! Don’t mention the drone numbers (Click to enlarge)

In response to a Freedom of Information (FoI) request from Drone Wars, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has again refused to detail the number of armed British Reaper drones undertaking operations in Iraq and Syria, the location of their base in the Middle East or whether they have been involved in missions over Libya. The UK is known to have ten armed Reaper drones in service.

The MoD insists that both the number of British Reaper drones involved in operations against ISIS and the location of their base must remain secret “for reasons of safeguarding operational security.” In stark contrast the MoD quite readily gives details of other RAF aircraft undertaking operations in Iraq and Syria as well as their operating base without it causing any problem Read more

Fallon to face questions on drone targeted killing – but will there be answers?

Secretary of State for Defence, Michael Fallon

UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon will face questions from the Human Rights Select Committee on Wednesday (16 Dec) over the targeted killing of two British men in a UK drone strike.  21-year old Reyaad Khan from Cardiff was killed in the strike in Syria on 21 August 2015 alongside 26-year old Ruhul Amin from Aberdeen and an unknown third man.

As the Prime Minster acknowledged in his statement to the House of Commons,the air strike was a significant departure from previous military operations: Read more