New FoI data release on UK air and drone operations in Iraq and Syria

After a lengthy delay in responding to our FoI requests, the MOD has now provided data on UK air operations in Iraq and Syria for the second half of 2017.  For our updated complete set of figures for UK air operations in Iraq and Syria since 2014 see here.

As ISIS collapses in Iraq, Syria becomes UK focus

The newly released figures show just how much the focus of UK air operations switched from Iraq to Syria during 2017.  In 2016, 74% of UK armed air missions took place in Iraq with just over a quarter in Syria.  In 2017 the numbers were almost the reverse, with 68% of armed missions taking place in Syria and only 32% in Iraq.

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Perpetual war: UK’s armed drones to stay deployed beyond campaign against ISIS

A Ministry of Defence press conference has revealed that as the war against ISIS ends, British Reaper drones are to stay deployed in the Middle East after other UK aircraft return home .  As The Times reported

‘Air Commodore Johnny Stringer, who led the British air campaign against the terrorist group until last month, said that drones and other surveillance aircraft would continue to fly over Iraq and Syria to help local forces guard against the militants returning.,

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After ten years, time to ground Britain’s drones

The imminent defeat of ISIS in Iraq should see British drones grounded.  But will they continue to launch strikes in what is becoming a perpetual war?

An armed British Reaper drone

This month (October 2017) marks ten years of British Reaper drone operations.  Acquired on a  temporary basis as an ‘Urgent Operational Capability’, the UK began operating armed drones in Afghanistan in October 2007 after having three delivered directly to Kandahar airport. A decade later the Reapers have been in continuous use and are now deemed a ‘core capability’.  Having already tripled the number in service, the government are in the process of increasing the fleet up to 26 as the new, updated version of Reaper (re-branded by the British government as ‘Protector’) are delivered over the next two – three years. 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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British military drones in 2016: Strikes continue as future drone programmes progress

The UK continued to use its current drone fleet while progressing future armed drone programmes during the year.  Here’s a round-up of some of the main news from 2016

UK drones in Iraq and Syria

An RAF Reaper droneBritish Reaper drones continued to operate over Iraq and Syria throughout the year as part of US-led Coalition to defeat ISIS. However we are not allowed to know exactly how many of Britain’s fleet are deployed there, or indeed, if any have been deployed elsewhere. In spring 2016 there was a noticeable decline in Reaper missions in Iraq and Syria which could indicate that some of the drones had been deployed elsewhere (perhaps for operations over Libya for example) although this remains speculation without further information. Read more

Drone strikes spread as proliferation surges

A new wave of users have launched drone strikes either on their own territory or across borders over the past 15 months.

bayraktar-armed
Turkish armed drone – The Bayraktar TB2

While the majority of attention on armed drones has focused on US use (and to some extent on the UK and Israeli), growing proliferation of these systems has meant that a number of other countries have acquired or developed armed drones and are beginning to regularly use them to launch strikes.

Most of these second wave of countries have acquired their armed drones from China – either the slightly older ‘Wing Loong (‘Pterodactyl’) developed by Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group Read more