The Gatwick drone: A taste of the technology

Drones dominated the headlines over the Christmas and New Year period after sightings of one or more commercially available drones closed Gatwick airport to flights for 2½ days, disrupting thousands of passengers. The inability of the authorities to track down the drone operator led to ministers calling in the military with counter-drone technology to give assurances to air operators that it was safe to re-open the airport. This week, Heathrow was also closed for an hour due to the presence of a small drone.

While many newspapers mocked the alleged incompetence of the authorities in not dealing with the situation simply and swiftly, the reality is that drones are a disruptive technology. The ability to use remote-controlled systems to intervene at distance with little or no consequences to the operator is perhaps now coming home to roost. Read more

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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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.

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500 days of British drone operations in Iraq and Syria

Today (4 March 2016) marks 500 days since British Reaper drones first deployed over Iraq (22 Oct 2014) and then Syria in their operations against ISIS.  In that time, according to our analysis of the MoD updates on air strikes against ISIS (Daesh), there have been 250 British drone strikes in Iraq and 17 in Syria  out of a total of 796 British air strikes (not including the Reyaad Khan strike on Aug 21 which MoD insists was not part of Operation Shader). Read more

Huge increase in British air strikes over past 3 months

Analysis of information released by the Ministry of Defence shows a huge rise in the number of British air strikes against ISIS in Iraq since October 2015.  In addition our analysis also shows that the UK’s adoption of the US methodology for counting air strikes means that official MoD strike figures undercount strikes by around 30% compared with the traditional British methodology.

Increased British air strikes in Iraq

UK strikes (31Jan2016)

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