New report: Falling Short: An analysis of the reporting of UK drone strikes by the MoD

Click to open report

Drone Wars is today publishing ‘Falling Short: An analysis of the reporting of UK drone strikes by the MoD‘. Since the beginning of air attacks against ISIS in Iraq and Syria (Operations Shader), the MoD has periodically published reports of the RAF strikes on its website. Law lecturer and member of the Drone Wars Steering Committee, Max Brookman-Byrne, has undertaken quantitative analysis of these reports and examined them in the light of international law.

The report finds that while the MoD’s attempts to be transparent in this area are to be welcomed, too often insufficient information is given. The fact that nearly half of all reports of drone strikes fail to convey sufficient information for even cursory or superficial assessments in light of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) is highly concerning. It means that while the MoD’s reports provide an apparently transparent framework, in reality they fall short in this regard. Read more

MoD accidentally reveals British drones firing thermobaric missiles in Syria

The Ministry of Defence has revealed for the first time – seemingly accidentally – that British drones are firing thermobaric weapons in Syria.  The disclosure comes in an Freedom of Information (FoI) response to Drone Wars detailing the use of Reaper drones over the previous three months.

In the response, officials give a breakdown of the type of Hellfire missiles fired, stating that 19 AGM-114N4 and 44 AGM-114R2 had been used. Read more

Cost of UK air and drone strikes in Iraq and Syria reach £1.75 billion

Analysis of figures released in response to Freedom of Information requests by Drone Wars UK indicate that the UK has spent £1.75bn on armed air missions against ISIS in Iraq and Syria since August 2014. It should be noted that the overall cost of UK military operations in Iraq and Syria will be much higher.

Strikingly, the data shows that at £268 million, the cost alone of the weapons fired over the last 3½ years is more than the total amount the UK has spent on humanitarian assistance in Iraq (£210 million) in the same time period.  The full cost of flying the UK’s armed aircraft (Tornado, Typhoon and Reaper) for more than 42,000 hours is almost £1.5 billion. Read more

Revealed: internal discussions between MoD and regulators on flying Predator drones in UK

Details of discussions between the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) on plans to allow the RAF’s upgraded version of the US Predator drone to be flown within the UK have been released following a Freedom of Information request by Drone Wars UK.  More than 200 pages of internal documents including emails, minutes of meetings, discussion papers and copies of slide presentations have been released. Many of the documents have been redacted, some extremely heavily.

David Cameron announced in October 2015 that the Britain was to purchase the new version of the Predator, which the UK is re-naming as ‘Protector’.  The UK’s current type of armed unmanned aerial vehicles, the Reaper, are unable to be flown in the UK due to safety issues and the new version was purchased, in part, to enable the RAF to fly its large armed drones within the UK for training as well as security and civil contingency purposes. Read more

Information tribunal dismisses Drone Wars appeal over British drone secrecy

An information tribunal has upheld the MoD’s decision to refuse to release the number of British armed drones deployed against ISIS and their location, despite such information being released by the UK about its ‘manned’ aircraft.

In the just released open judgement (a closed judgement has also been produced but will not been made available to us), the tribunal accepted that there was clear public interest in the information Drone Wars sought as both parliament and the public could then ascertain if Read more

UK armed drone deployment: brief report from Information Tribunal

Tribunal in closed session

Our appeal against the Ministry of Defence’s decision not to release the number of UK Reapers engaged in operations against ISIS, nor the location of all UK Reapers was heard before an Information Tribunal yesterday (11 July). Despite such details being regularly released for ‘manned’ aircraft engaged in such operations – and as we demonstrated in court – many other operations including Operation Herrick (Afghanistan), Operation Ellamy (Libya) and even Operation Desert Fox (Iraq), the MoD insisted in court there were “appropriate reasons”, which could not be revealed in open court, why deployment details of armed drones could not be released. Group Captain Mark Flewin, attached to Permanent Joint Headquarter (PJHQ) and responsible for managing information operations in support of Operation Shader gave evidence for the MoD in open session but repeated stated he could not answer some of our questions in open session.  His redacted statement is below.  GC Flewin stated in open session: Read more