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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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

PM must publish Intelligence Committee report on UK drone killings

Dominic Grieve MP, Chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee

Soon after it had been re-constituted in the new parliament, the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) issued  a statement in October 2015 saying that an investigation into the drone strikes in which British nationals were killed was an “immediate priority”.

Fifteen months later, in December 2016, the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) put a short note on its website saying that it had handed over its report, UK Lethal Drone Strikes in Syria, to the Prime Minister after completing its inquiry and expected a redacted version would be published in the New Year.  Four months later we are still waiting. 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

Truth and consequences: One year on what we know (and what we don’t) about the Khan killing

Reyaad Khan
Reyaad Khan – killed in British targeted drone strike on Aug 21 2015

One year ago this weekend (on 21 Aug) an RAF pilot sitting in a Ground Control Station at RAF Waddington pushed a button and Hellfire missiles flashed away from a British Reaper drone loitering a few miles from Raqqa in Northern Syria.  The missiles slammed into an SUV killing all three occupants.  What was said in the Ground Control Station at the time is not publicly known but, as a senior British military officer put it a few months later, a Rubicon had been crossed. Read more