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

British air strikes in Iraq and Syria increase by 85% – UK approaching 1,000 strikes milestone

Jul16-6 month figsAnalysis of data released by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) shows that British air strikes in Iraq and Syria in the first half of the year increased by an enormous 85% over the previous six months.

FoI data as well as updates published on the MoD’s website show that 249 strikes were launched from British aircraft and drones between July and December 2015, while 464 strikes were launched in the first six months of 2016.

As of the 30 June, the UK has carried out a total of 944 air strikes in Iraq and Syria since September 2014 and it’s likely that the UK will reach the significant milestone of 1,000 air strikes this month.  More than 13,500 strikes have been launched by the Coalition as a whole, the vast majority by the USAF.  However it should be remember that the term ‘air strike’ Read more

FoI reveals only 5% of British air strikes in Iraq and Syria are pre-planned

drone targetA Freedom of Information request by Drone Wars UK has revealed that only 5% of British air strikes in Iraq and Syria are pre-planned.

According to the FoI reponse from the Ministry of Defence out of 414 UK air strikes in Iraq and Syria during 2015, 395 were launched under dynamic targeting procedures while just 19 were pre-planned.  Dynamic targeting procedures are used when aircraft are already in the air and either ‘targets of opportunity’ are spotted or strikes are launched in defence of troops on the ground during direct combat. Read more

Scepticism over casualty claims as new data suggests some UK drones may have moved

Kobani air strike
Coalition air strike in Kobani, Syria

New data about UK military operations in Iraq and Syria has been released to Drone Wars UK and Vice News over the past few days following separate Freedom of Information (FoI) requests.

Vice News obtained details of the number of combatants killed or wounded in RAF strikes each month since Oct 2014.  The data shows that just under 1,000 combatants had been killed with almost 100 wounded.  While the MoD are extremely careful to say they cannot 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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