UK drone and air strikes in 2015 – a look at the data

Analysing updates published by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) of RAF operations in Iraq and Syria give something of an insight into the use of drones and aircraft for strikes by British forces in 2015.  The updates do not give a complete picture as some strikes are omitted (for example the targeted killing of Reyaad Khan) and the number of strikes recorded in the reports do not match officially published figures. Nevertheless they do give a broad indication of British air operations against ISIS. (Note the MoD’s definition of a ‘strike’ and how it calculates the number of a strikes it has launched is extremely convoluted and has changed during the year – see this explanation from the MoD.

Strikes in Iraq

UK-drone-air-strikes-2015 by month- c

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Fallon to face questions on drone targeted killing – but will there be answers?

Secretary of State for Defence, Michael Fallon

UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon will face questions from the Human Rights Select Committee on Wednesday (16 Dec) over the targeted killing of two British men in a UK drone strike.  21-year old Reyaad Khan from Cardiff was killed in the strike in Syria on 21 August 2015 alongside 26-year old Ruhul Amin from Aberdeen and an unknown third man.

As the Prime Minster acknowledged in his statement to the House of Commons,the air strike was a significant departure from previous military operations: Read more

New figures on UK drone use in Iraq and Syria

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has released new data on UK drone operations in Iraq and Syria to Drone Wars in response to a Freedom of Information request. The data covers Reaper operations in Iraq and Syria in the third quarter of the year (June – Sept 2015) as well as new data on British Tornado missions and strikes since the beginning of operations against ISIS.

The table below give details of UK drone operations in Iraq and Syria since the beginning of the year (data for whole operation is here). Note figures here use the ‘UK methodology’ for calculating number of strikes (see more below). Read more

British drones and targeted killing: UK follows the lead of the US and Israel

David Cameron announcing drone targeted killing of Reyaard Khan
David Cameron announcing drone targeted killing of Reyaard Khan

Yesterday’s statement from Prime Minister David Cameron that a British drone had targeted and killed a 21 year-old British citizen, Reyaad Khan, outside a situation of armed conflict after he had been put on what amounts to a kill list months earlier is shocking.  Time and again in response to questions about the UK’s drone programme British ministers, defence officials and military officers have distanced themselves from the type of targeted killing undertaken by US drones outside a situation of formal conflict.  ‘It’s something we wouldn’t do’ has been the mantra. Read more

Briton killed by targeted British drone strike

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Reyaad Khan

In a shocking statement made in the House of Commons this afternoon Prime Minster David Cameron announced that for the first time a British citizen, Reyaad Khan, has been targeted for assassination by a British drone.  A second Briton, Ruhul Amin and a third unknown man were also killed in the strike. Cameron told the House:

Today I can inform the House that in an act of self-defence and after meticulous planning Reyaad Khan was killed in a precision air strike carried out on 21st August by an RAF remotely piloted aircraft while he was travelling in a vehicle in the area of Raqqah in Syria.

In addition to Reyaad Khan who was the target of the strike, two ISIL associates were also killed, one of whom – Ruhul Amin, has been identified as a UK national. They were ISIL fighters and I can confirm there were no civilian casualties.

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UK increases drone missions in Syria

Armed RAF Reaper Aircraft Approaches Kandahar Airfield, AfghanistanThe MoD has released new data on UK drone operations in Iraq and Syria to Drone Wars in response to a Freedom of Information request.

Figures for the second quarter of 2015 show a significant rise in the number of Reaper drone flights in Syria since the beginning of the year.  In January just over 10% of UK Reaper drone sorties took place in Syrian airspace.  In June 2015 this had risen to 40%. Read more