While the primary focus for UK military drone operations has been around larger systems like Reaper, the forthcoming ‘Protector’ and Watchkeeper; the UK is increasingly funding the development of smaller drones to engage in war-fighting roles. Read more
Drone manufacturer, General Atomics, hosted an event in London on 24 January in order – as its press release put it – “to recognize UK companies that are contributing to operational systems such as MQ-9 Reaper and MQ-1C Gray Eagle, and the new MQ-9B SkyGuardian RPA program” (which the UK MoD is calling ‘Protector’).
As part of the day, the US company signed agreements with three major UK defence companies: Raytheon, MBDA and BAE Systems. Raytheon will supply and integrate Paveway IV bombs onto the new British drone while MBDA will integrate and supply it with the new Brimstone missile. BAE Systems, however, will play a wider role, helping to enable the new drone to be flown within the UK airspace. Read more
On 4th October, a ground-breaking book on the UK’s use of armed drones will be published by John Blake Ltd. ‘Reaper Force: The Inside Story of Britain’s Drone Wars‘ is the result of conversations that have taken place over several years between Dr Peter Lee of Portsmouth University and RAF Reaper crews and their partners at Creech AFB in Nevada and RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire. A week before publication, Drone Wars sat down with Peter to chat about the new book.
CC: We’ve met each many times having discussed these issues at conferences and in broadcast studios, but for the benefit of our readers, can I ask you to say a little about how you got into this field of research? Read more
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
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.
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?
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