UK Attorney General Jeremy Wright’s speech at the IISS on Wednesday evening, “The modern law of self-defence“, trailed by advanced PR as “setting out the legal basis for British military strikes against terror targets overseas”, gained a flurry of advance media coverage. I’m sure others far more qualified will comment in detail on the legal content of the speech. However, as it undoubtedly relates to the operation of the UK’s drone fleet, it’s important to look at what the speech reveals. Read more
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
British 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
At the first stage of what is likely to be a lengthy appeals process, the Information Commissioner has upheld the Ministry of Defence’s refusal to reveal to Drone Wars UK the number of Britain’s armed drones currently deployed.
Despite the fact that the MoD are happy to give such details about other surveillance and attack aircraft taking part in operations against ISIS, the MoD insists that the number of drones deployed nor their location can be released for reasons of operational security. Read more
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
Analysis 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
Today (4 March 2016) marks 500 days since British Reaper drones first deployed over Iraq (22 Oct 2014) and then Syria in their operations against ISIS. In that time, according to our analysis of the MoD updates on air strikes against ISIS (Daesh), there have been 250 British drone strikes in Iraq and 17 in Syria out of a total of 796 British air strikes (not including the Reyaad Khan strike on Aug 21 which MoD insists was not part of Operation Shader). Read more