UK deployed Reaper drone to Sudan

Image of Port Sudan from UK Reaper video feed

The UK deployed an MQ-9 Reaper drone to Sudan as part of the military operation to support the evacuation of UK personnel the RAF has reported.

This is the first public acknowledgment of the deployment of UK Reaper drones outside of operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.  Drone Wars UK has been fighting a long FoI battle with the Ministry of Defence (MoD) about a possible further unacknowledged deployment. The drone provided intelligence gathering and surveillance cover for UK military operations during the evacuation, but it is not known if it was armed during the operation.

In a brief 3 May 2023 press release, the Royal Air Force (RAF) stated

“The RAF’s Reaper, an uncrewed aircraft that is designed for Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) missions has been supporting by providing up to date imagery of the port, airfield and ground environment. This includes highlighting unsafe and potentially dangerous areas to troops on the ground. It has also allowed for identification of buildings which would be suitable for temporary shelter, medical facilities, or locations to process passengers.

The Reaper was operated by XIII Squadron based at RAF Waddington. The Squadron Executive Officer said: “For XIII Squadron to operate the RAF Reaper over two separate continents on two different missions, having eyes on the ground in Africa and the Middle East simultaneously shows the flexibility of the aircraft and our people, a remarkable effort from all the Squadron”.”

The MoD reported that the military operation to safely evacuate UK personnel from Sudan had concluded on 3 May with the last flight departing from Port Sudan airport.  It reported that almost 2,500 personnel, including  1,200 non-UK nationals from 20 different countries had left via flight from  Wadi Saeedna airfield and Port Sudan airfield.  The UK Reaper drone had been tasked in particular with monitoring the UK’s processing station at Cora Hotel, Port Sudan where HMS Lancaster was based, as well as the two airfields from where evacuation flights too place.  Read more

PR Trumps Transparency Part II: Government response to Select Committee report on drones

responseThe Government Response to the Defence Select Committee Report on ‘Remotely Piloted Air Systems’ (drones to the rest of us) was published on 29 July. As we wrote when the Committee’s report was originally published in March, there is a gaping hole in the document where actual details of UK drone operation in Afghanistan – and an analysis of their impact on the ground – should be. Without this crucial information it is, in our opinion, impossible to undertake any proper assessment of “the current and future use” of drones, as the Committee claims it has done.

Despite this obvious omission from its investigation – or perhaps because of it – the Defence Select Committee was able to be enthusiastic about the use of drones, calling them “a key military capability for the future.”  The report did however make some observations and recommendations, to which the Government has now responded. Read more