On Monday 12 January the UK Secretary of State for Defence Michael Fallon told the House of Commons that there had been 99 UK airstrikes in Iraq since the beginning of airstrikes on 22 October. On Tuesday 13 January the MoD reported a further strike bringing the total to 100. By our calculations, using reports published by the MoD on their website, approximately one-third have been carried out by the UK’s armed Reaper drones (see table below). Read more
Following a Freedom of Information request from Drone Wars UK the Ministry of Defence has revealed for the first time that the UK’s Reaper drone fleet has relocated partly to the Middle East and partly to the UK after the withdrawal from Afghanistan.
The MoD stated in its FoI response to Chris Cole, Director of the campaign group:
“I can confirm Reaper, the RAF’s Remotely Piloted Aircraft System, has relocated to the United Kingdom and the Middle East. Under Section 16 of the Act (Advice and Assistance), you may find it helpful to note that the Reaper aircraft being returned to the UK will be kept in storage.”
The MoD has announced the first UK drone strike in Iraq against ISIS militants. The strike come almost exactly a decade after the first UK drone strike in Iraq in 2004 when RAF pilots operated US drones as part of the Joint US/UK Combined Joint Predator Task Force
Yesterday’s MoD statement said:
This weekend saw the first air strike by a Royal Air Force Reaper remotely piloted air system (RPAS) as British forces continue to assist the Iraqi Government in their fight against ISIL.
A series of coalition missions were conducted near Bayji, north of Baghdad, where ISIL terrorists were laying improvised explosive devices.
The Reaper RPAS, using procedures identical to those of manned aircraft, successfully attacked the terrorists using a Hellfire missile.
UK Reaper continued to provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assistance to coalition aircraft which enabled them to conduct further strikes.
As NATO military operations come to an end in Afghanistan and the MoD faces a judicial review over its refusal to detail where UK drones will next be sent, Drone Wars UK is publishing a new briefing on the dangers of re-deploying UK armed drones.
The UK has used armed drones to undertake airstrikes since 2004, either in conjunction with the US or utilizing its own fleet of armed Reapers acquired in 2007. And increasingly it seems the UK is relying on its Reaper drones to undertake airstrikes, with Ministry of Defence figures showing the percentage of British airstrikes in Afghanistan undertaken by drones rising from 52% in 2009/10 to 82% in 2013/14.
Although the UK has committed to continue to operate its Reaper drones, due to air safety regulations they would simply not be allowed to fly in British airspace. So far the MoD have refused to reveal where their long-term home will be – locations in the Middle East or Africa are the most likely option – but it is difficult to be certain without Read more
Today’s Sun calls for the deployment of British drones to attack ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Rupert Murdoch thus joins a small but vocal chorus (including Liam Fox and Jack Straw) calling for the UK to join in with US airstrikes.
Over the past few weeks many commentators and campaigners and indeed senior politicians and military officials have argued, as the PM David Cameron did again on Radio 4 this morning that there is no simple military solution to the crisis in Syria/Iraq. Indeed, as many have stated, military intervention in Iraq help to create ISIS and caused the situation that we now face. Nevertheless we are beginning to see more and more voices calling for the use of armed drones. Read more
“The legality of the use of armed drones is one of the most important and pressing issues in modern international relations and public international law.” Judge Nicolas Wikeley
Very disappointingly we have been refused permission for a full hearing before the Upper Tribunal of our appeal to overturn the refusal of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to answer our FoI requests on the use of armed drones in Afghanistan. (Full decision here – pdf).
As regular readers will know in 2012 we requested information about the location of UK drone strikes in Afghanistan by province and the breakdown of strikes undertaken under daily tasking orders (i.e. pre-planned) and those launched under dynamic targeting procedures (i.e. ‘on the fly’). This information was refused by the MoD and we have been appealing the decision since. Read more