> our title:

UK Pilots Operate US Air Force Reapers in Combat

> original title:

RAF Has Fired Missiles In Afghanistan Using US Drones, MoD Reveals (excerpt)

(Source: Guardian; published February 09, 2014)


British pilots have launched at least 39 missile strikes against suspected Taliban insurgents from American drones based in Afghanistan, according to new figures.

The details have emerged from the Ministry of Defence, which has for the first time disclosed how RAF crews using unmanned US aircraft have launched missiles in conflict zones.

The MoD insists British drone pilots always operate under UK rules of engagement, whatever asset they are flying.

However, campaigners have called for increased scrutiny over the use of the aircraft and condemned a lack of transparency about the programmes run by the American and British armed forces.

British crews piloted US Reaper and Predator drones in Afghanistan on 2,150 occasions between 2006 and 2012 – an average of almost once a day. That does not include the thousands of missions British forces have flown with their own fleet of 10 Reaper aircraft.

The MoD has also for the first time provided a breakdown of the number of missiles fired by UK drones every month between May 2008 and April 2013. These attacks peaked in November 2011, when 25 missiles were fired. There has been only one month in which no missiles were launched – December 2008.

Latest figures show RAF drones fired 94 Hellfire missiles in Afghanistan during 2013, bringing the total number of munitions and bombs fired by British unmanned systems since 2008 to 457.

The figures were released last week, nine months after a freedom of information (FoI) request, to Drone Wars UK, a website that researches and monitors the British use of unmanned technologies.

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The MoD statement to Drone Wars UK makes clear British pilots were flying US drones in Afghanistan long before the RAF had any unmanned aircraft of its own; the UK did not start flying its own Reapers in Afghanistan until mid-2008. (end of excerpt)


Click here for the full story, on the Guardian website.

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