Afghanistan/UKRAF’s Reaper logs 10,000 hours over Afghanistan

The RAF’s Reaper pro­gramme has achieved the mile­stone of pro­vid­ing more than 10,000 hours of armed over­watch in sup­port of UK and coali­tion forces in Afghanistan.

“There’s no doubt that this cut­ting-edge capa­bil­i­ty is sav­ing lives and mak­ing a dif­fer­ence to those in dan­ger in Afghanistan.”
Wing Com­man­der Jules Ball

 - Royal Air Force Reaper Remotely Piloted Air System [Picture: Antony Loveless, Crown Copyright/MOD 2008]
Roy­al Air Force Reaper Remote­ly Pilot­ed Air Sys­tem
Source: Antony Love­less, Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

The UK Reaper Remote­ly Pilot­ed Air Sys­tem (RPAS) has been deployed to Afghanistan since Octo­ber 2007 and pro­vides a per­sis­tent, armed intel­li­gence, sur­veil­lance and recon­nais­sance (ISR) capa­bil­i­ty.

Since Novem­ber 2009, Reaper has been sup­port­ing oper­a­tions 24-hours-a-day and more Reaper Remote­ly Pilot­ed Air­craft are planned to be deliv­ered lat­er this year.

The RPAS is an inte­gral part of the UK’s air pow­er capa­bil­i­ty. Pro­cured to meet an urgent oper­a­tional require­ment, Reaper is the only RPAS cur­rent­ly in ser­vice with the RAF.

Air Vice-Mar­shal Baz North, Assis­tant Chief of the Air Staff, said:

“10,000 hours in direct sup­port of oper­a­tions is a sig­nif­i­cant mile­stone.

“Our expe­ri­ence of oper­at­ing RPAS has con­firmed that they have unique capa­bil­i­ties that com­ple­ment those of tra­di­tion­al com­bat and ISR plat­forms; max­i­mum effect is achieved by employ­ing them in a mixed group­ing.

“This net­work-enabled force has deliv­ered a com­pre­hen­sive com­bat ISTAR [Intel­li­gence, Sur­veil­lance, Tar­get Acqui­si­tion and Recon­nais­sance] capa­bil­i­ty that pro­vides assured intel­li­gence and sit­u­a­tion­al aware­ness across the full range of oper­at­ing envi­ron­ments, through the employ­ment and inte­gra­tion of air, space and cyber sys­tems.”

Reaper is flown by 39 Squadron via satel­lite from a UK oper­a­tions facil­i­ty at Creech Air Force Base in the Neva­da desert, and pro­vides a range of ISR prod­ucts to troops on the ground and oper­a­tional head­quar­ters.

Its pri­ma­ry role is ISR but from May 2008 the sys­tem has been armed with Hell­fire mis­siles and laser-guid­ed bombs to enable it to bet­ter meet the require­ments of ground com­man­ders.

The rules of engage­ment used for Reaper weapon releas­es are no dif­fer­ent to those used for manned com­bat air­craft; the weapons are all pre­ci­sion-guid­ed, and every effort is made to ensure the risk of col­lat­er­al dam­age and civil­ian casu­al­ties is min­imised, includ­ing decid­ing not to release a weapon.

 - A Royal Air Force 39 Squadron Reaper is unloaded of its offensive weapons at Kandahar Airfield after completing another mission over Afghanistan [Picture: Corporal Steve Bain RAF, Crown Copyright/MOD 2009]
A Roy­al Air Force 39 Squadron Reaper is unloaded of its offen­sive weapons at Kan­da­har Air­field after com­plet­ing anoth­er mis­sion over Afghanistan
Source: Cor­po­ral Steve Bain RAF, Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

Wing Com­man­der Jules Ball, Offi­cer Com­mand­ing 39 Squadron, said:

“The squadron’s per­son­nel, from pilots to imagery ana­lysts and sup­port teams, are moti­vat­ed and ded­i­cat­ed to sup­port­ing all our coali­tion forces and the peo­ple of Afghanistan; every­one has played a sig­nif­i­cant part in the deliv­ery of this land­mark achieve­ment. It’s absolute­ly clear that the Reaper plays a vital role in deliv­er­ing Air’s con­tri­bu­tion to oper­a­tions in Afghanistan.

“Our involve­ment has increased steadi­ly since the MQ-9 Reaper’s intro­duc­tion into the RAF inven­to­ry. In fact, in the last 12 months alone, 39 Squadron has more than dou­bled its oper­a­tional fly­ing out­put.

“By sup­port­ing coali­tion forces every minute of every day, there’s no doubt that this cut­ting-edge capa­bil­i­ty is sav­ing lives and mak­ing a dif­fer­ence to those in dan­ger in Afghanistan.”

This arti­cle was first pub­lished in RAF News, Voice of the Roy­al Air Force, on 7 May 2010.

Press release
Min­istry of Defence, Unit­ed King­dom