UK — New Reaper aircraft provides extra support to operations in Afghanistan

An extra Reaper remote­ly-pilot­ed air­craft has arrived in Afghanistan, increas­ing sup­port to troops.

A RAF Reaper Remotely Piloted Air System (RPAS) on patrol in the skies over Afghanistan
A RAF Reaper Remote­ly Pilot­ed Air Sys­tem (RPAS) on patrol in the skies over Afghanistan
Source: Pet­ty Offi­cer Air­man (Pho­tog­ra­ph­er) Tam McDon­ald, Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

This lat­est addi­tion to the Roy­al Air Force’s Reaper fleet will allow 39 Squadron to fly mul­ti­ple Reaper air­craft at any one time over Afghanistan.

A total of 36 hours of video sur­veil­lance can now be deliv­ered in sup­port of troops on the ground every day of the year, which marks an 80 per cent increase over the past 12 months.

Reaper has been sup­port­ing ground forces in Afghanistan since Octo­ber 2007 and has now flown over 13,000 hours in direct sup­port of oper­a­tions. It pro­vides com­man­ders with a con­stant ‘eye in the sky’ that can seek out and track insur­gent activ­i­ty around patrols, search for poten­tial IEDs, and pro­vide an armed response if required.

One of the Reaper pilots said:

“My back­ground is fly­ing sup­port heli­copters on the bat­tle­field, but I have nev­er felt more con­nect­ed to the heart of the bat­tle on the ground than when I’m fly­ing the Reaper.

“When you’re speak­ing to a sol­dier on the ground for hours at a time, night after night, look­ing around every cor­ner for him, scan­ning every tree line and react­ing every time his guys take fire, you feel like you real­ly are fight­ing along­side him.

“You can hear the pal­pa­ble relief in the voic­es of the guys as we call them up on the radio and check in to pro­vide them with defen­sive cov­er and a heav­i­ly armed response if called upon.

“It’s the most reward­ing mis­sion I’ve had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to com­plete in the RAF.”

The Reaper has a 66-foot (20m) wing span and is pow­ered by a tur­bo­prop engine that allows it to stay in the air for more than 16 hours at a time. It car­ries a mul­ti-spec­tral tar­get­ing sys­tem, more com­mon­ly referred to as ‘the ball’, which, day and night, col­lects video from thou­sands of feet above insur­gents, where it is unde­tectable. The air­craft also car­ries Hell­fire mis­siles and laser-guid­ed bombs, the release of which remain under the full con­trol of the Reaper pilots on the ground.

Defence Sec­re­tary Dr Liam Fox said:

“The arrival of this new air­craft demon­strates our ongo­ing com­mit­ment to ensur­ing that our troops on the front line get all the equip­ment that they need.

“Reaper con­tin­ues to play a vital part in our air pow­er capa­bil­i­ty in Afghanistan and there is no doubt that this cut­ting-edge tech­nol­o­gy is sav­ing lives.”

Press release
Min­istry of Defence, UK

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