UK Reaper force set to double
23 October 2012
A new squadron of Royal Air Force Reaper drones is set to 'stand up' on 26 October, doubling the number of UK Reapers operating in Afghanistan, it has been reported
The RAF's XIII Squadron will operate five Reapers from RAF Waddington, in Lincolnshire. The previous XIII squadron operated Tornado aircraft.
The existing Reaper force, also five-strong, is operated from Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, USA, by 39 Squadron, but personnel are to begin returning from the US in early 2013, with both squadrons set to be based at RAF Waddington.
"The new squadron will have three control terminals at RAF Waddington, and the five aircraft will be based in Afghanistan," an RAF spokesman told The Guardian. "We will continue to operate the other Reapers from Creech though, in time, we will wind down operations there and bring people back to the UK."
"The intention is to phase the relocation of 39 Squadron to ensure there is no disruption to Reaper support to current operations," the spokesman added.
The drones – originally purchased as an Urgent Operational Requirement (UOR) for use in Afghanistan - are expected to be flying sorties within six weeks, but their long-term future remains uncertain.
"No decisions have been made about the longer-term future of Reaper as a core capability, nor have any decisions been made on the basing of Reaper aircraft once the UOR is complete," the spokesman said.
"The UK has a need for a persistent intelligence-gathering capability. Our investment and experiences with Reaper will be considered in developing the programme ... at this stage, the MoD is still developing this strategy."
The existing Reaper force in Afghanistan had flown 39,268 hours and fired 334 Hellfire missiles by the end of September, according to official statistics.
HAVE YOUR SAY
23 October 2012
2 Sqn's for 10 aircraft......Why?
Why not have all the aircraft assigned to 39 Sqn?
Or is this RAF bureaucratic overkill again?
Do these aircraft really need more management than a standard flying squadron?
Waddington will have 5 aircraft Sqn's flying only 15 manned aircraft and 10 UAV's.
With all the station infrastructure to go with that, OC Ops, OC Eng, OC Admin, OC Supply that is an awful lot of "senior management".
No doubt we will be told it is not about numbers of aircraft but the capability they provide.
Lee Hannaford - London
23 October 2012
this is not new the sentry force of seven is split between 2 squadrons
andy - solihull
24 October 2012
Perhaps the reason for two squadrons is explained in the article!
If 39 Sqn is returning from Creech then we need to make sure there is no negative impact on operations so setting up another squadron now to take on full responsibilities first is a pragmatic approach.
It also states that the strategy s still under development so anything could happen long term they could merge Sqn's or move to a new UAV in greater numbers such as the Scavenger project. It's too early to say what will happen and standing up XIII now just seems to fit relocating to Waddington and maintaining Afghan ops.
Andy, It's actually 6 E-3D as one has been withdrawn from service.
Graham - High Wycombe