The RAF Reaper Force has reached two significant milestones. The fleet of remotely piloted aircraft systems has now been serving on coalition combat operations for 10 years during which time it has flown 100,000 hours.
The ISTAR Force Commander, Air Commodore Dean Andrew, said:
“The RAF Reaper Force has now been operational for 10 years, during which it has amassed 100,000 hours of crucial support to UK and coalition combat operations in a variety of roles. The ability of Reaper to discretely observe and monitor enemy activity for lengthy periods of time provides commanders with a hitherto unheralded view of the battlespace.
Reaper entered RAF service in October 2007 to provide urgently needed support to UK forces in Afghanistan and has remained on operations ever since. The Reaper Force currently continues its pivotal role in the fight against Da’esh in the Middle East.
The milestone of 100,000 hours of flying supporting Coalition combat operations was reached on 4 Dec 17 and equates to over 11 years airborne or travelling around the world 550 times.
Air Commodore Dean Andrew, said:
“This not only allows them to make informed decisions about when and where to conduct operations but also hinders the freedom of manoeuvre of our opponents and their ability to act as they would wish. The Force has also performed a key role within coalition strikes in both Operations Herrick and Shader, utilising the high standards expected of all RAF crews to perform precision strikes against targets with strategic effect.”
Two RAF squadrons operate the Reaper, XIII Squadron based at RAF Waddington and 39 Squadron at Creech AFB in the United States. The aircraft itself is unmanned, but is at all times under the control of RAF aircrew and is subject to the same rules of the air as any manned platform.
On current planning the Reaper will continue to support operations until the early 2020s when they will be replaced by a next-generation RPAS; the MQ-9B Protector will be a step change in capability offering greater range/endurance, greater weapon capabilities and will be certified and cleared to fly in UK airspace.