Unmanned Air Vehicles

Defence written question – answered on 18 July 2011.

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Photo of Caroline Lucas Caroline Lucas Leader of the Green Party

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many (a) hours flown and (b) strikes by unmanned aircraft there have been in Afghanistan in (i) each of the last five years and (ii) 2011 to date.

Photo of Nick Harvey Nick Harvey The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

The numbers of hours flown by UK remotely piloted air systems (RPAS) and unmanned air systems (UAS) in Afghanistan, as at 1 July 2011, are shown in the following table. The UK did not have any RPAS or UAS deployed in Afghanistan prior to 2007.

  Flying h ours (to the nearest hundred)
Period (inclusive) Reaper RPAS Hermes 450 UAS Desert Hawk 3 UAS
2007 300 1,700 0
2008 2,800 7,300 1,800
2009 4,600 9,800 2,800
2010 10,300 14,700 4,300
January to June 2011 5,600 6,300 2,500

Reaper, operated by the Royal Air Force, is the UK's only armed RPAS. It entered operational service in October 2007 in Afghanistan. The primary role of the Reaper system operated by the UK remains intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance but they have had the capability to employ air-to-ground weapons since May 2008. The numbers of weapons used by the Reaper remotely piloted air system in Afghanistan are shown in the following table.

Period (inclusive) Number of weapons used
May 2008 to December 2008 29
January 2009 to December 2009 46
January 2010 to December 2010 73
January 2011 to 4 July 2011 30

Use of force remains closely regulated and the avoidance of civilian casualties is paramount. We carefully select the type of weapon in every engagement to ensure the most appropriate munition is used to deliver the required effect, while minimising the risk to civilians.

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