Unmanned Air Vehicles

Defence written question – answered on 13th September 2011.

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Photo of Caroline Lucas Caroline Lucas Leader of the Green Party

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the answer of 11 July 2011, Official Report, column 52W, on unmanned air vehicles, what the strict procedures are which are intended to (a) minimise the risk of casualties occurring from the use of armed drones and (b) investigate incidents that do happen.

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

Reaper is the UK's only armed remotely piloted air system. It is not an autonomous system and does not have the capability to employ weapons unless it is commanded to do so by the flight crew.

The flight crew, along with all other UK personnel, are trained in and operate under the Law of Armed Conflict and strict Rules of Engagement which are designed to minimise the risk to civilians. I am withholding further information about our Rules of Engagement as disclosure would, or would be likely to prejudice the capability, effectiveness or security of our armed forces.

In addition, we carefully select the type of weapon in every engagement to ensure the most appropriate munition is used to deliver the required effect, in a proportional manner, so minimising the risk to civilians and their property.

Where suspected civilian casualty incidents involving UK forces occur, they will be promptly reported to the chain of command who will conduct an initial investigation. If the circumstances of the incident merit it, a separate investigation will be conducted by ISAF. If necessary, the UK chain of command will report the incident to the service police for further national investigation. Service police can also independently launch an investigation in certain circumstances.

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