UK drone moan reaches home

As expected, the UK Ministry of Defence’s confirmation last week that some of its Reaper UAV missions in Afghanistan are now being piloted by personnel located at the Royal Air Force’s Waddington air base hasn’t pleased the anti-drone lobby.

Saturday 27 April saw a first “Ground the Drones” protest march conducted near the Lincolnshire base, involving several hundred people supporting the message of four campaign groups: CND; the Drone Campaign Network; Stop the War; and War on Want. Thanks to the latter for the use of the below image.

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Fresh investment at RAF Waddington has added a new ground control station for the Reaper, with this following (and joining) equipment already used by UK personnel located at the US Air Force’s Creech AFB in Nevada.

“Activists warn that Britain switching control of drones to Waddington away from US bases marks a critical expansion in the nation’s drones programme,” says a War on Want press notice, which also notes that the RAF is in the process of upping its Reaper inventory from 5 to 10 aircraft.

It’s good that the protesters can have their voices heard, and I’m sure that the peace camp at Waddington will remain there for some time – probably until combat operations in Afghanistan end late next year and all the Reapers get stuffed into boxes as they can’t yet be flown in UK airspace. But claims that the UK’s “drones” are participating in “extrajudicial assassinations” and the slaughter of innocent civilians “without democratic oversight or accountability to the public” simply aren’t supported by the facts.

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The massive majority of RAF Reaper missions now being flown over Afghanistan (Crown Copyright image above) do not result in any weapons being released, and when kinetic action is involved, the rules of engagement are exactly the same as for the crew of a Tornado or Apache, with the same accountability if a mistake is made. But I guess that if your stated objective is to have all unmanned air systems banned, regardless of what they do, and though most of them aren’t even armed, then you wouldn’t be interested.


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