Royal Air Force operations with the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems MQ-9 Reaper have cleared another milestone, with the service announcing that its aircraft have now released 200 weapons in Afghanistan.
Based at Kandahar airfield in Helmand province and in combat use since October 2007, 39 Sqn's Reapers provide persistent intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance cover for UK and coalition forces. When required, they also can use their weapons load, which includes two Raytheon GBU-12 Paveway II 226kg (500lb) precision-guided bombs and four Lockheed Martin AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-surface missiles.
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In an operational update issued for the week of 19-25 September, the RAF confirmed that its aircraft had deployed their combined 200th weapon. The service detailed three separate "kinetic events" during this period, which it said included "striking moving targets, some travelling at high speed, while overcoming challenging terrain to deliver weapons effect and avoid civilian casualties".
More than 300h of video imagery and other reconnaissance cover was provided over the course of the same week, it said.
Using a current fleet of five aircraft, the UK's Reaper force maintains an ability to provide at least 36h of combined surveillance cover over Afghanistan each day. Six more MQ-9s will be delivered to the RAF from next year, with these to help expand its capability to providing up to three 24h "orbits" continuously.
UK operations with the Reaper also cleared the 25,000 flight hour mark earlier this year, with its "fleet leader" having accounted for more than 9,500h of this total.