UK RAF details Reaper, Herti UAV operations in Afghanistan

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The UK Royal Air Force has begun operations using its first of three General Atomics Predator B - or Reaper - unmanned air vehicles from Kandahar airfield in Afghanistan. BAE Systems has also disclosed the completion of an earlier in-country trial involving its autonomous Herti surveillance UAV design.

Operated by the RAF's 39 Sqn with personnel also drawn from the British Army and UK Royal Navy, the Reaper is configured to provide all-weather intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance, although the service confirms that the UK Ministry of Defence is currently "investigating arming options" for the aircraft (pictured below). The air vehicle has been in use from Kandahar since early October, according to the MoD.

© Crown Copyright

Deployed to Camp Bastion in Afghanistan's Helmand province earlier this year and operated by personnel from the RAF's Air Warfare Centre, BAE's high-wing Herti design (below) conducted an exercise under the company's Project Morrigan deal with the MoD. The service says the objectives of the work remain classified, but that the UAV was successful "in demonstrating its capability in an operational environment".

© BAE Systems

The US Air Force has meanwhile announced that it conducted its first laser-guided bomb strike with an MQ-9 in Afghanistan on 7 November, with the UAV having released two 226kg (500lb) weapons against "enemy combatants".

© US Air Force

The USAF says its MQ-9 has flown 49 missions over the country since 25 September, also deploying Lockheed Martin AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-surface missiles.