The UK Royal Air Force has confirmed it is planning to double the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems MQ-9 Reaper unmanned air vehicle capability it is currently operating over Iraq to monitor Islamic State militants.
Unconfirmed reports suggest two RAF Reapers have been flying over Iraq after being redeployed from Afghanistan in October. The UK has since removed the bulk of its equipment and personnel from the latter country. This has freed up the remaining Reapers for redeployment, some of which will now join their counterparts operating in support of the US-led coalition in Iraq.
“There has been an increase in deployed RAF Reaper aircraft numbers, which will allow the RAF to fly double the amount of intelligence and surveillance-gathering missions. Additional assets are planned to be deployed over the coming months," an MoD source tells Flightglobal, declining to comment on specific aircraft numbers.
It is believed the RAF is currently flying one mission per day over Iraq, and intends to double this shortly – although this will not necessarily result in a doubling of the number of aircraft deployed to the region.
The MoD says it is not permitted to disclose the number of Reapers now flying in the Middle East for security reasons, and it is unclear as to how many of the RAF’s 10-strong fleet of the type will enter storage until a long-term basing decision for the aircraft is made, or they are redeployed in support of anti-insurgency operations.
Meanwhile, it was also reported in October that the UK was to begin flying surveillance missions over Syria using the Reaper. This had previously been ruled out when a decision was made by Parliament to begin operations against Islamic State forces in September.