Flight International online news 10:30GMT: The UK is increasing its use of General Atomics MQ-1 Predator unmanned air vehicles under a partnership with the US Air Force, and could seek to extend the deal to also include operations of the service’s larger MQ-9 Predator B system, according to one of the Ministry of Defence’s senior UAV specialists.

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More than 40 UK personnel are assigned to the Royal Air Force’s 1115 Flight in Nevada as part of the Predator Joint Task Force, which conducts MQ-1 operations over southern Iraq. “The guys are getting busier and busier, and we are looking at potentially extending the agreement,” says Wg Cdr Andrew Jeffrey.

In a key development, he adds that the UK is investigating whether some of its personnel could also become involved in operations of the USAF’s recently fielded Predator Bs. Established last year under an initial three-year agreement, the UK’s use of the MQ-1 could be expanded to provide a stop-gap service between the retirement of its BAE Systems Phoenix UAVs and the Thales-supplied Watchkeeper system to enter use in 2009.

The UK’s future unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) strategy will, meanwhile, be supported by its separate partnership in the USA’s Joint Unmanned Combat Air Systems programme, which Jeffrey says will be used to inform an initial gate decision on its Strategic Unmanned Air Vehicles (Experiment) project in 2009-10.

Speaking at last week’s IQPC UCAV conference in London, Jeffrey revealed that MoD plans to release publicly the RAF’s recently completed UAV roadmap document have been shelved due to classification issues.

Drawn up by the director of air staff’s operations unit and outlining UK objectives and activities in unmanned aircraft areas including current programmes, experimentation and research, operations and centres of excellence, the one-page document cannot easily be sanitised, he says.


Source: Flight International