Thursday, 26 May 2011

RAF Plans UK-Based Reaper Squadron

The UK Royal Air Force (RAF) is to form a second Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) squadron.

It will be based at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire and will include facilities to enable RAF Reapers flying over Afghanistan to be controlled from the UK for the first time.

Chief of the Air Staff (CAS) Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton made the announcement on 13 May at RAF Marham during the disbandment of 13 Squadron (Sqn), which has been flying Tornado GR.4 aircraft in Afghanistan and recently participated in Operation 'Ellamy' over Libya. The '13 Sqn' number-plate will transfer to the new Reaper unit during 2012.

RAF Reapers are currently controlled by crews of the existing unit, 39 Sqn, which is based at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada. The CAS said that bringing Reaper mission control to the UK would make better use of resources and enable the operation of significantly more combat intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance aircraft over Afghanistan.

The General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper UAV is equipped with an array of sophisticated sensors (including the Raytheon AN/DAS-1 Multispectral Targeting System-B and the General Atomics AN/APY-8 Lynx synthetic aperture radar with ground moving-target indication), which enable it to be used day and night for surveillance of insurgent activity at ranges undetectable from the ground.

The Defence Secretary, Dr Liam Fox, said: "Reaper aircraft are providing valuable support to our front line troops in Afghanistan. We are committed to providing the best available equipment to our Armed Forces.

"The formation of this new squadron follows our doubling of the Reaper capability to ten aircraft, which represents an increased investment of GBP135m.

"This extra squadron will help us get the best out of this valuable armed reconnaissance aircraft."

XIII Squadron was formed in 1915 and has continued its long and distinguished record through both world wars and operations over Iraq and Afghanistan. Notably, in 2009, XIII Squadron conducted the last Tornado sortie over Iraq in support of Operation TELIC.

In the summer of 2010, XIII Squadron deployed on Operation HERRICK in Afghanistan providing close air support and combat intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance during a very busy fighting season.

Finally, just a few weeks from disbandment, XIII Squadron were at the forefront of operations over Libya, delivering deep strike with the RAF's Stormshadow missile.