Jan 21, 2015

UK places into storage Reaper UAVs not involved in Iraq operations

RAF MQ-9 UAVs that are not involved in operations against the Islamic State in Iraq have been returned to the UK and placed into storage.
The UK transferred an undisclosed number of its 10 Reaper UAVs from Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan to a secret location in the Middle East in late 2014 as it ramped up its mission against the Islamic State in Iraq. The remainder were returned to the UK.
The RAF's Reapers are operated by 39 Squadron out of Creech Air Force Base in Nevada and by 13 Squadron out of RAF Waddington. According to the MoD, placing the airframes into storage will have no impact on unit manning levels.
The UK procured its Reaper fleet as an urgent operational requirement specifically for use in Afghanistan. Just prior to the end of that operation, the MoD announced that the fleet was to be brought into the RAF's core fleet and returned to the UK.
However, as the largest and most complex UAV in the RAF's inventory the Reaper is not cleared to operate in UK airspace. With no airspace clearance to fly and the aircraft themselves set to be in crates, it is unclear how 13 and 39 Squadron pilots/operators will maintain their currency on the type and be ready when the MoD next decides to field them operationally.

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