Members of the 11th Reconnaissance Squadron from Indian Springs, Nev., perform pre-flight checks on the Predator unmanned aerial vehicle prior to a mission.
The UK military reportedly aims to double the size of its armed drone fleet in Afghanistan to ten by purchasing five US-made Reaper drones, which for the first time will be controlled from a UK base. The first five were controlled at US stations.The Royal Air Force (RAF) announced the expedited purchase of the US-made unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), with operations set to begin in six weeks, AFP reported. The drones will be flown and operated from a tech hub built 18 months ago in the British region of Waddington in Lincolnshire, a leap forward in technological prowess for the UK.
The other five drones the UK operates in Afghanistan were controlled from a US Air Force base in Nevada, and target suspected insurgents in Afghanistan’s southwest province of Helmand.
“The new squadron will have three control terminals at RAF Waddington, and the five aircraft will be based in Afghanistan,” an RAF spokesperson told the Guardian. “We will continue to operate the other Reapers from Creech though, in time, we will wind down operations there and bring people back to the UK.”
It is not known whether the drones will remain in Afghanistan following the NATO withdrawal in 2014. Read More
Elisabeth Bumiller | New York Times
A drone pilot at the base at Hancock Field, near Syracuse, working the controls of a craft flying over Afghanistan.
From his computer console here in the Syracuse suburbs, Col. D. Scott Brenton remotely flies a Reaper drone that beams back hundreds of hours of live video of insurgents, his intended targets, going about their daily lives 7,000 miles away in Afghanistan. Sometimes he and his team watch the same family compound for weeks.
“I see mothers with children, I see fathers with children, I see fathers with mothers, I see kids playing soccer,” Colonel Brenton said.
When the call comes for him to fire a missile and kill a militant — and only, Colonel Brenton said, when the women and children are not around — the hair on the back of his neck stands up, just as it did when he used to line up targets in his F-16 fighter jet.
Afterward, just like the old days, he compartmentalizes. “I feel no emotional attachment to the enemy,” he said. “I have a duty, and I execute the duty.”