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RAF Waddington to remain at the forefront of drone warfare

By Lincolnshire Echo  |  Posted: December 18, 2013

Secretary of State for Defence, Philip Hammond MP

Comments (7)

The Government today confirmed that RAF Waddington’s elite 13 Squadron will remain the spearhead of armed Reaper drones for the foreseeable future.

The Lincolnshire base began controlling armed drones over Afghanistan from an operational theatre at RAF Waddington earlier this year.

But activists insist the shift from a US base was a major switch in drone policy and quickly criticised by opponents of Britain’s military role in Afghanistan.

However, RAF Waddington opened its doors to the media yesterday to debunk the myth that drones are responsible for killing innocent civilians.

But Secretary of State for Defence, Philip Hammond MP, confirmed that the base will remain at the forefront of drone warfare for years.

“The pods we use at Waddington are the same as the deployable pods we use in Afghanistan,” said Mr. Hammond.

“They are designed in that way so that once people are trained on them, they can use them wherever they are – on operations or here.

“Waddington is planned to be the home of this capability. This base will be the home of the RAF’s Remotely Piloted Air System (RPAS), along with Creech air base in America.

“The high end RPAS will be based here for the foreseeable future. These are able to deliver so much additional support to our troops on the ground and have such fantastic endurance they can stay in the air for many, many hours, gathering intelligence and feeding it back.”

The RPAS system was purchased by the Ministry of Defence to provide support for collation forces in Afghanistan.

The Reaper RPAS is operated by a pilot and a sensor operator, supported by a mission intelligence coordinator.

A total of 459 weapons have been fired by RAF Waddington squadron personnel in over 54,000 hours of Reaper RPAS operations in Afghanistan.

Critics insist that the use of unmanned drone weapons increases the risk of civilian casualties but the rules of engagement remain the same for manned aircraft.

Mr. Hammond added: “We get pretty fed-up with it. There is only incident where we are aware of casualties occurring. It is very regrettable but that is the nature of warfare and that can happen with piloted aircraft.

“We have in place very strong safeguards, rules of engagement to try to avoid civilian casualties but you can never guarantee that somebody unintended won’t get hurt. That is the nature of warfare.

“This is a myth busting session. These aircraft are operated in exactly the same way as a manned aircraft it is just that the pilot is sitting on the ground instead of in the aircraft.”

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  • Pete67  |  December 19 2013, 5:01PM

    Just_a_Girl_ - - - Maybe the stories (from both sides), are hyped up a bit, but what about the innocent civilians who go to their local market just for Al Qaeda or the Taliban to set off a bomb to kill and maim them (or don't these count?).

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  • Just_a_Girl_  |  December 19 2013, 8:55AM

    If you read my comment properly it was directed at the writer of this article regarding the use of the word 'MYTH', innocent people being killed is not a fairy story and I will never ignore that fact. The wording of some of this article irresponsible and biased. Amazing how it escalated into women/people shouldn't have an opinion on the actions of our military. I am fully aware of the countries that operate drones and their uses. To summarise, Lincoln_Fan and I recognise innocent people are affected by this issue and the rest of you don't want to.

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  • gsx1100  |  December 18 2013, 8:07PM

    1."There are estimates as high as 98% of drone strikes being civilians". 2."It is ultimately impossible to get exact numbers" 3."...is disturbing, possibly 50:1" The only true quotation is number two, Lincoln_fan & just_a_Girl. "People sleep peaceably in their bed at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf". George Orwell. Thanks to those rough men.

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  • Anon51  |  December 18 2013, 6:48PM

    People who live in their Ivory towers,' Just a girl' (really you surprise me) and Lincoln Fan, stay at home and keep safe they'll fight your battles so you can do just that! Good point Pete 67 they are not the only drones in the world!

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  • Pete67  |  December 18 2013, 6:20PM

    Lincoln_Fan and Just_a_Girl_ - - - I don't suppose you've considered that there are also US stations using them as well. Not to mention how many people have been blown up by the Taleban who have then blamed drones.

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  • Just_a_Girl_  |  December 18 2013, 5:37PM

    @Lincoln_Fan exactly what I was going to say. The use of the word 'myth' in this article is disgusting, like the victims lives mean nothing. Only a few days ago 15 innocent people were blown to pieces on their way to a wedding. As it states in one of your links below, the ratio of innocents to insurgents is disturbing, possibly 50:1.

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  • Lincoln_Fan  |  December 18 2013, 12:25PM

    'RAF Waddington opened its doors to the media yesterday to debunk the myth that drones are responsible for killing innocent civilians.' REALLY? There have been a huge number of verified instances where drones have killed innocent civilians. RAF Waddington is conning you. This one just the other day: http://tinyurl.com/m3gwccj And this: http://tinyurl.com/opr323g And this: http://tinyurl.com/9u6mkcz

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