Country Risk

MoD reveals gap in Reaper strikes against Islamic State

07 April 2017
While Reapers have previously been heavily involved in UK operations against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, the latest update from the MoD shows no strike missions since 1 March. Source: Crown Copyright

The United Kingdom has conducted no strikes against the Islamic State using its General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) over the previous month, the latest update from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has shown.

According to the update posted on the MoD website on 4 April, no Reaper strikes had been flown since 1 March while missions involving the Royal Air Force's (RAF's) Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4 and Panavia Tornado GR4 combat aircraft have continued unabated.

A Royal Air Force (RAF) spokesman confirmed to Jane's that UK Reapers continue to fly over the battlefield providing persistent armed intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) services across the area of operations and that strike activity continues as and when required from all RAF assets.

The only Reaper strike against the Islamic State in March saw a single aircraft fire a Lockheed Martin AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-surface missile and drop a GBU-12 precision-guided bomb in support of Iraqi ground forces in western Mosul. The aircraft was also used to provide ISR services during the same sortie.

The absence of kinetic activity is noticeable given that in early 2016 it was reported that Reapers had been flying the majority of strike and reconnaissance missions over Syria, and a large proportion of those over Iraq. The United Kingdom is understood to have 10 Reapers (its entire force) operating out of Ali Al Salem Air Base in Kuwait, though this has never been confirmed by the MoD. The Reaper's persistence over the battlefield, its targeting accuracy, and the absence of danger to aircrews have made the Reaper the platform of choice for operations against the Islamic State.

With just one strike throughout the entire month of March, the United Kingdom revealed in the same month last year that there had been 200 Reaper strikes in Iraq and 13 in Syria between 1 September 2014 and 15 March 2016.

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