The RAF's Remotely Piloted
Air System, the Predator MQ-9 Reaper, has notched up a landmark 20,000
operational flying hours over Afghanistan.
Controlled by 39 Squadron, the Reaper force has repeatedly proven itself,
both in combat and as eyes in the skies for front line troops and military
commanders on the ground.
RAF Reaper Remotely Piloted Air System taxis along the
runway at Kandahar Air Field, Afghanistan
Reflecting on the achievement, Air Officer
Commanding No 2 Group, Air Vice-Marshal Phil Osborn, said:
"The RAF's Reaper force has proven itself time and again in combat and
is an essential element of the RAF's combat intelligence, surveillance,
target acquisition and reconnaissance capability.
"The real-time, day and night video coverage of the battle space,
combined with the extensive use of onboard radar, provides a unique, cost
effective and sustained capability that enhances the safety of troops on
"This cutting-edge remotely-piloted aircraft provides an impressive
range of capabilities that are saving lives and making a real difference
to the troops in Afghanistan.
AF Reaper in the skies over Kandahar
"The aircraft is only as good as
the individuals operating it though and I am most grateful for and must
praise the dedication and operational focus of all the members of 39
Squadron, who are drawn from across all three Services, in achieving this
A Reaper pilot from 39 Squadron spoke of his experiences after a recent
tour in Afghanistan:
"When you're assisting troops on the ground and insurgents
are trying to take shots at them we can be called to use the Reaper's
precision weapons. As with fast jets, you're still speaking to the troops
on the ground and feel immersed in the operational environment.
"In many ways, you actually feel better connected to the
situation on the ground than you do in a fast jet - the detailed computer
systems that we've got with Reaper make it easier to get better
An RAF pilot carries out a pre-flight inspection of
a Reaper before a mission
Reaper was introduced in October 2007, and, with its array of high tech
sensors and precision-guided weapons, it can carry out a wide range of
missions to support forces in Afghanistan. It can gather pre-raid
intelligence on target compounds, assist in countering IEDs (improvised
explosive devices) and provide surveillance for routine patrols and supply
Reaper can use its sensors day and night to spy on insurgent
activity for hours at a time and at a range where it is undetected from the
ground. The images are complemented by radar, mounted in the nose of the
aircraft, gathering another dimension of detailed imagery that is analysed
by a team of highly trained intelligence specialists in military bases
around the world.
If necessary, Reaper can also strike at insurgents with a range of