A Joint Enterprise: How the UK and the US Co-Operate on Drone Warfare (excerpt)
(Source: Drones Wars UK; issued June 06, 2020)
A new report published today by Drone Wars UK investigates the co-operation between the UK and the US in relation to armed drone operations. While the UK insist its armed drone programme is separate and independent to that of the US, our report, ‘Joint Enterprise: An overview of US-UK co-operation on armed drone operations’, argues that close historic ties, shared use of infrastructure and tightly integrated operations show that that the two programmes amount to a joint enterprise, with arguably joint liability.

The report lays out how co-operation between the Royal Air Force (RAF) and US Air Force (USAF) takes place in a wide range of areas and maps out the bases, companies, and operational units behind this joint enterprise. It shows how the harmonisation of equipment and concepts of operation, interoperability, and a single centre of command and control help to tie the UK into overseas ‘coalition’ wars led by the US.

As Drone Wars has revealed, there are currently a number of RAF Reapers deployed on a mission which the MoD will not discuss. It is more vital than ever that there is proper public transparency over UK drone operations and clearer understanding of the links with US drone operations.

Britain’s current armed Reaper drone programme has evolved directly from the USAF Predator drone programme over the past two decades, so it is perhaps no surprise that the RAF works closely with the USAF on drone operations. RAF Reaper drones have flown alongside US drones in wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, and have participated alongside the US in the targeted killing of British-born ISIS fighters. The controversial nature of some of these operations and the need to preserve relationships with the US are important factors behind the secrecy underpinning the UK’s Reaper programme. Over the course of the 18 months we spent investigating US-UK joint working in this area, we repeatedly hit a brick wall in terms of those willing to discuss and share information.

Nevertheless, ‘Joint Enterprise’ details how RAF and USAF drone operations are closely intertwined in a number of respects. (end of excerpt)


Click here for the full report (55 PDF pages), on the Drone Wars website.

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