A new Royal Air Force Reaper squadron is to form, allowing the unmanned aerial vehicles to be controlled from within the UK for the first time.
Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton announced the formation of the squadron, to be based at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire, at the disbandment of Number XIII Tornado squadron.
The new Reaper squadron, the UK’s second, will assume the squadron number XIII upon its formation in 2012.
The RAF’s 39 squadron currently controls five Reapers from Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, USA.
Last December it was announced that the UK’s Reaper capability would be doubled to 10 airframes, sustained until 2015, with a £135m funding increase.
The money will buy five Reapers and four ground control stations from the US government. The drones will continue to be based in Afghanistan.
Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton said: “This transition will see us bring Reaper mission control to the UK, make more efficient and effective use of our resources in exploiting this growing capability and enable the operation of significantly more Combat Intelligence Surveillance Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance aircraft over Afghanistan 24 hours a day.”
Defence Secretary Liam Fox said: “The formation of this new squadron follows our doubling of the Reaper capability to ten aircraft, which represents an increased investment of £135M. This extra squadron will help us get the best out of this valuable armed reconnaissance aircraft.”
XIII and 14 Tornado squadrons will be formally stood down on the 1 Jun 2011 after their disbandment was announced in March this year.
Source: Defence Management