Royal Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drones play critical role in Middle East

Source: Royal Air Force (RAF), Defence Industry Europe

As the Royal Air Force approaches ten years of supporting the coalition in the Middle East maintaining stability in the region, the RAF’s MQ-9 Reaper Remotely Piloted Air System (RPAS) continues to play a critical role.


The MQ-9 Reaper is currently flown by crews from XIII Squadron and consists of a pilot, sensor operator and mission intelligence coordinator who are based in the UK, with the aircraft flying daily in the Middle East. The aircraft is a highly capable and complex aircraft requiring significant amounts of information management and skills to operate.

The primary function of the aircraft is Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance; but, if called upon it can also strike targets with a variety of munitions depending on what is suitable, the crews carry out all of these roles as required.


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“On our daily operations we face extended periods of intense intelligence gathering, but often these are interjected by fast-paced dynamic situations. It is a privilege to serve on XIII Squadron and operate the Reaper, knowing every day we make a difference,” said Flight Lieutenant Amy, Reaper Pilot.

“I operate the aircraft sensors to gather information and inform the wider intelligence picture. As the Reaper can fly for nearly 20 hours per mission, the biggest challenge I have found is variation in its task; we could be searching for insurgents in caves one minute then quickly reassigned to follow moving targets in urban areas, knowing at any point you could be asked to support kinetic activity,” said Sergeant Emma Sensor Operator.



Before any flight is conducted, there is a great deal of planning. This includes both the Legal Advisor (LEGAD) and the Policy Adviser (POLAD) reviewing the proposed mission to ensure it is accordance with both law and UK Government policy.

“My role is to ensure that the proposed mission meets the requirements of both international and UK domestic law.  Commanders and operators are responsible for their own actions, but I provide that contemporaneous advice, ensuring actions are both legal in a wider sense but also compliant with the UK’s own directives,” said Flight Lieutenant Isabelle, 83 Expeditionary Air Group LEGAD.



Reaper operations from just one element of the UK contribution.

“Conducting air operations is a team effort; 83 EAG personnel have the extremely important role of coordinating our Reaper and Typhoon operations, as well as ensuring that all the UK contributions fit into the wider Coalition air activities. As we approach 10 years of air operations on Op Shader, we have done this very successfully. We will continue to deliver this British commitment to counter Daesh operations for as long as necessary,” Group Captain Bishop, 83 EAG Deputy Air Component Commander.



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