Royal Air Force MQ-9 Reaper Drones Continue Critical Role in Middle East
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By The Smartencyclopedia Staff & Agencies 

London, UK — As the Royal Air Force (RAF) marks almost a decade of supporting the coalition in the Middle East and upholding stability in the region, the RAF’s MQ-9 Reaper Remotely Piloted Air System (RPAS) remains an integral asset, playing a critical role.

Operated by crews from the XIII Squadron, the MQ-9 Reaper includes a pilot, sensor operator, and mission intelligence coordinator based in the UK. The aircraft conducts daily missions in the Middle East, showcasing its versatility as a highly capable and complex system requiring advanced information management and operational skills.

While the primary function of the MQ-9 Reaper is Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR), it also possesses the capability to strike targets with various munitions when necessary. The XIII Squadron crews adeptly handle these roles based on mission requirements.

Flight Lieutenant Amy, a Reaper Pilot, expressed, “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.”

Sergeant Emma, a Sensor Operator, highlighted the dynamic nature of their tasks, stating, “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 and then quickly reassigned to follow moving targets in urban areas, knowing at any point you could be asked to support kinetic activity.”

Extensive planning precedes every flight, involving review by the Legal Advisor (LEGAD) and the Policy Adviser (POLAD) to ensure compliance with both international and UK domestic law.

Flight Lieutenant Isabelle, 83 Expeditionary Air Group LEGAD, elaborated on her role, stating, “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 actions, but I provide that contemporaneous advice, ensuring actions are both legal in a wider sense but also compliant with the UK’s directives.”

Reaper operations represent just one facet of the UK’s contribution, with Group Captain Bishop, 83 EAG Deputy Air Component Commander, emphasizing the collaborative effort, stating, “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.”

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