Britain’s defense ministry announced that the Royal Air Force will establish a second squadron to operate MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft. Next year, 13 Squadron, which ceased Tornado GR.4 operations earlier this month, will transfer from RAF Marham to RAF Waddington in east-central England and convert to a Reaper unit. Waddington is home to most RAF intelligence-gathering aircraft. The unit’s standup there will allow the RAF to control its Reapers—which support NATO operations over Afghanistan—from the British homeland for the first time. This will “make more efficient and effective use of our resources,” said RAF Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton. Today, airmen from 39 Squadron, the RAF’s first Reaper unit, are stationed at Creech AFB, Nev., controlling the RAF’s Reapers from there. The RAF intends to double its current Reaper fleet to 10 MQ-9s and add four ground control stations. (See also defencemanagement.com report.)
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.