June 20, 2012 defense-unmanned.com
(Source: UK Ministry of Defence; issued June 19, 2012)
The Guardian reports that the British military is increasingly relying on drone attacks, firing more than 280 Hellfire missiles at insurgents. Human Rights Watch claims the system for civilian
complaints is 'nonsense' as it relies on Afghans making official complaints to bases if people they know are wrongly killed.
Any incident involving civilian casualties is a matter of deep regret and we take every possible measure to avoid such incidents. The sole incident of this type occurred on 25 March 2011 when a UK Reaper, operating in support of ISAF forces, was tasked to engage and destroy two pickup trucks.
The strike resulted in the deaths of two insurgents and the destruction of a significant quantity of explosives being carried on the trucks. Sadly, four Afghan civilians were also killed and a further two Afghan civilians were injured.
Every effort, including in some circumstances deciding not to release weapons, is made to ensure the risk of collateral damage, including civilian casualties, is minimised. For reasons of operational security we are not prepared to comment on the assessed numbers of insurgents killed/wounded in Reaper strikes.
There is a system in place for handling claims for compensation brought against the MOD by Afghan civilians for whatever reason and we have an Area Claims Officer (ACO) located in Lashkar Gah. ACOs rotate throughout Helmand province and make visits further afield to ensure that all claims receive attention.
We ensure that Afghan locals are aware of the claims scheme available to them through announcements on local radio and leaflets distributed by Military Stabilisation Support Teams, who collate the details of claims for those that cannot access an ACO. Provincial and District Governors are also aware of the compensation process.
As at 31 May 2012, UK Reaper aircraft had flown more than 34,750 hours on operations, the majority of which were in the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance role. Reaper aircrew have also deployed 281 weapons in response to requests for support from commanders on the ground.
Reaper is not an autonomous system and the aircraft do not have the capability to deploy weapons unless commanded to do so by the flight crew. The rules of engagement used for Reaper weapon releases are strictly defined and no different to those used for manned combat aircraft, with all weapons being precision-guided.