DeM Banter: drones as pirate hunters for the Royal Navy…interestinger and interestinger….
December 4th 2012
Plans to deploy drones at sea might be ready early next year but some of the proposals will probably be kept secret, the Government has said.
The aircraft, which can stay airborne for much longer than planes and fly almost silently, could be used in a variety of roles, including fighting piracy, search and rescue missions and protecting Royal Navy ships by providing early warning of enemy planes or vessels.
Philip Dunne, the defence minister, said: “The MoD is in the process of developing a strategy paper considering maritime unmanned air systems; it is expected this will be completed in the first quarter of 2013. Elements of the paper are likely to be classified.”
Mr Dunne’s comments came in written parliamentary answers following questions from the Conservative MPs Tobias Ellwood and Zac Goldsmith.
Mr Goldsmith asked what recent steps the RAF’s Reaper squadron, the official name for the drone fleet, has taken “to tackle illegal piracy and fishing in areas beyond national jurisdiction”.
The use of drones remains controversial. Only last month, the Government was under pressure to disclose more about its use of armed drones in Afghanistan and to clarify whether British intelligence is used to help the CIA kill terrorist suspects in drone strikes outside conventional war zones. MPs and peers have written to Philip Hammond, the Defence Secretary, and William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, with a series of questions about Britain’s policy on unmanned aerial vehicles.
Rehman Chishti, a Conservative MP and member of the joint committee on human rights, said that he wanted a review of the way that the military deployed drones because of concerns over civilian casualties.
“I think there needs to be far more debate than what we have had before in terms of the usage of these drones,” said Mr Chishti, who was previously an adviser to Benazir Bhutto, the former prime minister of Pakistan who was assassinated in 2007.
The Commons defence select committee has also announced plans for an inquiry into Britain’s use of drones, a move that Mr Chishti welcomed.