November 12, 2007 Britain's most sophisticated unmanned surveillance system, the Reaper UAV, has been deployed into active service in Afghanistan.

Designed for surveillance, military reconnaissance and ground-attack missions (although currently the aircraft is unarmed), the first of the RAF's high-altitude, long-endurance remotely piloted aircraft arrived in Afghanistan in early October.

The UAV is the UK variant of Predator B and has been developed in the joint US/UK Combined Predator Task Force.

The Reaper UAVs were purchased to provide an all-weather, persistent Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) capability 24 hours a day over a wide geographical spread.

Sir Glenn Torpy, Chief of the Air Staff, said: "The introduction into service of Reaper is a major milestone for the RAF, which will significantly enhance the UK's surveillance and reconnaissance capability in Afghanistan."

USAF Chief of Staff, General Michael T Moseley, said: "We're pleased to be able to deliver these aircraft so quickly because they're vital to the coalition's war effort in Afghanistan. They're also yet another demonstration of the need for interoperability in our equipment. By partnering on the Reaper, our air forces can operate more seamlessly and field more aircraft faster and more economically."

Reaper in brief:

  • Armed: No
  • Aircrew: One pilot, one sensor operator
  • Thrust: 900 shaft horsepower maximum
  • Speed: 250kts
  • Ceiling: 50,000ft
  • Dimensions: Length: 10.97m, Wingspan: 20.12m, Height: 3.66m, Weight: 4763kg