Reaping what you sow

The UK has confirmed that it has carried out the first air strike against ISIS in Iraq using a Royal Air Force Reaper (RAF) UAV, as Britain continues to work with the Iraqi government in an attempt to combat the extremist group.

Reaper UAV

Reaper UAV

The mission took place near Bayji, north of Baghdad, which had been an ISIS stronghold since June this year and also happens to be home to the largest oil refinery in Iraq.

The RAF claimed that the Reaper mission was successful – suspected ISIS members believed to be laying IEDs were struck using an AGM-114 Hellfire missile.

While the RAF quickly issued a press release extolling the successful use of the Reaper, questions linger about how effective the largely air campaign has been to date.

There remains the risk of a repetition of the events which followed the 2011 uprising in Libya, where allowing pro-democracy rebels to be the main force of attack against the Gadhafi regime quickly backfired into carnage and anarchy.

Even a cursory look back through the history books should give the men in charge pause about being sucked into a conflict without a well-defined end game.

There are many still suggesting that you simply cannot win without the all-important boots on the ground.

Back to the UAV (don’t say drone, never say drone…), the Reaper has a relatively interesting history with the RAF as it originally purchased through the urgent operational requirement mechanism as the infamously delayed Watchkeeper programme was not ready to be operationally deployed to Afghanistan.

Despite the Watchkeeper not fulfilling the MoD’s requirement in time, it still made its debut in Afghanistan – some four weeks before the official end of UK combat operations in theatre.

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