Feeds

UK's Reaper wardroid imports slashed in budget pinch

Pricey domestic buy strangely unaffected

Boost IT visibility and business value

Treasury financial difficulties would seem likely to severely restrict the size of Britain's fleet of "Reaper" aerial wardroid-assassins in the near future, according to reports.

US clearance was obtained last year for export sales of a further ten Reaper/Predator-B robot spyplane-bombers to the UK, in addition to the three already bought. British forces, operating jointly with the US Predator/Reaper fleet, are already putting the unmanned aeroplanes to good use in Afghanistan, and it is understood that operational commanders would like more of this capability.

However, the Reapers are imported from America as a so-called "urgent operational requirement (UOR)", a fast-track method of MoD kit purchasing. UORs often make use of "conflict resolution" funding supplements given on top of the ordinary defence budget for waging war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

With the UK national budget now under significant strain following worsening economic forecasts and recent financial-sector blows to the public purse, it is generally believed that the ongoing MoD funding crisis will get worse. In particular, the Treasury will be looking to trim the "conflict resolution" expenses, which are used not only to buy urgent-priority kit like the Reaper but to pay for the Skynet satellite bandwidth the machines need in such profusion.

This is especially depressing for the forces, as the UOR scheme is typically the main way for them to obtain the equipment they actually need, quickly and from suppliers who might deliver at a fair price. Examples include the recent almost-total re-equipping of British ground troops with new body armour, nightvision equipment and a panoply of new infantry weapons. Where necessary, these have been bought from overseas rather than waiting for British industry to spend years reinventing the wheel at vast expense.

Another example, of course, is the original three Reapers, currently being used as unarmed spyplanes - though the MoD hopes to arm them soon. A batch of smaller Hermes 450 spy drones has also lately been bought from Israel. Robot surveillance platforms are in constant demand for the counterinsurgency fighting so common nowadays (and which has in fact been common since at least 1945, but is nonetheless a perennial surprise to the military establishment).

Now, however, it appears that any further UK Reapers are probably on hold. It goes without saying that the current setup of a UK domestic drone industry at MoD expense - lightly camouflaged as a buy of "Watchkeeper" drones - will continue.

Once the UK has a drone industry, of course, the British forces will probably not be allowed to buy Reapers ever again. ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
Adam Afriyie MP: Smart meters are NOT so smart
Mega-costly gas 'n' 'leccy totting-up tech not worth it - Tory MP
'Blow it up': Plods pop round for chat with Commonwealth Games tweeter
You'd better not be talking about the council's housing plans
Arrr: Freetard-bothering Digital Economy Act tied up, thrown in the hold
Ministry of Fun confirms: Yes, we're busy doing nothing
Help yourself to anyone's photos FOR FREE, suggests UK.gov
Copyright law reforms will keep m'learned friends busy
Apple smacked with privacy sueball over Location Services
Class action launched on behalf of 100 million iPhone owners
UK government officially adopts Open Document Format
Microsoft insurgency fails, earns snarky remark from UK digital services head
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Backing up Big Data
Solving backup challenges and “protect everything from everywhere,” as we move into the era of big data management and the adoption of BYOD.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.