Britain doubles armed drones in Afghanistan
The UK will double the number of armed RAF drones in Afghanistan to 10 with the new aircraft to be operated remotely from Britain.
A Ministry of Defence spokeswoman confirmed that pilots based at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire would fly the five recently-bought unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
The hi-tech Reaper drones are primarily used to gather intelligence on enemy activity on the ground, but they also carry 500lb bombs and Hellfire missiles for precision strikes on insurgents.
The spokeswoman said the new batch, known as 13 Squadron, will be officially "stood up" at a ceremony on Friday, although operation will not start immediately.
"Reaper is the only remotely-piloted aircraft that is armed," the spokeswoman said.
"On the rare occasions that weapons are used, the same strict rules are followed that govern the use of weapons on manned aircraft.
"The vast majority of unmanned aircraft flying is surveillance and reconnaissance in support of our frontline troops, providing them with vital intelligence and helping to save lives in Afghanistan.
"Since 2006 they have provided over 100,000 hours of persistent intelligence."
Operations of the five new UAVs are expected to begin within six weeks, the Guardian reports.
RAF crews will continue to fly the other UK Reaper aircraft remotely from the USA Creech Air Force Base in Nevada.