Remotely Piloted Air System (RPAS) are growing in importance and the RAF formed 39 Sqn at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada two years ago to operate RAF Reaper aircraft alongside USAF squadrons. Reaper provides real-time video imagery to ground commanders, and has the capability to engage ground targets if required.
39 Squadron trains and operates alongside USAF counterparts as part of the Combined Joint Predator Task Force. Although 39 Squadron is an RAF squadron, the unit includes personnel from the Royal Navy, Royal Marines and the British Army.
13 Sqn reformed at RAF Waddington on 26th October 2012 as the first UK based Reaper Squadron.The squadron undertook its first sortie on 24 April 2013.
Each Reaper aircraft can be disassembled into main components and loaded into a container for air deployment worldwide.
The Reaper RPAS is operated by 39 Squadron & 13 Sqn, Royal Air Force. The aircraft is operated by a pilot and a sensor operator, supported by a mission intelligence co-ordinator. In support of current operations the Reaper RPA is launched from an airfield within Afghanistan by crews deployed in theatre. Once airborne the mission is flown by the crews of 39 Squadron from Creech Air Force Base in the USA, before control is handed back to the crew in theatre for landing. The pilots of UK Reaper have all been previously qualified as pilots on other military aircraft.