UK drones are to be equipped with the much-vaunted Brimstone missiles which were used to justify involvement in Syria but then barely used, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has confirmed.
The Brimstone missile, which the UK military claims is particularly accurate, will be used by Britain’s ‘Protector’ drones, rebranded last year from their actual name: Predators.
The missile was famously framed as having such a unique capability that it was essential to the US-led combat effort in Syria, a point used to sway the 2015 parliamentary vote to extend the UK’s operations into the war-torn country.
A Freedom of Information request by the Huffington Post in February 2016 indicates that despite the furor over the weapon’s capability, it had barely been used.
“This information contrasts dramatically with the case made by the prime minister [then David Cameron] for bombing when he said that the much-lauded Brimstone missile system would be crucial in cutting off the ‘head of the snake’ in Raqqa [the nominal Islamic State capital],” Scottish National Party (SNP) foreign affairs spokesman Alex Salmond MP told the Huffington Post at the time.
Brimstone missiles have an 11-km range and are armed with a low-powered yet “highly focused” explosive warhead. They can engage targets moving as fast as 110 km/h.
Of the missiles’ future use on drones, the arms firm MBDA told the Air Force Technology website Monday: “Brimstone offers customers the ability to have one missile that can operate across their fleet of operational aircraft, whether they are jets, RPAs or helicopters.
“One missile for all platforms means customers benefit from simplified and more efficient training, logistics and inventory management, as well as Brimstone’s outstanding precision against the most challenging of targets.”
In July the UK announced it would also invest in the updated version of the weapon.
The Brimstone 2 is being built at a cost to the taxpayer of up to £170 million. They are said to cost upwards of £100,000 each.