The US State Department has approved a possible $1 billion sale of Predator B (‘Reaper’) drones, as well as equipment, training, and support to Britain, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) said in a statement Wednesday.
According to the statement, the UK requested a possible sale of up to 26 Certifiable Predator B Remotely Piloted Aircraft, along with 12 advanced ground control systems and other equipment.
Calling the UK a “close ally and important partner on critical foreign policy and defense issues,” the DSCA said the possible sale would “enhance US foreign policy and national security objectives by enhancing the UK’s capabilities to provide national defense and contribute to NATO and coalition operations.”
“This sale will improve the UK’s ability to meet current and future threats by providing improved Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) coverage that enhances homeland security, promotes increased battlefield situational awareness, augments combat search and rescue, and provides ground troop support,” the statement said.
It added that the predator drones would be able to support UK armed and coalition forces engaged in “current and future peacekeeping, peace-enforcing, counter-insurgent, and counter-terrorism operations.”
The Predator B Remotely Piloted Aircraft has an endurance of over 27 hours, speeds of 240 KTAS, and can operate up to 50,000 feet. It has a 3,850 pound (1,746 kilogram) payload capacity that includes 3,000 pounds (1,361 kilograms) of external stores, according to manufacturer General Atomics Aeronautical.
General Atomics MQ-9 ‘Reaper’ drones have been used by US and allied forces deployed in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, and Iraq for anti-terrorist bombing missions. The drone sorties, also carried out by the earlier unmanned aircraft MQ-1 ‘Predator,’ have been surrounded by controversy over the high “collateral damage,” which has seen hundreds of civilians killed by Hellfire missiles in attempts to strike jihadist targets.