Britain to double number of drones in Afghanistan: report

LONDON Mon Oct 22, 2012 10:37pm EDT

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LONDON (Reuters) - Britain is to double the number of armed drone aircraft flying combat and surveillance operations in Afghanistan, the Guardian reported on Tuesday.

In a new squadron of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), five Reaper drones will be sent to Afghanistan and be in operation within six weeks, with control coming, for the first time, from terminals and screens in Britain, the newspaper said.

Pilots based in a high-tech site at RAF Waddington, a military base in England, will fly the recently bought American-made UAVs, according to the Guardian.

Britain's existing five Reaper drones, which are used to target suspected insurgents in Helmand province in Afghanistan's southwest, have been operated from a U.S. Air Force base in Nevada because Britain has not had the capability.

The government has yet to decide whether the aircraft will remain there after the end of 2014, when most NATO soldiers are scheduled to be withdrawn from Afghanistan.

(Reporting by Stephen Mangan; editing by Christopher Wilson)

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