Protest targets drones operations centre at RAF Waddington

By agency reporter
23 Apr 2013

Campaigners are calling on the government to stop using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or 'drones', as Britain prepares to start controlling them from a domestic base.

In a first national protest, campaigners will target RAF Waddington, the new launchpad for British remote-controlled drones.

Currently, RAF pilots operate Britain's armed drones over Afghanistan from a US base just outside Las Vegas in Nevada.

From this Spring, the British government will begin controlling its armed Reaper drones from RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire.

Activists warn that Britain switching control of drones to Waddington away from US bases marks a critical expansion in the nation’s drones programme.

The move coincides with UK plans to increase the number of remote-operated Reaper aircraft from five to ten.

Four organisations - CND, the Drone Campaign Network, Stop the War and War on Want - are breaking new ground by joining together to step up their drive amid growing public concern.

According to the groups, drones have become the latest weapon of choice in the so-called war on terror.
Britain first deployed unarmed aerial vehicles in Afghanistan, but soon equipped drones with 500lb laser-guided bombs and Hellfire missiles.

The UK has launched at least 350 drone strikes in Afghanistan.

Britain operates several different types of armed and surveillance drones in Iraq and Afghanistan, and others are in production or development.

The government is developing some drones at BAE Systems and using Reaper drones bought from the US.

It is also leasing Israeli drones for use in Afghanistan, while awaiting completion of a new British surveillance drone called Watchkeeper.

The Watchkeeper contract was awarded to Israeli company Elbit and its partner company Thales UK.

War on Want senior campaigns officer Rafeef Ziadah said: “Drones, controlled far away from conflict zones, ease politicians’ decisions to launch military strikes and order extrajudicial assassinations, without democratic oversight or accountability to the public. Now is the time to ban killer drones – before it is too late.”

CND General Secretary Kate Hudson said: "It's time to end this remote killing before even more innocent civilians are slaughtered - they are the main victims in this barbaric form of high-tech killing."

Chris Nineham, vice-chair of the Stop the War Coalition, said: "Drones are being used to continue the deeply unpopular War on Terror, with no public scrutiny. They're using them to fight wars behind our backs. These remote-controlled killing machines should be banned."

[Ekk/4]

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