Soldier backs the use of drones in Afghanistan

Daily Echo: Soldier backs the use of drones in Afghanistan Soldier backs the use of drones in Afghanistan

It is better to lose a thousand unmanned aircraft than the life of one man on the ground, a Southampton soldier has claimed.

Bombardier Martyn Gates, who is part of a team that flies one of the UK’s unmanned aircraft in Afghanistan, said its use was vital in gathering information without risking soldiers’ lives.

The comments come after the Ministry of Defence released images of Defence Secretary Philip Hammond visiting RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire, where the RAF’s Reaper aircraft in Afghanistan are piloted, as part of efforts to dispel myths about “drones”.

British troops fly a variety of remote-controlled aircraft in Afghanistan, most unarmed.

The Theatre Integrated Unmanned Aircraft Systems Battery Group, based in Camp Bastion, is home to several Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), from small Desert Hawk aircraft, to Tarantula-Hawks and larger Hermes 450 aircraft.

None are armed, but have varying ranges and capabilities and are used to video the ground below, sending images back to Camp Bastion.

Bombardier Gates, 26, from 32 Regiment Royal Artillery, said: “I would rather lose one of these than lose a life, I would rather lose 1,000 of these than lose lives. They don’t see this as a threat, they see us as a threat.

“They hate us but we’re here to do a job and we do that job very well.”

The MoD said that in over 54,000 hours of operations the UK's Reaper, the only armed system used by British Armed Forces, had fired just 459 weapons – less than one weapon in every 120 hours of flying.

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