Watching, Killing: The Evolution of RAF Drone Warfare in the 21st Century

19 October 2017

No.4 Hamilton Place, London


18:30 - 19:30 

Since the formation of 39 Squadron in 2007, and the subsequent formation of XIII Squadron in 2012, there has been a slow and at times uneasy progression towards a distinct culture within the RAF Reaper Force. This difficulty in forming a stable, unitary culture has been shaped by several related factors: institutional and procedural, personal, and doctrinal. These begin with the unique way that the Reaper came into RAF service in Afghanistan as an Urgent Operational Requirement. Further, the diverse backgrounds and expertise of the personnel who came together to form and operate the two squadrons was rooted in different aircraft types and the delivery of distinct air power roles. Consequently, RAF Reaper culture has often reflected, rather than shaped, the personal ethos and identity of those who have made up the Force. In addition, underpinning these considerations is RAF air power doctrine and the challenge of bringing together the distinctive ISR and Attack roles. The first part of this lecture will explore these interconnected features of the emerging Reaper Force. The remainder of the paper will consider the future potential for a stable culture of remotely piloted aircraft operations as the RAF Reaper enters its second decade in service.

Speaker Details

Dr Peter Lee

Dr Peter Lee is a University of Portsmouth Reader in Politics and Ethics and Assistant Director (Academic) at Royal Air Force College Cranwell. His research interests span the politics and ethics of war and military intervention; the ethical, cultural and political dimensions of military remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS)/ drone operations; the politics and ethics of identity; and the relations between power, truth and subjectivity in contemporary political discourse. Peter regularly contributes to academic, public, military and media debates surrounding the use of military RPAS/ drones and has researched and published in this field since 2012. Between July and September 2016 he has carried out field research at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada and RAF Waddington with the two RAF Reaper squadrons. This research includes more than 60 interviews with RAF Reaper personnel for a book on the first ten years of UK Reaper operations from the operators' perspectives.


No.4 Hamilton Place, London

Royal Aeronautical Society HQ

No.4 Hamilton Place