United Kingdom sends 20 soldiers of Special Forces SAS and intelligence drones Reaper Mali 2201132

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Defence News - United Kingom

 
 
Tuesday, January 22, 2013, 04:49 PM
 
United Kingdom sends 20 soldiers of Special Forces SAS and intelligence drones Reaper to Mali.
Britain is to send spy planes, unmanned drones and special forces to Mali to ‘find and dismantle’ the Al Qaeda network behind the slaughter in Algeria. In an escalation of the UK’s support for French forces fighting the militants in the African country, David Cameron said he would commit ‘intelligence and counter terrorism assets’.
     

A Reaper MQ-9 UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) based at Creech Air Force Bace, Nevada, USA prepares for a training mission over the west coast of America. (Credit photo British MOD)
     

At a meeting of the National Security Council today, Mr Cameron is set to approve plans to send manned Sentinel R1 spy planes and Reaper drones to operate in the skies over Mali from an American base in neighbouring Burkina Faso.

The MQ-9 Reaper is a medium-to-high altitude, long endurance remotely piloted aircraft system. The MQ-9's primary mission is to act as an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) asset, employing sensors to provide real-time data to commanders and intelligence specialists at all levels.

Mr Cameron will also give the green light to sending around 20 soldiers – including members of the SAS – to join a 500-strong force to train Malian troops and provide force protection.

The UK is also considering offering to refuel French fighter aircraft with VC10 and Tristar planes operating out of Gibraltar and Cyprus.

And two C-17 transport aircraft, already ferrying French hardware to the war zone, will be made available for several months if necessary.

     
An ASTOR Sentinel R1 surveillance aircraft of British Royal Air Force. These aircraft can detect and recognise moving, static and fixed targets on the ground and are capable of operating for over nine hours at a time.
An ASTOR Sentinel R1 surveillance aircraft of British Royal Air Force. These aircraft can detect and recognise moving, static and fixed targets on the ground and are capable of operating for over nine hours at a time. (Credit photo British MOD)
     
The aircraft, Sentinel R1, is a modified version of the Global Express, which is an executive business jet manufactured by Bombardier.

Sentinel was originally intended for conventional war-fighting operations, to track armoured formations and conduct strategic reconnaissance tasks. However, the capability has been shown to be flexible and has been adapted for use in a number of different roles by 5(Army Cooperation) Sqn. The Sentinel’s value has been proven in support of counter-insurgency operations in Afghanistan, and in 2011 the capability provided vital Intelligence to enable coalition air assets to protect civilians from pro-Gaddafi Forces under UN Security Council Resolution 1973.
 

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