British armed forces now operate 37% fewer unmanned aircraft systems than last year.

The UK Armed Forces Equipment and Formations document details statistics on vessels, land equipment and aircraft of the armed forces.

The section of interest is quoted below:

“Following the withdrawal of Black Hornet from service during 2016/17, there were 281 Unmanned Aircraft Systems as at 1 April 2017, a 37% reduction since 2016. The majority of these Systems are Desert Hawk-III (221).”

The Desert Hawk III and Black Hornet are small, hand-launched systems designed to provide tactical video and image feeds to enable to front-line soldiers to look ‘over the hill’ and ‘round the corner’ respectively. Both were acquired as urgent operational requirements but the MoD had indicated they will be retained as core capabilities. That did not happen for Black Hornet.

Desert Hawk-III is a man-portable, hand launched system. It can fly for approximately one hour within a 15 km radius of its ground control station.

Black Hornet is a nano-UAV, a tiny hand-held helicopter that flies less than 300 metres. It provides still images and video feed. Total approved cost: £20 million. The MoD had 324 Black Hornets in service in 2013.

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So much for Fallon’s 178bn equipment budget! What is the point of shelling money out in UORs only to discard later because we can’t afford to pay the maintenance costs. Absolutely lunacy!!! What a waste of taxpayer money!


well they need the money to give to the rich and put towards the foreign aid budget as that is the governments priority…..idiots that they are…

Chuck Boris

Pity Robotic mouthed Fallon hasn’t yet commented on this. £178 BN on equipment…. Blah blah blah. What use is it Fallon if the armed forces give back half of it in equipment cutbacks?

Mike Saul

Desert Hawk is being scrapped and the unit that operates them are being disbanded by 2020.

Then why in the planning and development of the new strike brigades is desert Hawk considered to be a core asset?

UK MOD is a total mess, it’s doesn’t know it backside from its elbow.

I have asked by MP the above question, I am awaiting a reply.


Sounds like another uor mess. Our troops are being hit badly by a system that is designed to help them. Rushing gear already in service but not by enough for a war, it makes sense the treasury pays as lknf as it wasnt known the exisitng gear was short for basic aims and the army decides if it needs or not and if yes pays. Rushing stuff under same system because troops don’t have basic items they need for an operation and then dumping makes no sense, since the treasury should have paid for it in the first place.


Equipment bought under a UOR used to be by exception. During the Iraq and Afgan years it became the norm. UOR bought kit cost considerably more to bring into service and to maintain in service than equipment brought through normal procurement routes. As the MOD did with the Mine Protected Vehicles which where mostly UOR buys it appears to be doing a cost benefits analysis on this kit and the costs don’t provide the benefits. Nearly 62K each for a mini helo FFS! You can buy a similar item from Maplins and ebay for a few hundred quid and if… Read more »


As long as useful kit is not being discarded. It doesnt’ matter how much money was spent on the kit, as that is spent, the important part is we don’t dump kit that is already brought, because of stupid UOR rules

Peter Crisp

I think this may be a case where because unmanned was in its infancy the MOD bought lots of systems to see which would be useful and are now discarding those that were found to be nonperforming. Hopefully the systems left are the systems that perform well and save lives on the battlefield.

Mike Saul

That is putting a positive spin on the subject matter.

Unfortunately that is not the case, valuable assets, the skills and capability to use them will be lost by 2020.

Just a case of cutting costs and manpower, plain and simple.

Mr Bell

Yet again our rising defence budget backed by our £178 billion equipment fund is not delivering actual military capability. UAVs are without doubt the future, similar to 3 d printers and distributed lethality and networked military forces able to collaboratively engage targets. The MOD and uk armed forces need to find a way to deliver on actual military capability and force structure, using high tech solutions that do not cost too much. For example scan eagle deployed on RN ships currently costs circa £2-3k per hour flight time vs £20k+ per hour for a lynx or merlin. The right UAV… Read more »

Nick Bowman

I thought Scan Eagle is being withdrawn? Anybody have reliable information? Thanks

Mike Saul