A British Member of Parliament and the leader of a political party has suggested that the Royal Air Force use their Reaper drones to conduct ‘humanitarian airdrops’.
Caroline Lucas, Member of Parliament for Brighton Pavilion told ‘The Staggers’:
“I believe humanitarian airdrops should begin immediately, and should be carried out by drones or GPS-guided parachutes. The use of drones is not something I have advocated before but, given the risks associated with a manned aircraft potentially being shot down and the resulting escalation in violence, it’s a compromise I am willing to make.”
The problem? The capability doesn’t exist in operational service anywhere in the world.
Precision parachute equipment like the JPADS system does exist, but is not capable of performing this task due to the 250ft accuracy (or lack thereof), largely useless in an urban area like Aleppo.
The Reaper unmanned aircraft in use by the RAF carries 3500lbs of compact weaponry, a far cry from bulky parachute-capable aid pallets, something it is neither fitted to do or able to converted to do. The aircraft is normally armed with GBU-12 500lb laser guided bombs and AGM-114 Hellfire missiles and although this number can be changed to suit particular missions it cannot be substituted with cargo.
Reaper is a Remotely Piloted aircraft designed for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance and, if required, ground-attack missions.
An earlier attempt to organise unmanned aid drops into Syria in 2014, was led by a US team of volunteers, they attempted to build a fleet of low-budget drones that could be locally assembled. The initiative, the ‘Syria Airlift Project’, collapsed in December 2015, after technical problems associated with the proposal.
In response, Boris Johnson said he would ‘rule nothing out’ although he put the idea of aid drops from British aircraft to bed:
“Even if Russia were to give its consent, our aircraft would still have to fly over areas of Syria that are hotly contested by a multitude of armed groups, including Daesh and al Qaida. They would make every effort to shoot down a British plane and a lumbering, low-flying transport aircraft would be a sitting duck.
We came reluctantly to the conclusion that air drops over Syria under those conditions would prove too great a risk. And when it comes to drones and other devices, we still face the problem that it is the Syrians and the Russians who control the airspace. Of course it is possible that circumstances may change, so I will not rule out any option for delivering aid today but nor will I give false hope. As things stand, we’d be risking the lives of our aircrew if we were to try to drop supplies into eastern Aleppo.”
British forces had earlier conducted aid drops in Iraq but this was stopped soon after the threat to low-flying aircraft became too high.
We all want to help the people of Aleppo but we need an adult conversation on how to do this. The only way we can deliver aid by air is with low flying aircraft, putting servicemen and women directly in harms way.