Introduction – Sept 8, 2019
Some years ago a psychic friend warned that Iran’s military technology was far more advanced than the Western media-military gave it credit for. In recent years Iran has made huge advances, particularly in the fields of missile, radar and drone technology.
The Western media-military-complex rarely acknowledges these advances. However, they have been considerable and this explains why the Royal Navy took its ScanEagle drones out of service.
In 2012 Iran shot down a U.S. ScanEagle drone after it entered Iranian airspace in the Gulf. Iran also “captured” two U.S. ScanEagle drones and began mass producing reverse engineered replicas.
In other words, having earlier shot down and reverse engineered similar U.S. drones, the Royal Navy’s ScanEagles would have been extremely vulnerable. So much so that they would have been a liability. Ed.
Royal Navy shock: Crucial ‘spy in the sky’ drone SCRAPPED as Iran strengthens aerial power
Mario Giannangeli – Daily Express Sept 8, 2019
Sources have revealed a UAV called ScanEagle, which could be launched from the deck of a Type-23 frigate and fly for more than 20 hours relaying live pictures, was ‘quietly’ taken out of service 18 months ago and has not been replaced. The news means that, as Iranian forces increase the use of drones to spy on HMS Montrose and and merchant vessels, the Senior Service is now unable to respond with similar counter measures. To make matters worse alternative drones, such as the RAF’s much more costly Reaper – capable of carrying 4 Hellfire missiles of two 500lb Paveway laser-guided bombs – are also not being deployed, other sources say, due to fears that they will meet the same fate as the US Global Hawk, which was shot down by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’s (IRGC) earlier this year.
ScanEagle’s advance technology was hailed by the Ministry of Defence as “world beating” when it was introduced and the Royal Navy even formed a special squadron to operate the unmanned platforms.
Now 700X Squadron, formed only in in 2014 with 35 personnel to oversee a new era of remote controlled operations for the fleet, has been left with just six staff.
ScanEagle was shown in action in the film ‘Captain Philips’, in which the £60 million UAV relayed film of Somali pirates to provide Special Forces with intelligence so they cloud move in and capture the hi-jackers and who took the skipper hostage off the African coast.
In 2013 the MoD leased two ScanEagles for an initial four years at an estimated £20million cost, with defence Secretary Philip Hammond, declaring the system would play a crucial role for the Royal Navy. That lease was due to be renewed.
In 2015 HMS Richmond, a Type 23 frigate, used it to track drug smugglers off the African coast, while Royal Navy brass claimed its use to hunt people smugglers would give the Senior Service a major advantage in modern warfare where autonomous platforms were seen as the future.
It was later deployed aboard two Type 23 frigates and seen as a major asset to fleet operations with the ability to launch and fly ahead of a warship to send back intelligence and surveillance data to the ship’s operations room.
But as the MoD faced increasing defence cuts in 2016 a decision was taken to abandon ScanEagle, confirmed in 2017.
Last year the systems were packed up and sent back to Boeing, leaving the Royal Navy with no spy in the sky capability and no immediate replacement in sight.
Tensions in the Gulf are still high. Last week it was revealed that HMS Montrose experienced 115 confrontations with Iranian forces since July.
But while it, HMS Kent and HMS Defender, have been left with no hi-tech capability to counter the Iranian threat, Tehran is stepping up usage of its own drones systems, deploying UAVs almost every day in the past two months flying over merchant ships and naval warships.
In July the head of Iran’s Navy, Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi, boasted: “Our drones have significant ranges and have no limitations in communication links. We have a complete archive of images of American vessels approaching from very far distances.”
As the Royal Navy dropped ScanEagle, Iran developed its own version, the Yasir – based, according the regime, on three captured US ScanEagle drones.
Yet while even Royal Navy chiefs admit Iranian drones are being used ‘at scale” in the Gulf, the only other option – deploying RAF Reaper currently based in nearby Kuwait – has also been put on hold.
Last week it was suggested that the formidable UAV, which is currently being used in Iraq and Syria, could play a role in the Strait of Hormuz.
But sources confirmed that the move was unlikely to get the green light, due to their £12m per unit cost.
One RAF source said: “Clearly Reapers, which pack heavy firepower, are different beasts to the ScanEagle, which was designed for surveillance purposes only. That difference is reflected in their price tag.
“They also fly at lower altitudes. The feeling right now is that deploying them in the Gulf is not worth the candle because of the risks involved in contested airspace.”
It is not the first time Britain’s armed forces have been constrained by cost from using vital kit.
In Afghanistan the Royal Artillery were restricted to the number of GMLRS (Guided Missile Launched Rocket System) that could be fired in operations against the Taliban.
At more than £100,000 a time, units were first restricted to just two a month and in 2008 field commanders were directed that no missile could be fired without the Brigadier’s approval.
A senior Royal Navy source added: “What we need is a drone capability such as Scan Eagle on our frontline vessels in the Gulf. Sadly, this was sneaked out of service very quietly and we are left with no cheap UAV capability.”
A Royal Navy spokesman said: “The Royal Navy continues to develop concepts and experience with Unmanned Air Systems with 700X Naval Air Squadron having significant success.”