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Britain to probe use of spy drones by untrained pilots

United Kingdom,Defence/Security, Tue, 11 Dec 2012 IANS

London, Dec 11 (IANS) British lawmakers will now investigate the country's use of controversial spy drones after a report found their pilots were poorly trained and "pushed to the limits", a media report said Tuesday.

The unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are flown by "poorly trained pilots who have just 25 hours' training", the Daily Mail reported.

A surge in demand also meant that pilots do not get enough training, according to the Military Aviation Authority (MAA).

The Hosue of Commons Defence Select Committee will examine the country's increasing deployment of drones after an investigation by the MAA found that soldiers with no past experience could be in charge of piloting a spy drone after just 25 hours' flying time.

Five British Reaper spy drones are currently operated by the Royal Air Force from 39 Squadron at Creech Air Force base in Nevada because Britain lacks the facilities.

A review was ordered after the crash last year of a Hermes 450 unmanned aircraft at Camp Bastion, the main British base in Afghanistan.

The report raised concerns about the selection of drone operators, their training and development, and their poor knowledge of air-traffic control rules.

Members of the Defence Select Committee said they would probe the deployment of UAVs in the fight against the Taliban.

The defence ministry revealed that British drones had flown more than 39,000 hours and fired at least 334 laser-guided Hellfire missiles and bombs.

But only four Afghan civilians have been killed in strikes since 2008.

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