Defence Committee

Session 2007-08, 5 August 2008

Publication of Report

Publication of Report


Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are providing battle winning capabilities for UK forces on current operations, but "there are a wide range of challenges.... which have to be addressed in order to exploit fully the benefits offered", according to a Report published today by the House of Commons Defence Committee (Thirteenth Report of Session 2007-08, The contribution of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles to ISTAR capability, HC 535).

UAVs have emerged as an important means of collecting ISTAR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance) information and the MoD has acquired UAVs - such as Reaper and Hermes 450 - as Urgent Operational Requirements (UORs) for current operations. The Committee reports that these UAVs are proving highly effective at collecting ISTAR information. In addition to collecting information, a Reaper UAV has fired its weapon system in support of coalition forces in Afghanistan.

Vast amounts of ISTAR information are being collected by UAVs and other collection assets, but improvements are needed in how this information is processed and disseminated. Two major programmes - Defence Information Infrastructure and DABINETT - are expected to deliver the improvements, but the former is already experiencing delays. The Committee calls on the MoD to ensure that these programmes are delivered on time so that the ISTAR information collected can be fully exploited by our Armed Forces.

The importance of UK industrial capabilities and technologies relating to ISTAR and UAVs was acknowledged in the Defence Industrial Strategy (DIS) published in December 2005. UK industry is considered to be world class in a number of technology areas. The MoD's Planning Round 2008 was completed in June and the Committee calls on the MoD to publish the updated version of the DIS, originally expected in December 2007, without further delay. The Committee considers it vital that industry, including those companies working in high technology areas, is provided with clarity about future work so it can plan and invest for the future.

Commenting on the Report, Committee Chairman Rt Hon James Arbuthnot MP said:

"The MoD was perhaps slow to appreciate the potential of UAVs, but now recognises the important contribution they can make. The UAVs acquired for current operations are proving very effective in collecting ISTAR information. However, improvements are required in how this information is processed and disseminated. The MoD must push forward with its planned improvements so that our Armed Forces can continue to achieve information superiority over the enemy".


The Committee was nominated on 13 July 2005. The Defence Committee is appointed by the House of Commons to examine the expenditure, administration, and policy of the Ministry of Defence and its associated public bodies.


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