RAF personnel flew armed remote-controlled drones over Libya against Col Muammar Gaddafi's forces, it was disclosed, as the Government confirmed the first British use of the controversial aircraft outside Afghanistan.
In a parliamentary answer, Lord Astor of Hever, under secretary of state at the Ministry of Defence, said drones belonging to the United States were operated by British pilots during the Nato operation in 2011.
Lord Bates of Langbaurgh had asked for clarification on whether or not armed British drones had been used against terror suspects outside Afghanistan.
"Her Majesty's Government do not use armed remotely piloted air systems against terrorist suspects outside Afghanistan," replied Lord Astor. "However, UK personnel flew armed remotely piloted air systems missions against Gaddafi's forces in Libya in 2011, in support of the Nato humanitarian mission authorised under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973."
The RAF pilots may have belonged to a unit stationed at the Nellis US air force base in the Nevada desert since the Iraq war.
During the campaign to oust Col Gaddafi, it was reported that US drones were used over Libya. Military sources said that a Predator drone, which is most often equipped with Hellfire missiles, was involved in bombing the Libyan dictator's convoy as he attempted to flee his home town Sirte.
The Obama administration's increased reliance on drones has attracted criticism from civil liberty campaigners. In Yemen the US president approved a successful attack on two American citizens belonging to al-Qaeda. In Pakistan meanwhile the terror group's senior leadership has been virtually wiped out by Predators.
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