The UK drone test squadron that supposedly embodies the “futuristic and ambitious” vision of the Royal Air Force (RAF) has no drones and hasn’t carried out any trials since its reactivation more than two years ago, The Telegraph has reported.
The article cites a response from the Ministry of Defence to freedom of information requests made by the campaign group Drone Wars UK.
In addition, 216 Squadron has only four full-time personnel assigned to it, although the unit also makes use of reservists, the response read.
The request was filed by Chris Cole, the founder of Drone Wars UK, a campaign group that calls for greater public transparency over the use of this type of weaponry. His inquiry came under the Freedom of Information Act, which provides access to information held by the UK’s public authorities.
“216 Squadron has not conducted any UAV tests since it was reactivated on 1 April 2020… There were no UAVs listed on the inventory of 216 Squadron at the time of your request. This means that the answer to the third part of your request was ‘zero’,” the reply read.
Nonetheless, in 2021, speaking at the Global Air Chiefs’ Conference, Air Chief Marshal Mike Wigston touted 216 Squadron, saying that it has proven the “disruptive and innovative utility of swarming drones.”
“We have been focused on confusing and overwhelming adversary air defenses but we are already contemplating new disruptive missions that I will leave to your imagination,” said the air marshal at the time.
Cole, meanwhile, said that “defense companies and politicians repeatedly overpromise results and underestimate costs while giving less and less information about military programs.”