Average Flight Hours Falling as Numbers Increase
Information released by the British MoD in January, following an application under the Freedom of Information Act, confirms the number of REAPER UAS in RAF service stands at 10, as at the beginning of 2016. With a single aircraft in service from October 2017, the number rose to three by 1 January 2010, five by 2011 and the current total of 10 by 2015.
Total flying hours by calendar year are revealing. In 2007 the single airframe clocked up 260 hours between October and year end; that rose to 2,840 in 2008, 4,510 in 2009, 10,260 in 2010, 12,410 in 2011, 12,050 in 2012, 13,560 in 2013, 16,910 in 2014, falling to 12,700 in 2015 and 10,610 in 2016. In 2014, each REAPER flew an average of 3,382 hours: in 2016 the fleet averaged 1,061 hours.
The recent decreases are understood to reflect the better sustainment capability accruing from a higher number of airframes, rather than solely on decreases in operational tempo.