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UK Drone Test Squadron Flagged for Failing to Conduct Single Test Since 2020

A British lawmaker flagged a Royal Air Force (RAF) squadron tasked with experimenting with uncrewed aircraft for failing to conduct a single test since its creation in 2020.

Defense procurement minister James Cartlidge revealed that the 216 Squadron has not recommended any unmanned vehicle for acquisition because there have been no completed tests or trials conducted either in-house or with industry.

It was reportedly supposed to test the Callen-Lenz “Koios” air vehicle in June 2023, but this was canceled “due to competing resource priorities.”

Despite this inactivity, the minister said the RAF squadron was able to participate in several technical demonstrations as military advisers and subject matter experts.

Based out of RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire, the 216 Squadron was previously a transport squadron restructured to focus on improving the country’s drone swarm capability.

Contrasting Statements

Cartlidge’s revelation came in contrast with remarks made by former Chief of the Air Staff Mike Wigston about the drone test squadron.

He said at the Global Air Chiefs Conference in 2021 that the 216 Squadron has “proven beyond doubt the disruptive and innovative utility of swarming drones.”

He also hinted at forming more drone test squadrons to explore emerging technologies and address modern threats.

Shortly after Cartlidge flagged the unit, the UK Ministry of Defence came to RAF’s defense, saying most drone trials were completed by manufacturers.

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