Portsmouth lecturer’s new book will shine a light on secretive RAF drone warfare

Peter Lee. Picture: University of Portsmouth
Peter Lee. Picture: University of Portsmouth

THE ‘extraordinary’ story of the people who kill from afar using RAF drones is set to be told in a new book.     

The Reaper Force has been at war continuously since it was created in 2007 – but it remains one of the most guarded and secretive military communities in the world. 

However, a University of Portsmouth (UoP) academic is set to publish an eye-opening book on the division after enjoying several years of unprecedented levels of research access. 

An international authority on the deployment of military drones, Dr Peter Lee – a former RAF chaplain – will release Reaper Force: The Inside Story of Britain's Drone Wars on October 4. 

The work will shine on a light on the personal and professional lives of  operators behind the drones, which have been used to support missile strikes and surveillance against Islamic State jihadists in Syria and Iraq. 

‘I was initially reluctant to write this book as my personal experience of war has been painfully focused on the human cost to those who fight,’ said Dr Lee. 

‘However, it took only a brief glimpse into the lives of a few RAF Reaper operators and their families to realise that theirs is an extraordinary story unlike any other in the history of warfare. I had to tell it.’ 

Set to be published via Bonnier Books, Dr Lee’s book is based on extensive interviews with Reaper crew members, spouses and partners. 

One of the Reaper pilots featured in the book is a man identified as ‘Jay’. 

Describing the stark contrast between his professional and personal life, he says in an extract: ‘I dropped my son at his school in the morning, continued to work and within a couple of hours killed two men. I then went home to be greeted by my son with a cheery, “How was your day?”’ 

Operated remotely from bases in the US and UK, Reaper drones are known to be very accurate – with a target often only knowing of an attack carried out by one once a missile or bomb strikes. 

However, their work has promoted regular anti-drone demonstrations, where campaigners protest the systems are putting civilian lives at risk. 

Dr Lee – who is the director of the Security and Risk research theme at UoP – has made his book available to pre-order on Amazon.