Prime Minister David Cameron said he will double Britain’s unmanned military-drone capability by 2013 in an effort to foil roadside bomb attacks by Afghan insurgents.
The 135 million-pound ($210 million) plan will increase the number of Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles operated from Kandahar airbase in southern Afghanistan to about 10. The armed drones, made by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, will provide an extra 36 hours of surveillance and aerial backup for ground troops.
The purchase marks a shift in U.K. defense spending toward higher-technology weapons at the expense of tank divisions stationed in Germany. Cameron will fund the new drones through the existing defense budget, which was cut by about 8 percent in October.
The Reapers represent “our decision to concentrate on the forces and equipment we are going to need for the future,” Cameron told reporters in Camp Bastion, the U.K.’s base in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province. “The Reaper is a classic example of the weaponry that is necessary for today’s war.”
Cameron has set a 2015 deadline for the withdrawal of most British combat forces from Afghanistan.
During the unannounced visit to the South Asian country, Cameron also saw the deployment of the first Warthog armored vehicles made by Singapore Technologies Kinetics.