We all know that the RAF’s Reaper, Defender/Islander and Shadow R1 aircraft do secret stuff in secret places, but so does the RC135W Rivet Joint.
In the recent PQ on aircraft numbers the MoD listed the forward and depth fleet numbers for all MoD owned fixed wing and rotary aircraft but had this to say about a number of specific aircraft;
Information on the number of aircraft in the Islander AL1, Islander CC2/CC2B, Defender 4K AL2, Defender T3, Shadow R.1 and Reaper Forward and Sustainment Fleets and those in Storage, has been withheld as its disclosure would, or would be likely to prejudice the capability, effectiveness or security of the armed forces.
There is a danger in over classification of information and at the heart of publishing the figures is a principle of accountability to Parliament.
I also made the point that in Defence Stats, the MoD publish the secret data for all to see anyway, which pretty much makes a mockery of of withholding it in the first place.
Other parliamentary communications make it clear that the MoD does not comment on the basing and general whereabouts of Reaper fleet, again, an important principle of accountability to Parliament. A recent example cites one of the operational locations for the Reaper fleet to be the ‘Middle East’, which by any definition is rather a large area.
Is this secrecy and confusion around the publication of fleet numbers a reasonable approach to operational security and political sensitivities or just secrecy for secrecy sake and a dangerous left turn into ‘none of your business’?