Military drone pilots could get medals – Michael Fallon

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Military drone pilots fighting so-called Islamic State could be awarded medals, the defence secretary has said.

Sir Michael Fallon confirmed there would be a review of how servicemen and women were recognised for their contribution to UK operations.

Medals are currently awarded on the basis of rigour and risk, and being physically exposed to danger.

Sir Michael said a rethink may be needed as the UK increasingly deploys unmanned aircraft on operations.

Outside battle space

Speaking on a visit to British troops in Iraq, he said: “The changing character of warfare provides new challenges; not just about how we fight but also how we recognise and support those who serve.

“As fighting has evolved we have adapted, ensuring our troops have cutting-edge equipment including unmanned systems operated from outside the battle space.

“Our recognition of service, the risks taken, and the long-term effects must therefore adapt too.

“That is why we need to examine how to provide medallic recognition for those making a vital contribution to Op Shader outside the battle space, from Reaper pilots taking life-and-death decisions to those who ensure our planes can strike Daesh targets.”

Drones have been targeting Islamic State – also known as Daesh – in Iraq and Syria as part of Operation Shader, for which Sir Michael announced a medal.

‘End tyranny’

He added: “It is only right that those who’ve performed above and beyond in this fight against the evil of our time get the recognition they deserve. This medal will do just that.

“Our troops have made huge contributions to the fight against Daesh, helping end its tyranny in large parts of Iraq and Syria.

“They have conducted over 1,500 strikes against Daesh terrorist targets and helped train nearly 60,000 Iraqi Security Forces.

“The campaign is not over but for those that have served we rightly honour the critical role they have played in helping keep us safe.”

Labour has called for recognition of servicemen and women fighting IS.

On his visit, Sir Michael met personnel from the Mercian Regiment, the Royal Engineers, the Intelligence Corps, and medical regiments at Erbil and Taji.

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