Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson tells UK airports not to rely on the RAF for protection from future drone 'attacks'

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson spoke out after commercial drones disrupted flights at Gatwick and Heathrow with RAF experts and kit called in both times.

While Williamson said it was the job of the RAF to respond to emergencies – he warned airport bosses to start investing now in improved defences.

He said: “Everyone will be expecting all airports to be having this detection and deterrence effect at all commercial airports in the future.

“It is a logical thing for them to be investing in and a prudent thing for them to be investing in.

"The RAF, like all the armed forces stands ready to serve and step in when there is a problem or a crisis, that's what the British people expect and that's what they always deliver.”

But he warned: “What everyone will be expecting is quite a significant change and uptick in terms of investment that all airports are making in terms of this technology because it wouldn't be right to expect the RAF to be the people that are constantly stepping in on this.

“I will be expecting and Chris Grayling will also be expecting to see all airports to be making that investment."

Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier, said: “What we have seen is a demonstration of how relatively cheap technologies can disrupt things which are important in our day to day lives."

He added that although the recent drone disruption was not apparently of a malign intent, "We have certainly seen in overseas operations people are using that cheap drone technology for malign intent.

“In terms of reassuring the public if that threat materialises you have seen from a defence perspective how we can mobilise in a very short order capabilities that allow us to deal with that threat and you have seen also the airports themselves responding and making sure they have the capabilities.

He said the RAF were “pleased” they were able to respond so swiftly.

It comes as the Defence Committee yesterday wrote to Williamson demanding questions over planning to combat drones at commercial airports.

Sighting “widespread public concern” over the response to the Gatwick drone “crisis” Committee Chair Julian Lewis, wrote: “We would therefore be grateful if you could clarify whether your department had an adequate contingency plan for unauthorised, and potentially threatening, drone activity at the UK’s civilian airports.”

The committee are now considering whether to conduct a formal hearing on the issue, the letter said.


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