Drone missions over Afghanistan have been flown by RAF pilots operating on British soil for the first time, it emerged on Thursday.
Until this week, RAF crews who control armed drones in Afghanistan have been operating from the USA Creech Air Force Base in Nevada.
Last year the Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced that the UK was doubling the number of armed RAF drones in Afghanistan to 10 with the five new aircraft to be operated remotely from RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire.
Drone missions over Afghanistan have been flown by RAF pilots operating on British soil for the first time
On Thursday the MoD confirmed the new aircraft, known as 13 Squadron, which were officially "stood up" in October, started flying missions over Afghanistan this week.
The hi-tech Reaper drones are primarily used to gather intelligence on enemy activity on the ground, but they also carry 500lb bombs and Hellfire missiles for precision strikes on insurgents.
An MoD spokesman said they had been carrying out missions including intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, but would not comment on exactly what individual missions had been flown in the past week by drones piloted from the UK.
Chris Nineham, vice-chair of the Stop the War Coalition, said in a statement to the Guardian: "Drones are being used to continue the deeply unpopular War on Terror, with no public scrutiny.
"They're using them to fight wars behind our backs. These remote-controlled killing machines should be banned."