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Reaper Drops First Combat GBU

The highest-tech equipment used in probably the lowest-tech war...

From the USAF:reaper-pgm.jpg

The MQ-9A Reaper demonstrated it's unique precision strike capability as a hunter-killer attack platform by dropping its first precision-guided bomb Nov. 7.

"The beauty of the MQ-9 Reaper is that we're able to synchronize and integrate unmanned aerial attack platforms over the skies of Afghanistan, allowing us to persistently and consistently track the enemy and ensure that we place the appropriate ordnance on target when required, and maintain that persistent presence after weapons release," said Lt. Gen. Gary North, U.S. Central Command Air Forces commander.

The Reaper, the Air Force's unmanned aerial attack vehicle, was operating over the Sangin region of Afghanistan on the hunt for enemy activity when the crew received a request for assistance from a joint terminal attack controller on the ground. Friendly forces were taking fire from enemy combatants. The JTAC provided targeting data to the pilot and sensor operator, who fly the aircraft remotely from Creech Air Force Base, Nev. The pilot released two GBU-12 500-pound laser-guided bombs, destroying the target and eliminating the enemy fighters.

The ability to carry bombs, in addition to AGM-114K Hellfire missiles, is just one of the features that set the Reaper apart from its smaller brother the MQ-1 Predator.

"The MQ-9 gives us an incredible addition to the arsenal," General North said. "It's larger, carries an increased payload and is able to fly longer, higher and faster. It's an incredible addition to our attack capability in the CENTAF force lay-down."

The Reaper has flown 49 combat sorties since it first began operating in Afghanistan Sept. 25. It completed its first combat strike Oct. 27, when it fired a Hellfire missile over Deh Rawod, Afghanistan, neutralizing enemy combatants.

I'm sorry, I just never tire of the idea that there's a JTAC on the ground, under fire, who calls in for CAS to a pilot in a trailer in Nevada, who sends a command to a robot plane buzzing overhead, which drops the bomb perfectly, which kills the enemy, which saves the JTAC and his unit.

For everyone who says China is surpassing a complacent and distracted US, all I have to do is point them to this kind of operation conducted in the most austere, uncontrolled laboratory in the world and think to myself that the US is pretty far out ahead when it comes to this kind of net-centric technology and capability.

-- Christian

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