A fully armed MQ-9 Reaper taxis down an Afghanistan runway
Nov. 4. The Reaper has flown 49 combat sorties since it
first began operating in Afghanistan Sept. 25. (U.S. Air
Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)
the USAF Reapers, used as 'hunter killer' platforms, loaded
with guided bombs and Hellfire missiles, the RAF Reaper UAVs
are currently unarmed but the RAF is planning to fly armed missions
as soon as by 2007 year's end.
The primary mission of USAF Reapers is as a persistent hunter-killer
against emerging targets in support of joint force commander
objectives. The MQ-9's secondary mission is to act as an intelligence,
surveillance and reconnaissance asset, employing sensors to
provide real-time data to commanders and intelligence specialists
at all levels. The aircraft was engaged in combat for the first
time on October 27, 2007, targeting enemy combatants in Deh
Rawod with a hellfire missile. The strike was reported as successful.
Lt. Gen. Gary North, commander of U.S. Central Command Air
Forces, who said the Reaper was a perfect complement to the
Air Force's existing manned airborne platforms. He added that
he expects the Reaper to bring a significant impact to military
operations throughout the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.
"The enemy knows we track them and they know that if and
when they commit acts against their people and government, we
will take action against them."
USAF Reaper are operational in Afghanistan since September 2007
averaging about one sortie per day. As practiced with Predator
As, Reapers are operated by the 42nd
Attack Squadron based at Creech AFB, Nev., with pilots and
weapon systems operators seated in Nevada, controlling the aircraft
remotely over Afghanistan. Meanwhile, beginning September 2007,
the US Army has also deployed the first Sky
Warrior to Afghanistan. The aircraft designated Sky Warrior-A
are assigned to the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade 'Task Force
Charger', responsible for operating the UAVs on operations throughout
Unlike the Air Force's remote operation concept, the Army operates
its Sky Warriors from facilities in theater, claiming better
responsiveness and coordination with ground operations. However,
the US Army and Air Force are in disagreement about who will
be controlling these UAVs in theater.
RAF's participation in the joint US/UK Combined Predator Task
Force gave them a unique insight into the USAF (US Air Force)
Predator A operations, which allowed a seamless transition to
the RAF's use of Reaper, the UK variant of Predator B.
Training for pilots and sensor operators is provided by the
USAF, building on the experience of No 1115 Flight operating
Predator A. This squadron was formed in 2004 and was embedded
with the USAF since its establishment operating Predator A.
No 1115 will continue to operate Predator As, while administratively
becoming part of No 39 Squadron - predominantly an RAF unit,
the squadron also have Army and Navy personnel working in a
number of functional areas.
The aircraft is flown on operational and training missions,
providing capability assessment and doctrine development. The
RAF expects steady build up to a full UK capability as more
experience is gathered.