Combines Predator Flight Duration With Serious Firepower
The Air Force flew its first operational MQ-9 Reaper mission
from Joint Base Balad, Iraq, supporting Operation Iraqi
USAF officials say the integration of the Reaper into theater
flight operations significantly enhances the strike and close air
support capabilities of airpower forces in Iraq. The Reaper has a
unique combination of long loiter times and large payloads,
integrating and synchronizing with other air assets in the complex
battlespace facing commanders.
"The Reaper gives the joint warfighting tremendous airpower to
bear on hostile forces who do not want the mission we share with
the government in Iraq to succeed," said Lt. Gen. Gary North,
Combined Force Air Component Commander.
"Our experience with the Predator has already proven the
intelligence value of the persistent stare - the ability to keep a
target in your sights for multiple hours at a time," said General
"The Reaper, as a close air support asset, expands beyond the
concept of persistent stare to one of persistent strike. If the
ground commander wants us to strike an enemy target, we can do that
with precision weapons from the Reaper at the exact point where the
ground commander wants a desired effect. It's an incredibly
powerful and flexible capability for the warfighting
US Air Force Central's Combined Air and Space Operations Center
will continue to plan and execute Reaper sorties in Iraq based on
the desired effects forwarded from ground commanders.
The Reaper's powerful targeting pod is fully integrated into the
existing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance architecture
employed by the smaller MQ-1 Predator. Like the Predator, Reapers
are primarily flown via satellite from the United States.
Since its arrival in the US Central Command theater in September
2007, flying sorties in Afghanistan, the Reaper has flown
approximately 480 sorties, totally more than 3,800 hours. It has
provided armed overwatch over Afghanistan and lethal strike
capabilities, while minimizing collateral damage risks to friendly
forces and civilian populations.