Lightning likely caused an MQ-1B Predator to crash in the US Central Command area of responsibility in October 2015, Air Combat Command investigators found. The remotely piloted aircraft was assigned to the 432nd Wing at Creech AFB, Nev., but was was conducting a combat support mission and operated by a mission control element from the 20th Attack Squadron at Whiteman AFB, Mo., when it experienced an electronic flight control component failure and crashed, according to the abbreviated investigation report. The report did not disclose where the Predator crashed, but the Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman at the time, Army Col. Steve Warren, said a MQ-1 crashed southwest of Baghdad the same day, Oct. 17, after the crew lost its link to the aircraft. Prior to the flight, forecasts did not predict significant weather in the operation area, but en route, the multi-spectral targeting system displayed scattered clouds, which the pilot identified as haze and continued toward. About 45 minutes later, the RPA flew into a small area of precipitation and experienced turbulence and downdrafts. Three minutes later, the RPA’s video display recorded a single lightning strike, and the satellite link to the aircraft was lost. The Predator impacted the ground and was destroyed. The president of the investigation board found a direct or proximity lightning strike caused the crash, but that the pilot’s misidentification of the adverse weather substantially contributed to the mishap. The wreckage was recovered from the crash site. At the time, Warren said Iraqi police retrieved the Predator and its Hellfire missiles and returned them to US control. The cost of the damage to the RPA and munitions is estimated to be $5.2 million. There were no fatalities or damage to private property.
These are the complete remarks by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III at the Reagan National Defense Forum, Dec. 3, 2022, in Simi Valley, Calif.