An MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle dropped a 500-pound laser-guided bomb against an anti-coalition target in Iraq Aug. 16, marking the platform’s first weapon engagement in Iraq since its introduction there last month. Air Force officials said the Reaper strike destroyed a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device that was discovered during an overwatch mission over southeast Iraq. “This was a great example of the Reaper’s unique capabilities,” said Lt. Col. Micah Morgan, commander of the 46th Expeditionary Reconnaissance and Attack Squadron at Joint Base Balad. “We searched for, found, fixed, targeted, and destroyed a target with just one aircraft.” Reapers began flying combat sorties in Iraq out of Balad on July 18, joining the MQ-1 Predator in patrolling the skies to protect coalition forces. MQ-9s have been operating over the skies of Afghanistan since September 2007 and have been employing LGBs as well as Hellfire surface-attack missiles there. (Includes Balad report by SSgt. Don Branum)
The Collaborative Combat Aircraft will be operational in the late 2020s, several years before the Next-Generation Air Dominance family of systems, Air Force officials told the House Armed Services tactical aviation panel. The CCAs will first be “shooters,” then electronic warfare platforms, then sensors, in that order, they added.