First Armed Predator Pilot Speaks Out

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RAF Maj. Kevin Gambold monitors and pilots an MQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicle.

RAF Maj. Kevin Gambold monitors and pilots an MQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicle.

For Scott Swanson, flying a Predator in combat didn't feel at all like a game.

For the first time, Swanson has written about his experience as the first Predator operator to fire a missile in combat. He describes the experience of taking the Predator into a live mission as tense and emotional, exemplified for Swanson by a 2000 mission over Tarnak Farms, Afghanistan, where it is believed his Predator observed Osama Bin Laden. When a MiG-21 launched from a nearby airfield, Swans recalls how he and his sensor operator twisted in their seats, much like manned fighter pilots, to evade the MiG.