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The Air Force’s MQ-9 Reaper Drone Just Got A Whole Lot Deadlier
The MQ-9 Reaper drone is already the deadliest UAV in the U.S. Air Force’s arsenal. Designed with a payload capacity of 3,700 pounds and armament of AGM-114 Hellfire missiles and GBU-12 Paveway II bombs, it’s no wonder that Air Force officials announced in February that the Reaper would gradually come to replace the iconic MG-1 Predator drone as a fixture of the global war on terror.
But the Reaper’s about to get a decidedly deadly upgrade. Officials at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada announced Monday that airmen from the 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing had successfully deployed a GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) from an MQ-9 Reaper — the first time the drone has dropped the ubiquitous GPS-guided weapon in its decade of service.
"We had a great opportunity to drop the first live GBU-38s in training,” an instructor pilot from the 26th Weapons Squadron out of Nellis Air Force Base who participated in the test last week, identified as “Capt. Scott,” said in a statement. "The GBU-38 is a weapon we've been trying to get on the MQ-9 for several years now, and we had the opportunity to be the first to drop during training."
Boeing’s GPS-based JDAM guidance kit — used to convert conventional “dumb” ordnance into “smart” bombs — has been around since 1997. But until recently, the Pentagon didn’t see JDAMs as a viable substitute for the laser-guided ordnance like the Reaper’s existing arsenal of Paveway II bombs. The War Zone explains:
While the GPS-guided weapons could reliably hit within 50 feet of static targets, laser-guided weapons could regularly manage to get within 10 feet of the aim point. Advanced laser-guidance systems – either inside the launching aircraft or the bomb itself – can also calculate the distance necessary to “lead” moving targets, too.
But laser-directed weapons weren’t perfect, either. Most importantly, smoke, dust, and just bad weather could distort the laser beam or blind the seeker in the bomb, throwing it off target. This could potentially put troops or innocent civilians on the ground in danger and outright prevent pilots from providing badly needed support. And aviators had to get relatively close to either “lase” the specific point themselves or spot the beam another aircraft or troops on the ground were projecting on the target. JDAM offered a stand-off range up to 15 miles, depending on how high the aircraft was flying and where the enemy was situated down below.
The JDAM has since become the weapon of choice for U.S.-led aerial campaigns, especially as Boeing incorporated laser-guidance features into its J-series line of munitions. In recent years, weapons manufacturers have ramped up production in response to the intensifying bombing campaign against ISIS executed by the U.S.-led multinational coalition since 2014 — and as the U.S. continues operations in desert theaters like Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, “dust storms” simply won’t fly as an excuse for a missed target.
An MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft taxis on the flightline at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., Dec. 19, 2016.Photo via DoD
The GBU-38, just like the Hellfire and GBU-12, is a very accurate weapon and the fact that it’s GPS-guided gives us another versatile way to guide the weapon, specifically, through inclement weather onto targets,” Capt. Scott said.
But the hidden bonus of the Reaper’s JDAM upgrade is an unintended one. As the War Zone points out, military drones can only currently carry a maximum of four JDAMs and GBU-12/B bombs (and eight Hellfire missiles). But future structural changes to the Reaper would open up more explosive possibilities for the UAV downrange:
However, a standard architecture for lobbing GPS-directed weapons on the Reaper would let the entire fleet employ a whole suite of existing weapons, as well as new munitions in development or already on the market. The most important of these would likely be the Boeing Small Diameter Bomb (SDB) and Raytheon’s up-coming SDB II. These 250-pound class glide bombs have proven ideal choices for attacking small targets in crowded environments...
Lockheed, Orbital ATK, Raytheon, and Textron are all offering new, small GPS- or combination GPS/INS and laser-guided bombs and missiles, pushing particularly hard with racks that hold multiple weapons aimed small aircraft and drones. Textron says three of its diminutive Fury glide bombs can fit in place of a single Hellfire and Orbital ATK is working on various options for its tiny Hatchet and Hammer weapons.
Suck it, Blue Öyster Cult: If you’re on the wrong side of the U.S. Air Force, you should definitely fear the Reaper.
Exclusive: Video shows Navy SEAL flying drone over body of ISIS fighter shortly after Eddie Gallagher allegedly stabbed him
Shortly after Navy SEAL Chief Eddie Gallagher allegedly murdered a wounded ISIS prisoner, about half a dozen of his SEAL teammates watched as one SEAL flew a drone around their compound and hovered it just inches over the dead man's body.
It was yet another ethical lapse for the men of SEAL Team 7 Alpha Platoon, many of whom had just taken a group photograph with the deceased victim after their commander had held an impromptu reenlistment ceremony for Gallagher near the body. Although some expressed remorse in courtroom testimony over their participation in the photo, video footage from later that morning showed a number of SEALs acted with little regard for the remains of Gallagher's alleged victim.
The video — which was shown to the jury and courtroom spectators last week in the trial of Gallagher — was recently obtained by Task & Purpose.
'It just happened' — the Iraq War’s first living Medal of Honor recipient recalls his harrowing fight against 5 insurgents
On Nov, 10, 2004, Army Staff Sgt. David Bellavia knew that he stood a good chance of dying as he tried to save his squad.
Bellavia survived the intense enemy fire and went on to single-handedly kill five insurgents as he cleared a three-story house in Fallujah during the iconic battle for the city. For his bravery that day, President Trump will present Bellavia with the Medal of Honor on Tuesday, making him the first living Iraq war veteran to receive the award.
In an interview with Task & Purpose, Bellavia recalled that the house where he fought insurgents was dark and filled with putrid water that flowed from broken pipes. The battle itself was an assault on his senses: The stench from the water, the darkness inside the home, and the sounds of footsteps that seemed to envelope him.
In his sanctions announcement, Trump accidentally named the wrong supreme leader of Iran, who has been dead since 1989
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico has deployed almost 15,000 soldiers and National Guard in the north of the country to stem the flow of illegal immigration across the border into the United States, the head of the Mexican Army said on Monday.
Mexico has not traditionally used security forces to stop undocumented foreign citizens leaving the country for the United States, and photographs of militarized police catching Central American and Cuban women at the border in recent days have met with criticism.
Mexico is trying to curb a surge of migrants from third countries crossing its territory in order to reach the United States, under the threat of tariffs on its exports by U.S. President Donald Trump, who has made tightening border security a priority.
Packages containing suspected heroin were found in the home of the driver charged with killing seven motorcyclists Friday in the North Country, authorities said Monday.
Massachusetts State Police said the packages were discovered when its Violent Fugitive Apprehension Section and New Hampshire State police arrested Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, 23, at his West Springfield home. The packages will be tested for heroin, they said.
Zhukovskyy faces seven counts of negligent homicide in connection with the North Country crash on Friday evening that killed seven riders associated with Jarhead Motorcycle Club, a club for Marines and select Navy corpsmen.