Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
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.
'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.
With the Imperial Japanese Army hot on his heels, Oscar Leonard says he barely slipped away from getting caught in the grueling Bataan Death March in 1942 by jumping into a choppy bay in the dark of the night, clinging to a log and paddling to the Allied-fortified island of Corregidor.
After many weeks of fighting there and at Mindanao, he was finally captured by the Japanese and spent the next several years languishing under brutal conditions in Filipino and Japanese World War II POW camps.
Now, having just turned 100 years old, the Antioch resident has been recognized for his 42-month ordeal as a prisoner of war, thanks to the efforts of his friends at the Brentwood VFW Post #10789 and Congressman Jerry McNerney.
McNerney, Brentwood VFW Commander Steve Todd and Junior Vice Commander John Bradley helped obtain a POW award after doing research and requesting records to surprise Leonard during a birthday party last month.
Hundreds of Marines will join their British counterparts at a massive urban training center this summer that will test the leathernecks' ability to fight a tech-savvy enemy in a crowded city filled with innocent civilians.
The North Carolina-based Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, will test drones, robots and other high-tech equipment at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center near Butlerville, Indiana, in August.
They'll spend weeks weaving through underground tunnels and simulating fires in a mock packed downtown city center. They'll also face off against their peers, who will be equipped with off-the-shelf drones and other gadgets the enemy is now easily able to bring to the fight.
It's the start of a four-year effort, known as Project Metropolis, that leaders say will transform the way Marines train for urban battles. The effort is being led by the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, based in Quantico, Virginia. It comes after service leaders identified a troubling problem following nearly two decades of war in the Middle East: adversaries have been studying their tactics and weaknesses, and now they know how to exploit them.
WASHINGTON/RIYADH (Reuters) - President Donald Trump imposed new U.S. sanctions onIran on Monday following Tehran's downing of an unmanned American drone and said the measures would target Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Trump told reporters he was signing an executive order for the sanctions amid tensions between the United States and Iran that have grown since May, when Washington ordered all countries to halt imports of Iranian oil.
Trump also said the sanctions would have been imposed regardless of the incident over the drone. He said the supreme leaders was ultimately responsible for what Trump called "the hostile conduct of the regime."
"Sanctions imposed through the executive order ... will deny the Supreme Leader and the Supreme Leader's office, and those closely affiliated with him and the office, access to key financial resources and support," Trump said.
While it can be difficult to peg down just how star-spangled a state is, one indicator is the rate at which citizens enlist in the military, especially during the United States' longest period of sustained conflict. At least, that's the thinking behind WalletHub's new study, 2019's Most Patriotic States in America.