Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Taliban Meet Grim "Reaper"

The newest of America's high tech unmanned but heavily armed drone aircraft has for the first time fired its weapons in anger, using a laser-guided Hellfire missile against the bad guys in Deh Rawod, 70 miles north of Kandahar. The mission is described as successful.

The MQ-9A Reaper Unmanned Aerial Vehicle was remotely piloted by a team of two specialists from Creech Air Force Base in Nevada.

The Reaper is an evolutionary development from its famous predecessor, the Predator, which was the first UAV to launch a weapon in wartime.

In the less than five years since its creation "on spec" by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc., the Predator racked up an impressive record. In just one year it flew nearly 250 sorties totaling 33,000 flight hours, fired 59 missiles and took a look at 18,000 potential targets.

Where the Predator is first and foremost a surveillance vehicle, though one with a real sting, the Reaper's role is more… direct. The Reaper is designed to find and kill targets, the first real hunter-killer, officially described as useful for "close air support, interdiction and special operations."

The Reaper can carry more than twice the armament of the Predator, and has an on-station endurance of more than 24 hours. The Department of Defense has ordered a total of 60 of the aircraft.

According to Jane's, the Department of Homeland Security has one Reaper, used for border patrol. So far it has detected 1,900 targets and assisted in 1,200 arrests.

The Reaper has the ability to loiter on the battlefield for extended periods, looking for and killing targets, while it's own crews keep to normal work schedules and return home from "the office" after each shift. That ability will create a true tipping point, even in asymmetrical warfare.

1 comment:

Dr.D said...

We need about a dozen of these on continuous patrol on the Mexican border with orders to destroy anything coming across from south to north. It would not take too long to slow down the traffic, I think.

On another matter, what do you think is the conventional wisdom about "A Canticle for Liebowitz" and how is it in error? I read the book, but I don't suppose I know what the conventional wisdom is.