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Reaper drops first precision-guided bomb, protects forces

A fully armed MQ-9 Reaper taxis down an Afghanistan runway Nov. 4. The Reaper has flown 49 combat sorties since it first began operating in Afghanistan Sept. 25. It completed its first combat strike Oct. 27, when it fired a Hellfire missile over Deh Rawod, Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)

A fully armed MQ-9 Reaper taxis down an Afghanistan runway Nov. 4. The Reaper has flown 49 combat sorties since it first began operating in Afghanistan Sept. 25. It completed its first combat strike Oct. 27, when it fired a Hellfire missile over Deh Rawod, Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)

SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFPN) -- The MQ-9A Reaper demonstrated it's unique precision strike capability as a hunter-killer attack platform by dropping its first precision-guided bomb Nov. 7.

"The beauty of the MQ-9 Reaper is that we're able to synchronize and integrate unmanned aerial attack platforms over the skies of Afghanistan, allowing us to persistently and consistently track the enemy and ensure that we place the appropriate ordnance on target when required, and maintain that persistent presence after weapons release," said Lt. Gen. Gary North, U.S. Central Command Air Forces commander.

The Reaper, the Air Force's unmanned aerial attack vehicle, was operating over the Sangin region of Afghanistan on the hunt for enemy activity when the crew received a request for assistance from a joint terminal attack controller on the ground. Friendly forces were taking fire from enemy combatants. The JTAC provided targeting data to the pilot and sensor operator, who fly the aircraft remotely from Creech Air Force Base, Nev. The pilot released two GBU-12 500-pound laser-guided bombs, destroying the target and eliminating the enemy fighters.

The ability to carry bombs, in addition to AGM-114K Hellfire missiles, is just one of the features that set the Reaper apart from its smaller brother the MQ-1 Predator.

"The MQ-9 gives us an incredible addition to the arsenal," General North said. "It's larger, carries an increased payload and is able to fly longer, higher and faster. It's an incredible addition to our attack capability in the CENTAF force lay-down."

The Reaper has flown 49 combat sorties since it first began operating in Afghanistan Sept. 25. It completed its first combat strike Oct. 27, when it fired a Hellfire missile over Deh Rawod, Afghanistan, neutralizing enemy combatants. 

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