The MQ-9 Reaper is loaded, but there’s no one on board. Its pilot, as it bombs targets in Iraq and Afghanistan, will sit at a video console 7,000 miles away in Nevada. Although remote controlled unmanned aircrafts are used for years now, offensive drones are something new. The U.S. Navy is referring to its MQ-9s as “Mariners”.
“The Reaper is a significant evolution in capability for the Air Force,” said Gen. T. Michael Moseley, Air Force chief of staff. “We’ve taken these aircraft from performing mainly as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms to carrying out true hunter-killer missions.” thus the official website of the US Air force.
On October 28, 2007 the AirForce Times reported an MQ-9 had achieved its first ‘kill’, firing a Hellfire missile against “Afghanistan insurgents in the Deh Rawood region of the mountainous Oruzgan province. The strike was “successful”, the United States Central Command Air Forces said.
“It’s a tremendous increase in our capability that will allow us to keep UAVs over the airspace of Afghanistan and Iraq in the future for a very long time,” said Lt. Gen. Gary North, commander of U.S. Central Command Air Forces, who said the Reaper was a perfect complement to the Air Force’s existing manned airborne platforms. “This is just another evolutionary step where technology is helping commanders on the battlefield to integrate great effects from the air into the ground commander’s scheme of maneuver.”