On Wednesday the General Atomics MQ-9A Reaper unmanned attack vehicle dropped its first precision-guided bombs in anger, not long after the combat debut of the MQ-9/Hellfire combination.
France is buying the Lockheed Martin Hellfire II missile system to give its 40 Tiger HAD (Hélicoptère d’Appui Destruction) helicopters a versatile precision attack capability. The purchase is being handled under U.S. Foreign Military Sales and will be complete by 2012. Eurocopter has already begun integration of the Hellfire II on to the Tiger HAD version, working under contract to the European Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation.
Earlier this month, the California-based General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) passed a significant milestone when it undertook the first flight of a preproduction Sky Warrior unmanned vehicle.
In May L-3 Link Simulation and Training division delivered the first five of seven Predator Mission Aircraft Training Systems (PMATS) to the U.S. Air Force’s main UAV center at Creech AFB, Indian Springs, Nevada. PMATS provides Predator pilots and systems operators with fully immersive, mission-based training and is the first high-fidelity training system for UAVs to be adopted by the USAF.
With the air war in Iraq increasingly dominated by close-air support (CAS) operations and the need to engage rapidly emerging targets in heavily populated areas, the use of unmanned aerial vehicles armed with precision weapons has also increased. Before and during Operation Iraqi Freedom, U.S. Air Force Predator UAVs routinely carried weapons, and the practice has now become an everyday part of U.S. military operations.
EDO Corp. (Stand ADT 117) is to provide a weapon carriage and release system for the U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Predator B unmanned aircraft. The initial design and development contract from General Atomics Aeronautical Systems is worth just $1.4 million, but EDO noted that it plans production of “well over” 100 Predator Bs.
The UK Ministry of Defence is preparing to issue an Urgent Operational Requirement (UOR) for an unmanned aerial surveillance system to help British troops fight Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan. Some–maybe all–of the likely contending systems are on display here.
Once the exclusive domain of the military and, with few exceptions, flying outside controlled airspace, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are now slowly nudging their noses under the civil tent. Already, USAF RQ-4 Global Hawks routinely fly across the U.S.
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