June 30 (UPI) — The U.S. Air Force reported Thursday that its new Block 5 variant of the MQ-9 Reaper drone has performed its first combat mission against Islamist terrorists.
The recent 16-hour sortie, flown June 23 in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, involved the unmanned aerial vehicle dropping a GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions bomb and firing two AGM-114 Hellfire missiles in support of ground forces in the Middle East.
Operation Inherent Resolve is the U.S. military name given to operations against ISIS fighters.
“Working in conjunction with coalition joint terminal attack controllers, other MQ-9 aircraft and crews, our aircrews employed two Hellfires and one GBU-38,” Maj. Dan, the 432nd Wing director of operations, said in a press release. “All three strikes met the ground force commander’s intent and destroyed two defensive fighting positions, two vehicles and one mortar tube.”
The Block 5 MQ-9 has an enhanced electrical and communications systems that allows the use of better software and hardware upgrades for future.
The variant also features the new Block 30 cockpit that required different training for aircrews on the ground.
The new MQ-9 aircraft arrived at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada late February and quickly received modifications, such as changes to the battery cables and enhanced generator control units. In May, these MQ-9s were flown locally at Creech AFB to test airworthiness and then shipped to the area of responsibility for Operation Inherent Resolve.