August 6, 2008 The MQ-9 Reaper, a hunter-killer UAV with long loitering capability, has completed its first operational mission in Iraq. The craft has been used in Afghanistan since 2007, clocking 3,800 hours and attacking 16 targets with 500-pound bombs and Hellfire missiles.

The combination of payload capacity and loiter endurance makes the Reaper highly valuable in Iraq, where it is expected to significantly enhance the strike and close-air-support capabilities of air forces. The long loiter capability will be used to establish a “persistent stare” over targets, while its armaments allow it to be drawn into conflict when necessary.

Lt. Gen. Gary L North, the Combined Force Air Component commander, says: "The Reaper, as a close-air-support asset, expands beyond the concept of persistent stare to one of persistent strike. If the ground commander wants us to strike an enemy target, we can do that with precision weapons from the Reaper at the exact point where the ground commander wants a desired effect. It's an incredibly powerful and flexible capability for the warfighting commander."

The Reaper is fully integrated into existing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance architecture employed by the MQ-1 Predator. U.S. Air Force Central's Combined Air and Space Operations Center will plan and execute Reaper sorties in Iraq based on information forwarded from ground commanders.

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