Tag Archives: General Atomics MQ-1 Predator

Russian combat planes shadowed U.S. Predator drones over Syria three times last week

U.S. Predator drones “intercepted” by Russia’s jets, U.S. fighters rerouted for deconfliction: the airspace over Syria is becoming increasingly dangerous.

As already explained in our article about the close encounter between a flight of U.S. F-16s and one of Russian Air Force Su-34s, which came within 20 miles each other over northwestern Syria, according to Lt. Gen. Charles Brown, commander of the American air campaign in Iraq and Syria, the Russians have come even closer than that to American drones flying in the same areas.

Indeed, if you look at the screenshot published here you’ll easily find the track of some unmanned aerial vehicles (in green color) operating along the border between Turkey and Syria: until a real coordination is put into place between U.S. and Russia, there is some risk of jets and UAVs from both parties interfering with one another.

So, it’s not really surprising what Fox News unveiled today: Russian jets deployed to Latakia, Syria, shadowed U.S. Predator drones on at least three separate occasions since the start of Russia’s air campaign last week.

According to defense officials who talked to Fox News, the RuAF jets have (quite obviously) not attempted to shoot down the drones but flew “intercept tracks” to get closer to and shadow the unmanned aircraft.

It would be nice to know whether the Russians briefly used their own radars (exposing valuable data about the way their antennas work to ESM platform operating in the same area) to spot the Predators or just got in visual contact with them and maneuvered to “intercept” the drones.

In 2013, the U.S. Air Force started escorting its Predators flying off Iran, after the drones were harassed by Iranian fighter jets trying to shoot them down: during a famous close encounter over the Persian Gulf an F-22 Raptor pilot taunted two Iranian F-4Es that were trying to intercept an American MQ-1.

Interestingly, Russian planes forced a U.S. combat plane to slightly modify its route for proper deconfliction: “it changed the flight path a little bit” U.S. Navy Captain Jeff Davis told reporters.

The situation could get even worse in the following days, considered that the Russian contingent is going to receive three more Su-30SM, as announced by the Russia’s MoD on social media.

Update: it looks like the above mentioned additional Su-30s are being deployed to Crimea.

In the last few days, the Turkish Air Force reported several violations of their airspace by a Russian Su-30SM and a Su-24; in at least two different incidents, TuAF F-16s were locked on by foreign fighter jets (a RuAF Flanker and a mysterious, “unidentified” Mig-29).

Image credit: Russian MoD

U.S. drone crashed in Syria. Probably shot down by a Syrian SA-3 surface to air missile

An MQ-1 Predator crashed in Syria. According to Syria state media it was shot down by Syrian air defenses.

The U.S. lost contact with an unarmed MQ-1 Predator drone on Mar. 17.

Whilst Pentagon officials could not confirm whether the aircraft was shot down or crashed because of a failure, the Syrian SANA news agency reported that the unmanned aerial vehicle was shot down in the Latakia province by the Syrian air defenses.

Indeed, images of the wreckage of an aerial vehicle were later posted on social media: provided the photographs were really taken at the crash site, they show parts of the UAV (including a wheel of the landing gear) along with parts of what seems to be the body an S-125 Neva/Pechora (NATO reporting name SA-3 Goa) Soviet surface-to-air missile system: this may confirm the version of the Syrian State Media according to which the MQ-1, most probably operating out of Incirlik airbase, in Turkey, was shot down.

The event is interesting for several reasons:

1) it proves U.S. drones perform ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) missions in a region (on the western coast of Syria) currently not interested by the air strikes targeting the Islamic State. Monitoring jihadist activities in the area? Keeping an eye on the fightings between rebels and loyalist forces? Monitoring shipments that reach Syria via sea?

2) if the shot down is confirmed, it proves that Assad fires back and Syrian air defenses can pose a threat to manned and unmanned aircraft that operate inside the Syrian airspace.

3) the area where the drone was allegedly shot down is the same where a Turkish RF-4E jet was shot down by a coastal air defense battery.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

 

MQ-1C Predator footage of repatriation of Italian nationals from Libya

An Italian Air Force MQ-1C Predator A+ escorted the ships involved in the repatriation of Italian nationals from Libya.

On Feb. 15, Italy announced the closure of the Libya embassy and the orderly repatriation of nationals from the North African country as a consequence of the IS advance.

The 100 Italian citizens were ferried to the port of Augusta, in Sicily, by the Maltese ferryboat “San Gwann”, which was escorted by the Italian Navy “Carlo Bergamini” FREMM (European multipurpose frigate) and by a Predator A+ of the Italian Air Force.

Belonging to the 28th Gruppo (Squadron) of the 32° Stormo (Wing) based at Amendola, in southeastern Italy, the MQ-1C Predator A+ acted as “On Scene Eye” and filmed the entire operation, monitoring any suspect activity in the vicinity of the ships and near the convoy which brought the Italians to the Tripoli harbor.

Here’s the footage recorded by the Predator.

The Italian Air Force operates a mixed force of 6 MQ-9 Reaper and 6 MQ-1C Predator A+ both assigned to the 28° Gruppo (Squadron) of the 32° Stormo (Wing) at Amendola airbase.

The Italian drones have flown ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance missions) as well as MEDEVAC (Medical Evacuation), support to TIC (Troops In Contact), IED (Improvised Explosive Devices) monitoring and Convoy Escort in Iraq and Afghanistan; they have supported Operation Unified Protector in Libya, Mare Nostrum operation in the Mediterranean Sea near Lampedusa (where they have monitored the migratory flows and consequent tragic ship wreckage off the island) and they are also currently deployed in Kuwait (to support the US-led anti-ISIS operation in Syria and Iraq) and Djibouti, where they are used to monitor the seas off the coast of Somalia in anti-piracy missions.

Leveraging their persistence on the target area (up to 20 hours), the drones will now enable Police forces to monitor major events and support anti-crime and riot-control operations.

Top image and video credit: Italian Air Force

Italian Police Forces to use Air Force’s Predator drones

Italian Police and Military Police can use Italian Air Force Predator drones for a wide variety of missions.

On Nov. 26, the Polizia (Police), Carabinieri (Military Police) and the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force) signed a deal for the use of the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems) in various urban activities as well as to support relief operations in case of natural disasters.

The Italian Air Force operates a mixed force of 6 MQ-9 Reaper and 6 MQ-1C Predator A+ both assigned to the 28° Gruppo (Squadron) of the 32° Stormo (Wing) at Amendola airbase.

The Italian drones have flown ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance missions) as well as MEDEVAC (Medical Evacuation), support to TIC (Troops In Contact), IED (Improvised Explosive Devices) monitoring and Convoy Escort in Iraq and Afghanistan; they have supported Operation Unified Protector in Libya, Mare Nostrum operation in the Mediterranean Sea near Lampedusa (where they have monitored the migratory flows and consequent tragic ship wreckages off the island) and they are also currently deployed in Kuwait (to support the US-led anti-ISIS operation in Syria and Iraq) and Djibouti, where  they are used to monitor the seas off the coast of Somalia in anti-piracy missions.

Leveraging their persistence on the target area (up to 20 hours), the drones will now enable Police forces to monitor major events and support anti-crime and riot-control operations.

Italian Air Force Predators have already flown similar missions during the G8 summit in 2009 when they contributed to the event’s security; among all the other things, a Predator provided real-time imagery of the Obama motorcade from Pratica di Mare airbase (where the Air Force One had landed) to L’Aquila, the location chosen for the meetings.

Image credit: EUNAVFOR

 

This is how Italian Tornado jets and Predator drones will contribute to the war on ISIS

Along with the KC-767s, already supporting the coalition forces with an aerial refueling capability, Rome has committed four Tornado IDS and two Predator drones to the war on ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

The Italian Air Force is about to move four Tornado IDS attack planes, belong to the 6° Stormo, from Ghedi airbase, to Kuwait, to join the US-led coalition that is fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria. According to DefenseNews, the aircraft are going to be based at Ahmed Al Jaber air base in Kuwait, the same country where Rome has deployed one of its brand new KC-767 tankers.

The aircraft will not be used to perform air strikes (although they could join the raids at a later stage as happened to the AMX in Afghanistan), but will perform reconnaissance mission: a role the Tornados have already undertook in Libya and Afghanistan.

For this kind of mission, the aircraft usually carry a Rafael Reccelite reconnaissance pod: the Reccelite is a Day/Night electro-optical pod able to provide real-time imagery collection. It is made of a stabilized turret, solid-state on board recorder that provides image collections in all directions, from high, medium and low altitudes.

Reccelite

The Reccelite reconnaissance pod is used to broadcast live video imagery via datalink to ground stations and to ROVER (Remote Operations Video Enhanced Receiver) tactical receivers in a range of about 100 miles.

The pod can also be carried by the AMX ACOL, the light tactical jet that has performed close air support/air interdiction and ISR missions in support of ISAF from 2009 until the summer of 2014.

Also based in Kuwait are two MQ-1C Predator A+ from Amendola airbase, that are tasked with ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) missions in Iraq.

The Italian Air Force operates a mixed force of 6 MQ-9 Reaper and 6 MQ-1C Predator both assigned to the 28° Gruppo (Squadron) of the 32° Stormo (Wing).

The Italian UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems) have already operated in Iraq between January 2005 and 2006 when the first RQ-1 Predator A was deployed to Tallil airbase, in Iraq.
Later, two Predator A+ (designated MQ-1C A+ a standard to which all the former RQ-1 were upgraded) were deployed to Herat, in Afghanistan, to perform a wide array of missions: mainly MEDEVAC (Medical Evacuation), support to TIC (Troops In Contact), IED (Improvised Explosive Devices) monitoring and Convoy Escort.

The Italian unarmed drones will probably be involved in High Value Target surveillance and Reconnaissance (and, maybe special ops support).

MQ-1C

Although it was not disclosed, most probably Predators will be employed in Iraq as they were employed in Afghanistan: in accordance with the so-called Remote Split Operations (RSO). During RSO, aircraft is launched from a local, in theater airbase, under direct line-of-sight control of the local MGCS (Mobile Ground Control Station).

Then, by means of satellite data link, it is taken on charge and guided from Amendola. When the assigned mission is completed, it is once again handed over to a pilot in Afghanistan, who lands it back to Herat airbase. The 1-second delay introduced by the satellite link is not compatible with the most delicate phases of flight; hence, aircraft are launched and recovered in line-of-sight by the deployed MCGS (US drones use the same kind of remote control).