Tag Archives: General Atomics MQ-1 Predator

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).

 

Armed U.S. Predator drone appears over Iraq

An MQ-1 Predator drone was filmed near Mosul, Iraq.

Allegedly filmed in the skies over Anbar, south of Mosul, in Iraq, the video below shows what clearly seems to be an MQ-1 Predator.

As some analysts noticed the aircraft appears to be armed with Hellfire missiles, even if the first images are a bit too blurry to say it with certainty. Indeed, the Predator seems to carry at least one AGM-114 on the left hand underwing pylon (the other one is barely visible and could be empty) but it could only be the effect of distortion due to the distance and the drone could also be flying with empty pylons (quite rare, because “pure” reconnaissance missions are usually flown without any pylon and a drone with both empty pylons would mainly point to the event that both missiles have already been fired).

American unmanned aerial systems (UAS) are conducting about 30 – 40 daily reconnaissance missions over Iraq.

 

Video shows Angry Afghan Villagers stoning wreck of U.S. Predator Drone

An American UAS (Unmanned Aerial System) crashes in Afghanistan. Local people stone it.

The following footage made its first appearance on Facebook a couple of days ago.

It allegedly shows what seems to be a group of Afghans stoning the wreck of a (most probably American) MQ-1 Predator drone, while other people cheer and laugh.

It’s almost impossible to determine why, when and where the unmanned aircraft crashed. Still, what can be said is that U.S. drones involved in overseas clandestine missions (in Afghanistan or Iran – do you remember the stealth RQ-170 Sentinel captured by Iran?) don’t carry any marking, serial, roundel etc.

 



H/T to Gian Luca Onnis for the heads-up

 

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[Photo] Iranian F-4 Phantom (as one of those taunted by a U.S. F-22 Raptor in a Top Gun-like encounter)

The following image depics an Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force (IRIAF) F-4E Phantom landing at Tehran – Mehrabad International airport at the end of its test flight over overhaul activity conducted at the local Mehrabad center.

Noteworthy, the image was taken in March 2013, hence in the same days of the weird, Top Gun-like intercept of two F-4s that were getting a bit too close to an American MQ-1 Predator drone flying an intelligence gathering mission in international airspace some 16 miles off Iran: as already reported, Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh explained that an F-22 stealth fighter escorting the UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) silently flew next to the two Iranian Phantoms, checked their armament, popped up on their left wing and then radioed: “you really ought to go home!”

Something like the famous “Watch the birdie” of Goose and Maverick in Top Gun.

Reportedly, F-4E Phantoms of the IRIAF (multi-role aircraft mainly focused on the air-to-surface role), armed with AIM-9Ps and AIM-7E air-to-air missiles fly routine patrol flights over the Persian Gulf.

Image credit: Babak Taghvaee

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U.S. F-22 stealth fighter pilot taunted Iranian F-4 Phantom combat planes over the Persian Gulf

Earlier this year, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little, said that an IRIAF (Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force) F-4 Phantom combat plane attempted to intercept a U.S. MQ-1 drone flying in international airspace off Iran.

As we reported back then, one of the two F-4 Phantom jets came to about 16 miles from the UAV but broke off pursuit after they were broadcast a warning message by two American planes escorting the Predator.

The episode happened in March 2013, few months after a two Sukhoi Su-25 attack planes operated by the Pasdaran (informal name of the IRGC – the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution) attempted to shoot down an American MQ-1 flying a routine surveillance flight in international airspace some 16 miles off Iran, the interception of the unmanned aircraft failed. After this attempted interception the Pentagon decided to escort the drones involved in ISR (intelligence surveillance reconnaissance)  missions with fighter jets (either F-18 Hornets with the CVW 9 embarked on the USS John C. Stennis whose Carrier Strike Group is currently in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility or F-22 Raptors like those deployed to Al Dhafra in the UAE.

New details about the episode were recently disclosed by Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh who on Sept. 17 not only confirmed that the fighter jets providing HVAAE (High Value Air Asset Escort) were F-22 stealth fighters but also said that:

“He [the Raptor pilot] flew under their aircraft [the F-4s] to check out their weapons load without them knowing that he was there, and then pulled up on their left wing and then called them and said ‘you really ought to go home'”

If the episode went exactly as Welsh described it, it was something more similar to Maverick’s close encouter with Russian Mig-28s in Top Gun movie than a standard interception.

It would be interesting to know how the Raptor managed to remain stealth (did they use their radar? were they vectored by an AWACS? etc.) and why it was not the E-2 most probably providing Airborne Early Warning in the area to broadcast the message to persuade the F-4 to pursuit the drone before the Iranian Phantoms and the U.S. Raptors got too close in a potentially dangerous and tense situation?

Anyway the U.S. pilot achieved to scare the Iranian pilots off and save the drone. A happy ending worthy of an action movie.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

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