The Reaper, the Air Force's unmanned aerial attack vehicle, was operating over the Sangin region of Afghanistan on the hunt for enemy activity when the crew received a request for assistance from a joint terminal attack controller on the ground. Friendly forces were taking fire from enemy combatants. The JTAC provided targeting data to the pilot and sensor operator, who fly the aircraft remotely from Creech Air Force Base, Nev. The pilot released two GBU-12 500-pound laser-guided bombs, destroying the target and eliminating the enemy fighters.
(Some of the details in the article above, from the “official web site of the United States Air Force”, differ from those in the story as reported by the Air Force Times. And The Register has its own take.)
Depending on which particular UAV was involved in this story from last week, the Reaper's first use in combat might have been particularly tragic:
Posted by jjwiseman at November 21, 2007 02:46 PM
Extraordinarily keen observation by a British Royal Navy officer narrowly averted a potentially tragic friendly fire engagement using a Predator or Reaper UAV.
The UAV operator had been given clearance to engage the targets – a group of 7-10 men - in an operational theater. The men had been identified as hostile forces.
The navy officer, believed to be working as part of a joint US-UK UAV force operating from Creech AFB, Nevada, noticed that the men, while dressed in local attire, did not actually walk in the same manner.
This single observation led to the potential engagement being called off. The group were in fact special forces.