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Monday, September 10, 2007

Caught in the act: New drone kills two insurgents planting IED

BAGHDAD A new unmanned aerial vehicle has conducted its first successful attack mission for the U.S. Army in Iraq.

The Hunter UAV killed two Iraqi insurgents in a mission in the Nineveh province on Sept. 1.

Officials said the Hunter, manufactured by the state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries, tracked and fired precision munitions that killed the insurgents as they sought to place an improvised explosive device along a major thoroughfare near Qayyarah.

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Officials said a scout weapons team from the army's 2nd Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment, 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, observed the two suspected insurgents near a road. The team requested support from the Hunter UAV, which was guided to the scene and dropped its precision munitions.

Both men were killed, Middle East Newsline reported.

"It's very humbling to know that we have set an army historical mark in having the first successful launch in combat from an army weaponized UAV," Capt. Raymond Fields, commander of the Unmanned Aerial Surveillance Company, said.

The U.S. Army received the first Hunter UAVs in 1993 in a contract with IAI. After management difficulties, the project was taken over by Northrop Grumman, which has enhanced the Hunter UAV to conduct combat missions.

"I think that this success will set the tone for army aviation in years to come," Fields said. "We will see more weaponized army unmanned vehicles being used instead of manned platforms to save not only our aviator brethren, but our army ground brethren from enemy contact."

Officials said the Hunter has been the army's UAV workhorse. They said the successful mission would increase the use of Hunter for attack operations in Iraq. The Hunter has been equipped with Viper anti-tank munitions.

"This accomplishment adds a precise and discriminate means for our army to successfully engage the enemy in counterinsurgency warfare," Col. A.T. Ball, commander, 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, said on Sept. 8.

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