The United States has deployed the Predator unmanned
air vehicle for combat missions in Iraq.
U.S. officials said Predator units have been organized for a range of
combat duties in southern Iraq. They include the location of Iraqi forces
and the targeting of mobile units.
The U.S. Air Force has used two Predator models in Iraq. "The RQ-1 model
is used for reconnaissance, while the MQ-1 model is used as an unmanned
strike platform," Lt. Col. Brian Pierson, chief of reconnaissance operations
at the Combined Air Operations Center located in Qatar, said.
The first Predator combat mission took place on Saturday near Al Amarah,
which is on the Tigris River north of Basra. The Predator MQ-1 fired a
Hellfire-2 AGM-114K anti-tank missile and struck an Iraqi anti-aircraft
artillery piece, , Middle East Newsline reported.
The Predator's target was identified as an Iraqi ZSU-23-4 mobile
anti-aircraft artillery gun. The ZSU-234 is equipped with self-contained
radar for detecting and tracking airborne targets.
Officials said the Predator strike was successful. They termed the
Iraqi artillery as a significant threat to U.S. and British aircraft that
were operating in the area.
Predator UAVs were first deployed for combat missions in Afghanistan and
Yemen. Over the last year, the U.S. Air Force carried out a series of tests
to determine whether Predators and other UAVs can fire air-to-surface
missiles toward targets.