U.S. Predators take aim at mobile missile units in South

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

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.

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