US Air Force Air Combat Command (ACC) has cleared the MQ-1 Predator armed
unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for operational use announcing it has reached
Initial Operating Capability (IOC). This milestone comes after MQ-1 was
successfully deployed during operations Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan, 2001) and
Iraqi Freedom (Iraq, 2003).
IOC announcement is the result of demonstrating eleven key capabilities of MQ-1
Predator, the most important of them aircraft supportability, maintainability
and parts and aircraft availability. The original Predator (RQ-1A) was designed
to be an 'eye-in-the-sky' conducting intelligence, surveillance and
reconnaissance (ISR) missions in support of US military services. It was first
deployed during the middle 1990s on the Balkan theater in the former Federal Republic
MQ-1 differs from previous Predator models due to the addition of a weapons
capability carrying Hellfire anti-tank missiles enabled through advanced sensors
that allow the aircraft's weapon system to acquire ground targets. The MQ-1 is
expected to achieve full operational capability as soon as possible. The US Air
Force gets a primary/interim UAV strike capability through the upgraded
Predator, but in the long term a dedicated UAV for strike missions, being
developed under J-UCAS program, is expected to assume that role for both the US
Navy and the US Air Force.
Officials at Edwards Air Force Base, California, have released that the third
CV-22 test aircraft has been delivered to the US Air Force over there. This
aircraft and its two predecessors are expected to participate in the CV-22
Osprey operational testing program beginning in the summer 2006. The third
aircraft will undergo several week of modifications to install Special
Operations Forces instrumentation to conduct night flying, low altitude
operations in bad weather and search and rescue (SAR) missions. The test program
will include inertial navigation, electronic navigation, multimode radar and
integrated systems evaluations.
The CV-22 Osprey intended for the US Air Force combines the best capabilities of
MH-53 Pave Low helicopter and C-130 tactical transport aircraft. The Osprey
tilt-rotor aircraft can go twice as far as the MH-53 helicopter, taking-off and
landing vertically and flying like an airplane.
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