Army’s Sky Warrior Alpha UAV takes out insurgent force during battle in Iraq

CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, Iraq–An armed Sky Warrior Alpha unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), operated by soldiers in the U.S. Army’s Task Force ODIN, has become the first unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to fire missiles in combat.

Apr 1st, 2009
Th Army 01

By Courtney E. Howard

CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, Iraq–An armed Sky Warrior Alpha unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), operated by soldiers in the U.S. Army’s Task Force ODIN, has become the first unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to fire missiles in combat.

The armed Warrior Alpha unmanned aerial system (UAS) was providing surveillance in the Diyala province of Iraq, in support of a cavalry regiment of the U.S. Army’s 25th Infantry Division.

Enemy forces attacked U.S. and coalition forces on Feb. 23, and a team of U.S. soldiers from Alpha Troop, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade of the Army’s 10th Mountain Division destroyed the attackers with a missile fired from the Sky Warrior Alpha unmanned air vehicle, say officials in Multi-National Force – Iraq (MNF-I), a coalition of nations fighting the war against Iraqi terrorists.

Operating the Warrior Alpha unmanned aerial systems at the time were Staff Sgt. Jerry Rhoades, Cpl. Phillip Cheng, and Spc. James Pegg. “We neutralized both targets; [the ground forces] were satisfied,” Rhoades explains.


A Warrior Alpha unmanned aerial vehicle with Task Force ODIN at Contingency Operating Base Speicher in Iraq is one of the air reconnaissance aircraft used by 25th Combat Aviation Brigade in missions against anti-Iraqi forces.
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This event marked the first time the Warrior Alpha engaged a target in combat. “We know we have the capability, but we’ve never had the opportunity to use it before,” adds Cheng.

The Sky Warrior Alpha–from General Atomics Aeronautical Systems in Poway, Calif., and “Team Sky Warrior” partners AAI Corp. in Hunt Valley, Md., and L-3 Communication Systems-West in Salt Lake City–is a variant of the Predator UAV. The extended-range, multi-mission UAS is an intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) asset and strike aircraft designed for military applications. The drone is capable of long-endurance missions spanning roughly 40 hours and can carry electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR), synthetic aperture radar, laser range-finder designator, and laser target marker payloads.

The UAS can be outfitted with solid-state digital avionics, EO/IR for day/night and all-weather surveillance, global positioning system (GPS) and inertial navigation system (INS) components, Lynx synthetic aperture radar (SAR) sensors, and Ku satellite communications (SATCOM).

Military officials anticipate that Task Force ODIN operators will use Warrior Alpha weapons more frequently, now that it has been proven effective in combat.

Task Force ODIN (an acronym for Observe, Detect, Identify, and Neutralize) is a United States Army aviation battalion based in Fort Hood, Texas, which employs drones, manned surveillance planes, helicopters, and video downlinks to hunt, track, and kill roadside bomb cells.

“Say we see someone emplacing IEDs,” Rhoades proposes. “If we have Hellfires [missiles] on board, we can get authorization, take out the whole emplacement, and no ground troops get injured.”

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