According to the official Multi-National Force website, the U.S. Army's newest UAV has made two confirmed kills in Iraq. The Armed Warrior Alpha Unmanned Aerial System fired its missiles for the first time recently, and two insurgents were neutralized in the process.
The ground team responsible for the Warrior Alpha is comprised of Staff Sergeant Jerry Rhoades, Corporal Phillip Cheng and Specialist James Pegg. Traditionally, the team and their drone are strictly reconnaissance. Whenever the drone would spot enemy activity, an air strike or helicopter would be called in to finish the job. In this case, the drone was surveillance two insurgents who started attacking nearby coalition troops on the ground.
The ground crew and UAV are part of the ODIN unit in Iraq. ODIN is a formerly classified unit that combines manned and unmanned surveillance planes and helicopters to track down and destroy IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices).
“Say we see someone emplacing IEDs,” said SSgt. Rhoades. “If we can see it, our customer can see it, and they can call in a team to diffuse it - but that puts ground troops in harm’s way. If we have Hellfires [missiles] on board, we can get authorization, take out the whole emplacement, and no ground troops get injured.”
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) have been in combat for the last several years. Besides the CIA using Predator UAVs for remote airstrikes in Afghanistan, their duty has been strictly reconnaissance - until now. Now that the Warrior Alpha has proved itself in combat, regular use of such UAVs in offensive and defensive capacities is more likely. Anything that will keep more ground troops out of harms way is a welcome idea to the armed forces.