Breaking Defense: Reaper Drones: The New Close Air Support Weapon
CREECH AIR FORCE BASE: Over two days of briefings here by everyone from pilots to maintainers to the operations group commander of the 432nd Wing, one message rang out loud and clear: the Reaper has grown into a key Close Air Support (CAS) tool for the US military and should not be viewed primarily as an Intelligence, Surveillance, & Reconnaissance (ISR) asset.
How well has the MQ-9 performed as a CAS weapon since first being widely used in that way in Sirte, Libya from last August to December? “In an urban CAS environment, we absolutely give the A-10 a run for its money for who is the better urban CAS platform. I realize that is a bold statement, but Colin, our men and women and their equipment are a formidable combination,” 432nd Wing operations commander Col. Joe (we agreed not to use last names for security reasons) tells me in his fairly spartan office on this isolated base.
A-10 supporters, whose fervor can sometimes seem religious, need not worry that the MQ-9 is going to supplant the A-10 in other situations — yet. “In other CAS environments though, the MQ-9 isn’t where the A-10 is at. The A-10 has more weapons and the 30mm gun can do things we can’t do,” he concedes, a former F-16 pilot himself.
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WNU Editor: It's ability to stay in the air for hours is definitely an asset .... but it does not have the fire power that an A-10 has.