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Video: US Reaper drone takes out militants who tried to shoot down a C-130

MQ-9 Reaper drone footage. (32nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing at Creech AFB/Released)
April 10, 2020

The U.S. Air Force released a video on Monday showing what happens to hostile militants who attempted to shoot down U.S. forces.

The video shows that the militants fired a rocket-propelled grenade at a C-130 Hercules, missing, and an MQ-9 Reaper stepping in and taking them out 34 minutes later.

The C-130 Hercules airlifter was performing a cargo airdrop at a relatively low altitude on that date. The specific date is unknown, but the militants fired an RPG, almost hitting the C-130. The drone’s pilots and sensor operator, who later struck the hostile forces, offered an interesting behind-the-scenes look in the video at how the unmanned aircraft performed during armed overwatch missions.

The attack was described by 1st Lt. Russell and Airman First Class Ashley, who are both assigned to the 20th Attack Squadron, which is part of the Air Force’s 432nd at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, but is based at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri.

“That day, it was, you know, just like any other day,” Russell said in the video. “Most of the time we’re just watching. We’re collecting information on enemies and just making sure our friendlies are safe. And then sometimes that involves us providing armed overwatch, which is our capability to strike enemies.”

Russell noted that the airdrop was for a location that was severely undersupplied. During the mission, they immediately saw a projectile from the bottom right corner of their screen, he added.

“We have screeners who work with us – they are constantly watching our feed – that helped us confirm that that’s where it was shot from,” Ashley added.

Russell noted that he saw the hostiles leave the building where the RPG was shot from “with large weapons.”

“We know at that point, these are bad guys,” he said. “We know somethings about to happen. We know we need to watch these guys.”

Russell added: “I’m calling the Joint Terminal Attack Controller, or JTAC. I was like ‘hey, this is so-and-so in my MQ-9, we’re supporting this C-130 that did an airdrop, I just saw an RPG shoot across the screen. And his voice immediately changed.”

“He pulled up our feed, started watching it, gave us a game plan nine-line,” Ashley said. “Where he’s [the JTAC} at, he’s talking to his commander, but we are only talking to the JTAC.”

“We found the bad guys on the ground, tracked them for a little bit, and ended up prosecuting [a strike],” Ashley said in the video.

“If we weren’t there for the C-130 drop, the bad guys could have gotten away and that’s the worst scenario,” she added. “They get away free and they do it again and very well could hit their target.”

From the time from the RPG went flying toward the C-130 to when MQ-9 engaged the hostile forces, it took 34 minutes to respond with the counter attack.

“It’s just because there’s a lot of wickets that need to be checked,” Russell clarified.