The Predator unmanned aircraft are being flown with the Iraqi government’s permission, the admiral said during a regular Pentagon briefing. There are 90 U.S. service members on six teams assessing conditions in and around Baghdad. Another 90 Americans are setting up the joint operations center in Baghdad.
The aircraft are flying between 30 and 40 missions a day in and around Baghdad, Kirby said. The information gathered will feed into the team assessments and the information is being shared with Iraqi forces.
The president has made no decisions about the use of kinetic force, Kirby said, “but it would be irresponsible for us not to be planning, preparing and thinking and to be ready in case he should make that decision.”
The MQ-1B Predator is an armed, multi-mission, medium-altitude, long-endurance remotely piloted aircraft that is employed primarily as an intelligence-collection asset and secondarily against dynamic execution targets. Given its significant loiter time, wide-range sensors, multi-mode communications suite, and precision weapons, it provides a unique capability to perform strike, coordination and reconnaissance (SCAR) against high-value, fleeting, and time-sensitive targets.
The Predator carries the Multi-Spectral Targeting System, which integrates an infrared sensor, color/monochrome daylight TV camera, image-intensified TV camera, laser designator and laser illuminator. The full-motion video from each of the imaging sensors can be viewed as separate video streams or fused. The aircraft can employ two laser-guided missiles, Air-to-Ground Missile-114 Hellfire, that possess highly accurate, low-collateral damage, and anti-armor, anti-personnel engagement capabilities.
The AGM-114 Hellfire is an air-to-surface missile (ASM) developed primarily for anti-armor use. The missile has multi-mission, multi-target precision-strike capability, and can be launched from multiple air, sea, and ground platforms. The Hellfire missile is fitted with an High Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT) 9 kg tandem anti-armor warhead. It has an operational range from 500 m to 8 km.