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MQ-9 Reaper UAV drops first GPS-guided weapon

A test team with the 658th Aeronautical Systems Squadron completed the first live releases of the GPS-guided GBU-49 weapon from an MQ-9 Reaper at the Naval Air Warfare Center--Weapons Division, China Lake, Calif. May 13. (courtesy photo)

The first live releases of the GPS-guided GBU-49 weapon from an MQ-9 Reaper took place May 13 at the Naval Air Warfare Center--Weapons Division, China Lake, Calif. (Courtesy photo)

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- A test team with the 658th Aeronautical Systems Squadron completed the first live releases of the GPS-guided GBU-49 weapon from an MQ-9 Reaper at the Naval Air Warfare Center--Weapons Division, China Lake, Calif. on Tuesday, May 13. 

The 25-member team from the 658th AESS, General Atomics, Aeronautical Systems-Inc., Raytheon, L-3 Communications and NAWC-WD conducted the testing that consisted of six successful GBU-49 releases in one day. 

This test was the first GPS-guided weapon release from the MQ-9 Reaper. The team turned three sorties to drop six weapons in a single day, due to the outstanding efforts of the pilots, sensor operators, maintainers, weapons troops and testers. 

The first two drops were inert weapons to ensure the GBU-49's GPS guidance was working properly. The final release employed four weapons at one time, also known as a ripple, with three weapons on GPS guidance and one weapon which was laser-guided. The three GPS weapons "shacked" (a successful, direct hit on a ground target) their targets and the laser-guided weapon came very close. 

The GBU-49 is a laser-guided, 500-lb bomb much like the GBU-12, but it also includes an on-board GPS kit. The GBU-49 provides the warfighter an all-weather capability to employ a munition with precision without the aid of a laser designator. 

(Steve Yamaguchi , 658th AESG, Operating Location-Detachment 3 Gray Butte, contributed to this article)