Air Force Reaper drone sinks target at sea for first time, plays nice with F-35

Despite their reputation, armed drones still represent a relatively new form of warfare, meaning that things that may be mundane for manned aircraft are milestones for UCAVs.

That's why the news that an MQ-9 Reaper has successfully taken down a boat is so notable. It marks the first time the Air Force has taken down an at-sea target using a drone, after the Reaper sunk a training vessel with a Hellfire missile last month in the Gulf of Mexico.

The feat was completed during a training mission that also saw the Reapers working, for the first time, with the Air Force's F-35 Lightning II fighters. F-16 fighters and A-10 attack aircraft were also involved in the exercise.

"It was the first time we had put live weapons into boats and participated in maritime [exercises]," said Air Force Capt. Timothy Ford, commander of the 26th Weapons Squadron flight commander, Air Force Times reports. "For our [remotely piloted aircraft] community it's a big step forward, it's a mission set we had looked at for a long time."

As for the work with the F-35s, training officer Capt. Ryan Cross said in an Air Force press release that this marked "the first opportunity for us to fly with the F-35, talk to each other and coordinate attacks between the two platforms and ensure de-confliction while we're doing that."

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