Crew error and datalink issues caused an MQ-1B to crash Feb. 2, 2016, in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility, according to an Air Combat Command Abbreviated Accident Investigation Board report released Jan. 30, 2018.
The MQ-1B was assigned to the 432nd Wing at Creech Air Force Base, Nev., and operated by a launch and recovery element from the 414th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron at a deployed location in the AOR. The remotely piloted aircraft was conducting a combat support mission at the time of the incident.
The board president found by a preponderance of the evidence the cause of the mishap was the failure to execute the checklist procedure for a loss of usable C-band downlink above 2,000 Feet AGL, leading to ill-informed control inputs and a subsequent unrecoverable departure from controlled flight. The board president also indicated the underperforming turbocharger of the RPA was a distraction for the pilot and sensor operator, which substantially contributed to the failure to follow checklist procedures.
The underperforming turbocharger was identified during the flight, leading to the decision for the RPA to return to base. During the descent, the launch and recovery element experienced degraded video and telemetry, indicative of a degraded C-band datalink. This led to the heads up display information to be unreliable to make informed control inputs to the RPA. The pilot and sensor operator continued to enter commands, but caused the RPA to execute a left yaw and roll, which resulted in a departure from controlled flight.
The RPA entered into an unrecoverable spin leading to the crash.
The estimated cost of the aircraft and its munitions was $4.1 million.