An MQ-1B Predator crashed in Iraq last year after "significant malfunctions" gradually drove the remotely-piloted aircraft into the ground.
An accident investigation board studying the Jan. 7, 2016, crash found the Predator was conducting a combat support mission when several warning messages alerted the pilot to the malfunctions, including a breakdown of its flight computer memory.
According to the report, released Thursday by Air Combat Command, the memory problems led the Predator to reset, and the datalink connecting it to its operators was lost. The Predator then "began to execute a corrupted emergency mission," the release said, and changed its pitch angle on its own, leading to the crash.
The loss of the Predator — which was assigned to the 432nd Wing at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada and operated by the 20th Attack Squadron at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri — and its munitions cost the government $5.1 million, ACC said.
The report did not specify where the crash took place, aside from saying it was in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility. But the Air Force said it was in Iraq when it initially announced the crash last year.
Lt. Col. Thomas Hancock, president of the accident investigation board, concluded that an anomaly with the flight computer was to blame for the crash. The crew responded appropriately, Hancock said, and there was nothing they could have done to anticipate the malfunctions or save the Predator.