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Oct. 2, 2012—The Air Force's Miniature Air Launched Decoy is a veteran of combat. Or, then again, maybe not.

In a press release last week from decoy-maker Raytheon, a company executive referred to the decoy as "combat-proven."

That was news to us since we were aware of no previous Air Force or company declaration of this seemingly important milestone.

Air Combat Command did not refute the claim, but declined to provide the Daily Report with any details, citing operational security.

"We cannot discuss operational details of MALD employment since such information would decrease our ability to effectively employ the system," said an ACC spokesman on Sept. 28.

A Raytheon spokeswoman said "we cannot say that MALD is combat-proven," when asked on Oct. 1 to confirm the veracity of the executive's statement. She said the phrase should not have appeared in the company's press release and referred further questions to ACC. (Of note: Companies usually seek Air Force permission before issuing details on their weapons systems.)

While the Air Force has had sufficient MALD assets on hand for more than two years to support real-world operations—meaning the decoys were in the inventory in time to support NATO air operations over Libya in 2011—it was not until July that ACC formally approved the decoys for use in combat.

It's not unprecedented for the Air Force to utilize a weapon system before the formal declaration that it's combat-ready. Just take, for example, the MQ-1 Predator, RQ-4 Global Hawk, and E-8C JSTARS. The service employed each of them successfully in combat prior to the milestone known as initial operational capability.

MALD is designed to mimic the flight characteristics of friendly strike aircraft in order to fool enemy air defenses and help protect friendly aircrews.

The B-52 and F-16 carry MALD.

When asked about the MALD's performance thus far, the ACC spokesman said the command "is very pleased" with it. He noted that the decoy has "surpassed all threshold requirements and continues to be a valuable weapon-system."