Saturday, June 07, 2008

Bad news for jihadis: Brits flying Reaper drones, too

While I have mixed feelings over the future of unmanned (unpersoned?) strike aircraft, their effectiveness cannot be denied. Not to mention the added benefit of keeping more of our fighting men and women out of harm's way.

We've been using Predator UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) and its follow-on, the Reaper, for several years now, most notably in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now the Brits have joined the club, having just purchased three Reapers from the US, and recently taking out a high-value Taliban target...from a control center in Nevada. The Brits are due to soon purchase a control system of their own and operate their UAVs from a control center in the UK.

UAVs have the capability of greatly reducing the monetary -- and more importantly, the human -- costs of waging aerial warfare. The aircraft and their ground crews still have to deploy to locations close to the action, but the pilots and weapons and sensor systems specialists can remain at their home stations, thousands of miles away.

We used to joke in my Air Force days that the Air Force was the only branch of the service smart enough to send mainly its officers (pilots are all officers) into combat. Seeing that the ground crews are mostly enlisted, I guess that's another Air Force tradition that'll die off.

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