Photo: Wikipedia Commons
The Predator drone is a key tool in the Pentagon’s War on Terror, logging more than 1 million miles over scores of countries since its 1995 introduction.The drone went from helpful to deadly when it was armed with the Hellfire missile in 2001. It is responsible for taking down dozens of top al Qaeda operatives.
More than 350 have been built over 17 years and they’ve been performing 34 strikes a week this year, in Pakistan alone.
Despite the controversy surrounding their use, and the collateral deaths of innocent civilians incurred during strikes, the use of Predator drones will likely remain a U.S. practice for the indefinite future.
The Predator can fly at speeds up to 135 miles per hour, but usually cruises along at a more leisurely 80 to 103 mph
This airman is replacing the multi-spectral targeting system ball, which replaces the camera in armed Predators
A Predator's crew is split into two teams: the controllers, often in Nevada, and the launch and recovery element, who deploy with the drone
It takes 60 people to launch and recover a Predator. Here, a two man team is loading a Hellfire missile
The Hellfire missile is best for urban combat, because at 100 pounds it's small and minimizes collateral damage
The early, unarmed, model of the Predator needs almost a mile of runway for the controller to land it
Testing of armed Predators started in February 2001, with a successful hit on a replica of one of bin Laden's homes.
Elsewhere in the War on Terror, old Predators were stripped down to trick insurgents into firing at the decoys and revealing their location in the early days of Operation Iraqi Freedom
Predators are also great for humanitarian and rescue missions, helping authorities assess damage and find victims
The Italian Air Force and Philippines National Security Advisor have both jumped on the Predator bandwagon
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