This Heavily-Armed Drone Is Changing The Way America Wages War

MQ-9 Reaper Drone, formerly known as the Predator B

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 nearly 500 miles to a target and linger in the air for 14 hours

A fully-loaded Predator, like this one, weighs 2,250 pounds

The Predator has a wingspan of 48.7 feet, stands almost seven feet tall and is 27 feet long

The Predator can fly at speeds up to 135 miles per hour, but usually cruises along at a more leisurely 80 to 103 mph

The Predator can spy from 25,000 feet above the ground

The 101-horsepower Rotax engine is nearly identical to those used in snowmobiles.

A simple two-blade propeller above the tail provides drive and lift

The Predator requires constant maintenance, just like a manned aircraft

This airman is replacing the multi-spectral targeting system ball, which replaces the camera in armed Predators

The multi-spectral targeting system ball is available in high definition

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 Predator can also carry four air-to-air Stinger or six air-to-surface Griffin missiles

The early, unarmed, model of the Predator needs almost a mile of runway for the controller to land it

One pilot can control several different flights from one location

The CIA recruited the Predator to track Osama bin Laden in 2000

Testing of armed Predators started in February 2001, with a successful hit on a replica of one of bin Laden's homes.

Armed Predators were on the hunt for bin Laden less than a month after 9/11.

The Predator has since taken down Al Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan, Yemen, and Pakistan

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

Muammar Qaddafi was captured and killed shortly after his convoy was hit by a U.S. Predator

U.S. Customs and Border Protection also use the drone to monitor the border with Mexico

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

If the sky belongs to the Predator, then the seas belong to submarines

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