Friday, March 30, 2007

Air Force: 53 of 139 Predator unmanned vehicles lost

The Air Force has lost about 40 percent of its Predator unmanned aircraft and lacks enough trained crews to meet the demand for battlefield surveillance in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to military officials and analysts.

The Predator’s success in spotting enemy activity has become an important asset for troops in the field. Commanders ask for Predator surveillance three times more than the Air Force can deliver, said Lt. Col. Matthew Bannon, chief of unmanned aerial systems at Langley Air Force Base, Va.

This year, Predator flight hours are expected to exceed 70,000 hours, more than triple the total in 2003, the war’s first year.

“If you asked me if we had enough people — pilots, sensor operators, mission coordinators, etc. — I would tell you no,” Bannon said in an e-mail interview.

Of the 139 Predators delivered to the Air Force, 53 have been lost, records show.

Read the rest at Air Force Times