US Drone Use Over Iraq Soars

Drones over Iraq hit 500K hours
By Caroline Zimmerman,  Newser User
Posted Jan 2, 2008 12:50 PM CST
This image provided by the US Air Force show an RQ-4 Global Hawk Unmanned Aerial Vehicle landing at the base Nov. 3, 2006. The military's reliance on unmanned aircraft that can watch, hunt and sometimes...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – The US military's use of unmanned aircraft in surveillance, reconnaissance, and combat missions has climbed to more than 500,000 flight hours. The drones are mostly deployed in Iraq, but they're being flown remotely by Air Force pilots based in the US. And as troops begin to trickle back home, demand for the drones is just gearing up, the AP finds.

"This war requires a lot of hunting high-value targets," explains one official. To meet the challenge, the US is in the process revamping and enlarging its fleet of Ravens, Predators, Shadows, and Global Hawks, but it's already short on staff. So far, 120 Air Force pilots have been transferred from regular to remote flying duty, and National Guard members are joining the ranks.