Murphy's Law: Eyes On The Battlefield


January 4, 2008: In the course of 2007, the U.S. Air Force doubled its use of UAVs in Iraq, especially the Predator and Reaper. At the start of the year, these UAVs averaged half a dozen sorties a day. But the end of the year, that was up to 18. The army used its Raven micro-UAVs twice as much. During the peak months of the surge battles, the Ravens, and the less numerous (and much larger) Shadow 200s, averaged over a thousand hours in the air each day. Thus while the number of combat troops increased by a third, the use of UAVs doubled.

Ground commanders, down to the company level, have come to depend on having a UAV overhead, showing them a birds eye view of the battlefield. This has changed warfare in a fundamental way, because never before have so many combat commanders had this capability on a regular basis.

The air force has also been flying ambush missions with armed Predators. If the UAVs spot the enemy on the ground setting up a roadside bomb or firing a mortar, a Hellfire missile quickly puts an end to that hostile activity. As this happened with increasing frequency, many Sunni Arab nationalists (trying to regain control of the country), became discouraged, and this was one reason why many of them switched sides in the course of the year.


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