Warplanes: February 13, 2005

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The U.S. Air Force is buying fifteen more MQ-1 Predator UAVs, as well as 140 Hellfire missiles to be used on them for hunter-killer missions. Predator has proved to be particularly effective at hunting enemy troops in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other areas where terrorists are being sought. But the air force does not have enough Predators (only 58 are in service now) to fill all the requests. The air force is also spending nearly eight million dollars to get the Viper Strike weapon working on the Predator. Viper Strike is a 36 inch long unpowered glider. The 130mm diameter (with the wings folded) weapon weighs 44 pounds. Because the Viper Strike comes straight down, it is better suited for urban warfare. Its warhead only contains four pounds of explosives, meaning less damage to nearby civilians, while still powerful and accurate enough to destroy its target. A laser designator makes the Viper Strike accurate enough to hit an automobile, or a foxhole. Moreover, a Predator can carry two Viper Strikes in place of a single, hundred pound, Hellfire missile. The air force is eager to get Predators everywhere the army, marines or SOCOM wants them. This is because all of those people are also developing UAVs that can carry Viper Strike, and day/night vidcams. If the air force loses demand for its services, it loses money to buy new aircraft, and hire more people. 

 


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