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Air Force to double drone squadrons in US, abroad

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December 13
8:14 PM 2015

The Air Force announced Thursday that it plans to more than double its drone squadrons and spread them in and out of the United States.

According to the Washington Times, this will add 3,000 more personnel, 700 pilots, and 700 sensor operators. Langley Air Force Base U.S. Air Combat Command head Gen. Herbert Carlisle said adding squadrons in Langley and Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona could help in the intelligence-gathering tasks. He said the Air Force will coordinate with the Pentagon and the Congress to raise the funds for the additional drones.

Anti War wrote that the Air Force currently has eight drone squadrons. The proposed addition will bring that number to 17. The US used to only carry out drone missions for CIA assassination assignments, but now, it is used for surveillance as well and it has become an official part of the nation's military arsenal.

The project is worth $3 billion, and it needs approval from the Congress, according to Los Angeles Times. The decision came after several months of study on drone pilot force, which commanders described as undermanned, overworked, and underappreciated. 

"Right now, 100% of the time, when a MQ-1 or MQ-9 crew goes in, all they do is combat," said Gen. Carlisle. "So we really have to build the capacity."

The planned expansion follows the intensified airstrikes carried out by the Pentagon against the Islamic State. Personnel manning the MQ-1 Predators and MQ-9 Reapers failed to meet the increasing demand for aerial surveillance missions on hot sport and war zones.

The Air Force currently has 175 Reapers and 150 Predators. Now, it is proposing to add 75 more Reapers. The new pilots and crew will be sent to   Beale Air Force Base near Sacramento, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam near Honolulu, Langley Air Force Base near Newport News, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base near Tucson, and other bases in the country.

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