The United States armed forces have over 400 UAVs in action, and is planning to spend $2.2 billion on them in the next 12 months, and over $13 billion on UAVs in the next five years. Most of the UAVs currently in use are the small, hand launched ones. These are very popular with Special Forces and ground combat battalions. That because these micro-UAVs give you air reconnaissance when you want it, where you want it. But even brigade and division headquarters are getting that kind of service with the U.S. Armys new, 330 pound, Shadow UAV. There are about two dozen Shadow UAVs in Iraq now, with another ten on the way before the end of the year. Shadows are flying about 2,500 hours a month. There are fewer RQ-1Predator in Iraq, but they are producing about 2,000 flight hours a month. The Predator is still getting used as a warplane. The Department of Defense reported that during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Predators fired 62 Hellfire missiles and provided laser-designation, on 146 targets, for bombers overhead. During the 2001 fighting in Afghanistan, Predators fired 115 Hellfire missiles and provided laser-designation on 525 targets.
In the next few years, the Department of Defense wants to standardize on fewer models of UAVs. But thats proven hard to do so far, as more new ones keep showing up. No matter. If they pass muster with troops tests in the United States, they are shipped overseas where they can help win battles and save lives. Within two years, U.S. troops will be using several thousand UAVs.