Intelligence: The Predator's Own

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September 12, 2006: As the U.S. Air Force hustles to create a fifteen Predator UAV squadron force, it also created an intelligence squadron just to deal with the flood of videos, and other sensor data, that Predators provide. The 11th Intelligence Squadron will be part of the Air Force Special Operations Forces, (AFSOC). While AFSOC only has one Predator squadron of its own, the 11th Intelligence Squadron will receive videos from other Predator, and other type UAV squadrons.
The 11th Intelligence Squadron has tool and equipment which can quickly examine video, and other sensor data, quickly determine who needs what, and pass it on. Often, Predators are dedicated to a specific mission, and the video goes directly to the commanders on the ground. But most of the time, Predators on are patrol, and the additional intelligence resources will make sure that whatever is down there, gets detected as soon as possible.
The air force has bought about 250 Predators so far, and about a third of those are not yet delivered. Most of the ones in use are Predator A's, which cost $4.5 and can stay in the air for up to 40 hours. Most of those still on order are $9 million Predator Bs, which can carry more than two Hellfire missiles (actually, it can carry 500 pound smart bombs).
Each Predator squadron has at least twelve UAVs, and sometimes as many as 24. Squadrons have 400-500 personnel. Only about two thirds of those troops go overseas with the UAVs. The rest stay behind in the United States, and fly the Predators via a satellite link.
In practice, each Predator averages about 110 hours in the air each month. Each aircraft flies 6-7 sorties a month, each one lasting 17-18 hours on average.

 


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