November 16, 2007:
Predator UAVs can stay in the air for about twenty hours at a time. Most of
their missions are completed in less time than that. Seemed a waste to land the
bird when it has 5-10 (or more) hours of fuel left. Some of the Predator ground
crews noted that it would be real nice if someone could keep an eye on the
places from which mortars and rockets are often fired at them. The bad buys
tend to use the same firing locations again and again. So it was arranged to
use the UAVs leftover hours to run a stake-out on the usual firing locations.
If someone was seen setting up a mortar or rockets, the Predator could either
launch one of its Hellfire missiles, or call in artillery or mortar fire.
Troops or police can be sent as well, to perhaps catch the crews. The guys who
operate the Predators were glad to help out, as they were safe back in the
United States. Only the ground crews were out in the combat zone. The Predator
stakeout is run against locations that army intelligence has found to be most
frequently used. Most times that mortars or rockets are fired, they are picked
up on a radar that can calculate the firing position. But by then, the firing
crews are on their way. To nail these guys, you have to spot them before they
fire. The Predators are also sent to stakeout areas where roadside bombs are likely
to be set up as well.