Drone flight time soars in Afghanistan

June 18, 2010 at 10:57 AM
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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, June 18 (UPI) -- Nearly half of the flight time for remotely piloted aircraft in Afghanistan was flown in the past year, U.S. Air Force officials said in Kandahar.

The U.S. Air Force said it 62nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron in Kandahar topped 250,000 hours of flight time with its unmanned MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper drone aircraft.

Soldiers use a satellite link with flight crews based in the United States or Britain to deploy the UAVs on the battlefield for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

With combat operation under way for U.S. President Barack Obama's war strategy for Afghanistan, Lt. Col. Morgan Curry, commander of the 62nd ERS, said flight time has increased, the U.S. Air Force reports.

"Forty-eight percent of our five-year total was flown in the past 12 months," he said.

The MQ-1 Predator carries a laser targeting system for its two AGM-114 Hellfire anti-tank missiles. The MQ-9 Reaper, for its part, boasts what the Air Force describes as "persistent hunter-killer ability."

Both vehicles are developed by California defense contractor General Atomics.

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