The Air Force
is seeking the acceleration in fielding of Combat Air Patrols
(CAP) maintained by MQ-1
armed Predator Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, from 12 orbits
currently operating in Iraq and Southwest Asia to 21 Predator
combat air patrols by December 2009. Three additional CAPs will
be deployed soon to Iraq, boosting full motion video and rapid
strike capability to the Joint Force Commander. Two of these
CAPs are expected to be active this summer or early fall 2007.
Currently, Airmen operate 12 Predator CAPs providing combat
capability to joint forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. The USAF
operates all its Predator UAVs with the 432
Tactical Wing at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada. Additional
Predators have been fielded with the Air National Guard.
Each Predator CAP provides 24-hour, seven days a week combat
operations. Aircraft are deployed in forward operating bases
in the Middle East and SouthWest Asia, including Iraq and Afghanistan.
They are flown by both active duty and Air National Guard personnel
through secure communications to bases in Nevada, California,
North Dakota and Arizona.
The Predator is an armed multi-role intelligence, surveillance
and reconnaissance asset with sophisticated sensors
and weapons delivering critical combat capability to U.S and
U.K. forces in both Iraq and Afghanistan. This weapon system
has the capability to find, track, and, if necessary, strike
an enemy threat with immediate effect. This type of tactical
agility is imperative to neutralize insurgent activity. The
U.S. Air Force's Predator is the most requested medium or high
altitude UAV in the U.S. Central Command theater of operations.
The larger Reaper (Predator
B) will augment the Predator CAPs in both theaters of operation
starting in late 2007. The first deployment of the MQ-9 is expected
in AFghanistan during the second half of 2007, subsequently
it will be fielded in Iraq, probably with the Predators stationed
at Balad airbase, by late 2007 or early 2008.