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US Military to Increase Drone Flights Globally

  • VOA News

FILE - An MQ-1B Predator from the 46th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron takes off from Balad Air Base in Iraq.

FILE - An MQ-1B Predator from the 46th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron takes off from Balad Air Base in Iraq.

The number of unmanned drone flights the United States operates around the globe will be increased by 50 percent.

The plan calls for expanding the current number of daily drone flights from about 60 to as many as 90, Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said Monday.

The drones collect intelligence from hotspots around the world and also have the capacity for lethal airstrikes, which is the most controversial part of the drone program. That has increased sharply under the administration of President Barack Obama.

Davis said the increased drone flights would need to have the support of analysts who turn the surveillance information into what he called "actionable intelligence."

He said that while the Air Force now flies most of the U.S. drone flights, the new plan would draw on the Army, the Special Operations Command and government contractors.

Davis said the Air Force would continue to fly about 60 drone flights a day, while the Army would contribute between 10 and 20 flights. The military's Special Operations Command would fly about 10 drone missions.

In addition, he said government contractors would be hired to conduct as many as 10 flights a day, but he said none of the those drones would be armed.

The United States has used drone campaigns in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere to target terrorist leaders.

Over the course of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, commanders' requests for drones skyrocketed and the Pentagon has struggled to keep up with the demand.

A poll earlier this year, conducted by The Associated Press, found that a majority of Americans — 6 in 10 — supports the use of drones to target terrorists. The poll showed that just 13 percent of Americans are against the use of drones and 24 percent do not have strong feelings either way.

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