More Air Force drones are crashing than ever as mysterious new problems emerge
By Craig Whitlock January 20
The crash of an MQ-9 Reaper drone near Creech Air Force Base in Nevada on Dec. 11, 2014. The investigation determined the cause of the accident to be pilot error during a training flight. (U.S. Air Force)
A record number of Air Force drones crashed in major accidents last year, documents show, straining the U.S. military’s fleet of robotic aircraft when it is in more demand than ever for counterterrorism missions in an expanding array of war zones.
Driving the increase was a mysterious surge in mishaps involving the Air Force’s newest and most advanced “hunter-killer” drone, the Reaper, which has become the Pentagon’s favored weapon for conducting surveillance and airstrikes against the Islamic State, al-Qaeda and other militant groups.
The Reaper has been bedeviled by a rash of sudden electrical failures that have caused the 21/2-ton drone to lose power and drop from the sky, according to accident-investigation documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. Investigators have traced the problem to a faulty starter-generator, but have been unable to pinpoint why it goes haywire or devise a permanent fix.
All told, 20 large Air Force drones were destroyed or sustained at least $2 million in damage in accidents last year, the worst annual toll ever, according to a Washington Post investigation. The Pentagon has shrouded the extent of the problem and kept details of most of the crashes a secret.
[Drone crashes database: 237 of the worst drone accidents since 9/11]
Military drones, around 80% of the drone market, to increase in use
Military drone use is set to increase exponentially around the world by armed forces. Is this why government think tanks, huge multinationals and industry are investing in this technology?
From Intel to Amazon, America to Iran, huge investments are being made in this industry. Lets hope we can take the drone industry in a more productive direction.
Pentagon eyes sharp increase in drone flights by 2019: official
FireFlight UAS unmanned aerial vehicles TwinHawk, Scout, Flanker, and Hawkeye 400, are displayed on the tarmac during ”Black Dart”, a live-fly, live fire demonstration of 55 unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, at Naval Base Ventura County Sea Range, Point Mugu, near…
REUTERS/PATRICK T. FALLON
The Pentagon is planning a sharp increase in daily drone flights over conflict zones around the globe in the next four years as it tries to meet the reconnaissance and air strike needs of combatant commanders, a spokesman said on Monday.
Navy Captain Jeff Davis, a Defense Department spokesman, said the number of unmanned drone flights, known as combat air patrols, would be increased by about 50 percent by 2019 – from between 60 and 65 a day to about 90.
“We’ve seen a steady demand signal from all of our geographic combatant commanders to have more of this capability,” Davis told reporters at the Pentagon.
The planes are used in the fight against Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq, in the conflict in Afghanistan, against extremist groups like al Shabab in Somalia and to gather intelligence in the Pacific.