WASHINGTON --- Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley is accelerating delivery of the Defense Department's December 2009 goal of 21 daily MQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicle combat air patrols, or CAPs, by one year.
At the chief of staff's request, Air Force officials coordinated deployment actions with the Joint Staff and Central Command to increase three additional Predator CAPs, boosting full motion video and rapid strike capability to the Joint Force commander in Iraq. Two of these CAPs are expected to be active this summer or early fall.
"The Predator provides a tremendous capability for our joint and coalition forces on the ground," said Lt. Gen. David A. Deptula, the deputy Air Force chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. "The Air Force is pushing to expand Predator air patrols for Admiral (William J.) Fallon's use as quickly as possible." Admiral Fallon is the commander of U.S. Central Command.
Currently, Airmen operate 12 Predator CAPs providing combat capability to joint forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The acceleration is possible due to the chief of staff's "total force" approach to fielding enhanced combat capability. The recently increased Predator training capacity, and the inclusion of additional Air National Guard Airmen supports both increased flight operations and a more robust exploitation of Predator data.
Each Predator CAP provides 24-hour, seven days a week combat operations. They are flown by both active duty and Air National Guard personnel through secure communications to bases in Nevada, California and North Dakota. The Air Force also will begin flying Predator combat operations from Arizona next week, all part of the chief of staff's "total force" approach in combining Active, Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard capabilities in a much more inclusive and effective manner.
The Air Force continues to deploy all operational Predator assets and will look to sustain this combat capability as new production aircraft, ground stations and aircrew are delivered. To fully man this new level for Central Command, the Air Force will maintain 160 "total force" Predator crews, up from 120 last year.
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 Air Force's Predator is the most requested medium- or high-altitude UAV in the U.S. Central Command theater of operations.