Photo courtesy U.S. Air Force

Predator Utility

The battlefield effectiveness of the MQ-1 has been tested in several recent conflicts, including those in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, and Yemen.

The Predators have flown into combat alongside manned warplanes, have provided air support to ground forces, and have attacked areas where enemy air defenses have not been fully suppressed. They could also be used in areas that are traditionally too dangerous to send in manned aircraft, such as open ocean environments or biologically or chemically contaminated environments. And even loaded with the MTS, the Predator MQ-1 is capable of effective battlefield reconnaissance.

Perhaps the most infamous use for the combat version of the Predator is in stealthy aerial assassinations. On February 7, 2002, the CIA used an armed Predator to attack and destroy a convoy of SUVs transporting suspected al Qaeda terrorists. On November 3, 2002, the CIA used a Predator to launch a Hellfire missile into a car in Yemen, killing Qaed Senyan al-Harthi, the al-Qaeda leader thought to be responsible for the bombing of the USS Cole. Though this application of the Predator is rare, none of these missions would have been possible using conventional methods without risking the lives of U.S. troops.