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Readings: Micah Zenko on 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Drones … But Probably Need To

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Monday, February 27, 2012 at 5:33 PM

Along with the earlier reading on drones in Pakistan by Pia Zubair Shah in Foreign Policy, also check out Council on Foreign Relations fellow Micah Zenko’s short piece in the same March-April 2012 issue, “10 Things You Didn’t Know About Drones.” Quick and useful summary of background to the technologies and uses in conflicts.  (Actually, the whole Foreign Policy special issue on war is worth checking out.)  For example, point number 7:

7. Attack drones require more boots on the ground.

Most unmanned aircraft flown by the U.S. military require not just a ground-based “pilot,” but also a platoon of surveillance analysts (approximately 19 per drone), sensor operators, and a maintenance crew. Some 168 people are required to keep a Predator drone aloft — and 180 for its larger cousin, the Reaper — compared with roughly 100 people for an F-16 fighter jet. To keep up with the demand, the Air Force has trained more drone operators than pilots for the past two years. The upside is that, according to the Congressional Budget Office, drones “are usually less expensive than manned aircraft” ($15 million for a Global Hawk versus about $55 million for a new F-16), though costly sensors and excessive crashes can negate the difference.

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