|As of January 2014, the U.S. military operated a vast number of unmanned aerial systems (UAS): 7,362 RQ-11 Ravens; 990 AeroVironment Wasp IIIs; 1,137 AeroVironment RQ-20 Pumas; and 306 RQ-16 T-Hawk small UAS systems and 246 Predators and MQ-1C Grey Eagles; 126 MQ-9 Reapers; 491 RQ-7 Shadows; and 33 RQ-4 Global Hawk large systems.|
The military role of unmanned aircraft systems is growing at an unprecedented rate. MQ-1 Predator UAVs armed with Hellfire missiles have been used as platforms for hitting ground targets. Armed Predators were first used in late 2001 from bases in Pakistan and Uzbekistan, mostly aimed at assassinating high profile individuals. Since then, there have been many attacks taking place in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia.
|Their roles have expanded to areas including electronic attack, strike missions, suppression or destruction of enemy air defense, network node or communications relay, and combat search and rescue. UAS range in cost from a few thousand dollars to tens of millions of dollars, with aircraft ranging from less than one pound to over 40,000 pounds.|
In February 2013, U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham stated that 4,756 people have been killed by U.S. UAVs. In 2012, the USAF trained more UAV pilots than ordinary jet fighter pilots for the first time.
MQ-9 Reaper - US$16.9 million (2013)
Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk - US$131.4M (2013)
MQ-9 Reaper pilot, left