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Predator B UAV  (Source: AP)
The USAF is relying both on manned and unmanned craft in the future

The United States Air Force is looking to broaden the use of manned and unmanned spy craft, with the USAF looking to expand spy craft towards "the full spectrum" of operations, according to USAF Brig. Gen. Bob Otto.

More recently, the Air Force has increased its surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, teaching its pilots to control unmanned vehicles.  The Reaper, Predator and Global Hawk unmanned UAVs are the focus of the Air Force in the future, with drones used to attack targets in Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan, and now patrolling the Somali coast.

Along with unmanned craft, the Air Force also is increasing pilots trained to fly the U-2 aircraft, while also setting aside necessary funds for the MC-12W manned spy craft.

The use of both manned and unmanned craft are increasingly important when many air strikes are aimed at specific targets.  The U-2 can be used to collect intelligence using manned aircraft, and then unmanned UAVs have the ability to launch attacks.  

So far in 2009, the U-2 spy plane flew 600 missions, with specialized use in operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom -- the Global Hawk was involved in 250 missions.  Unmanned craft are able to stay in the air for much longer durations, with pilots safely stationed onbase, which makes unmanned craft an important weapon moving forward.





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