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Predator Fleet to Expand

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Air Force officials plan to expand the current Predator Unmanned Aerial Vehicle fleet to as many as 15 squadrons.

This increase, announced March 18, is in response to the escalating demand for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability in the war on terrorism. The plans are intended to ensure an increased number of Predators are available in U.S. Central Command's area of responsibility as well as for new opportunities, officials said.

"Combating terrorism requires the Air Force provide worldwide vigilance and awareness through persistent command, control and surveillance capabilities, ensuring our nation's ability to see first, understand first and act first. Our effort in regard to UAVs is just one more capability that allows us to ensure air dominance for our joint team in any environment we operate," said Peter B. Teets, acting secretary of the Air Force.

In a Future Total Force initiative that will establish two Air National Guard Predator units in Texas and Arizona, Air Force officials are determining manpower and training requirements that will significantly enhance the Predator's ability to support combatant commander requirements. ANG Airmen will operate the UAVs from their respective states. Additionally, Air Force officials plan to place a Predator squadron with an ANG unit in New York.

One of the six Future Total Force initiatives involved establishing a distributive ground station in western New York to process global intelligence information. After assessing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance requirements and reviewing concepts of operation, Air Force and Air National Guard leaders determined establishing a Predator unit in New York would provide a more immediate impact to the war on terrorism, officials said.

" Through Future Total Force initiatives such as the expansion of Predator units within the Air National Guard and the Air Force Reserve, the Air Force will leverage persistent command, control, surveillance, global mobility and rapid strike to win the global war on terrorism, and strengthen joint warfighting capabilities, while minimizing risk to the nation," said Lt. Gen. Stephen G. Wood, Air Force deputy chief of staff for plans and programs.

Besides the ANG Predator units, the Air Force currently has three operational, active-duty Predator squadrons located at Nellis Air Force Base and Indian Springs Air Force Auxiliary Field in Nevada. Air Force Special Operations Command and Air Force Reserve Command Airmen also will operate Predators out of Indian Springs.

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