Air Force Retiring Predator, the Drone That Changed the World

This analysis was first available to Bloomberg Government subscribers.

The Predator, the unmanned aerial vehicle that redefined the U.S. military’s combat tactics while executing thousands of missions in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other war zones over the last three decades, will be retired from Air Force inventory on March 9.

Developed for intelligence-gathering and surveillance in the Balkans in the 1990s, the ungainly planes carry sensors, cameras, lasers and other technology as part of system using remote ground controllers and satellite links. The addition of a Hellfire missile, bolted on and fired remotely, in 2001 transformed the device into one of the most effective — and lethal — tools in the Pentagon’s arsenal.

Once armed, the Predator, manufactured by San Diego-based General Atomics Technology Corp., could not just locate enemies, but kill them as well — all at the direction of a pilot who might be sitting thousands of miles away. The Air

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