In record time, General Atomics’ prototypes were approved for deployment in the escalating Balkan Wars. Though the Pentagon had also ordered drones from General Atomics, just as with the War on Terror seven years later, the CIA’s drones got there first. The agency flew its classified Bosnian missions from the semi-derelict Gjader airfield in Albania. A year later, the Pentagon’s own drones arrived in the shape of four modified Gnats (newly christened “Predators”), which operated from Taszar airfield in Hungary and which were controlled by the U.S. military.
The early Predator had major limitations, many of which were ironed out in a literal trial by combat since they were easy prey for Serbian anti-air defenses. At least two were shot down. Wings would also freeze up, sometimes causing a drone to drop expensively from the sky. Missing too was the facility to fly the remotely piloted aircraft from