Sharp Increase in RPA Weapons Strikes in 2012

After several years of gradual increases, weapons strikes from Air Force remotely piloted aircraft rose sharply in Afghanistan in 2012, according to Air Forces Central’s year-end airpower statistics. Service-operated RPAs dropped 506 weapons on ground targets in Afghanistan last year, up from 294 in 2011, show the data, released on Jan. 6. In 2010, there were 279 RPA weapons releases, and 257 in 2009. The Air Force uses armed MQ-1 Predators and MQ-9 Reapers in Afghanistan as well as unarmed RPAs, like RQ-4 Global Hawks. Predators can fire Hellfire air-to-surfaces missiles, while Reapers carry Hellfires and 500-pound precision-guided bombs. AFCENT began including the data on RPA weapons releases several months ago with the release of the airpower stats for 2012 through October. (See also our chart of the 2012 end-of-year airpower stats.)