The Air Force created aUAV wing and will deploy the new MQ-9 Reaper hunter-killer UAV. The Reaper effectively replaces piloted fighter-bombers like the F-16.

The Predator was originally a recon UAV that was creatively outfitted with two hellfire missiles. The Reaper will carry hellfire missiles or 500lb JDAMs. It has twice the speed of a Predator and can stay in the air much longer. AF UAV pilots generally stay in the US and control the UAVs via satellite. UAVs are incredibly cheap as well, which will save the Air Force from its budget problems.

Piloted aircraft can carry greater payloads at the moment, but this is not necessary for counterinsurgencies. An aircraft will only need to drop one JDAM or fire one Hellfire. The tonnage dropped in Iraq, for instance, is very low compared to previous wars.

UAVs are the new COIN aircraft in the 21st century. They greatly enhaced on-demand Imagery Intel and are now providing air support for ground troops.

The 432nd Wing contains eight squadrons (six Predator, one Reaper and one maintenance). Each UAV squadron has at least twelve UAVs, and sometimes as many as 24. Squadrons have 400-500 personnel. Only about two thirds of those troops go overseas with the UAVs. The rest stay behind in the United States, and fly the Predators via a satellite link. The 432nd has at least 60 MQ-1 Predators and six MQ-9 Reapers (also called Predator B) UAVs. When in a combat zone, each UAV averages about 110 hours in the air each month. Each aircraft flies 6-7 sorties a month, each one lasting 17-18 hours on average.

The UAVs stirred up some rivalries. Each branch has their own UAVs, so they are intruding on Air Force turf. The Army and Marines need their own separate UAVs to give them immediate IMINT for combat operations. No infantry commander wants to run through 50 bureaucratic hoops to get some photos.

The Air Force is resistant to the UAVs, unfortunately. The top commanders are mostly fighter pilots who will be made obsolete if UAVs take over.