As of March 9, the US Air Force will exclusively fly a fleet of 93 MQ-9 Reaper drones, Jane's noted, though military contractors for the service will continue flying Predators for the rest of 2018. The Navy is in talks to acquire the retiring fleet of MQ-1 Predators, USAF spokeswoman Annabel Monroe said.
The use of drones has drawn mixed reviews. Some military strategists say that drones are cheaper to fly than conventional strike aircraft and feature the added bonus of not putting a pilot's life on the line. A former US State Department official stationed in Yemen argued in 2013, however, that for every jihadist killed by a drone strike in Yemen, the US generates between 40 and 60 new enemies.
The Friends Committee on National Legislation sees the low-cost argument in support of drone strikes as mistaken. "With the lack of overarching strategy, many mistakenly see drones as a low cost — human and financial — alternative to war. By deviating from conventional authorized and specified wars that start and stop, the drones program allows the US to remain in a constant state of endless war," the Friends Committee reports.
"This shifts the strikes into covert operations with little or no congressional or public oversight, and operating outside of legal norms," the committee added.
The War Zone, a vertical at The Drive, reports that there are at least 100 serviceable Predator drones in the Air Force's arsenal. "There are a number of possibilities as to where they could go, including Air Force museums," a spokesperson told the War Zone last month, adding that "the Air Force is working with the Navy to determine configurations and quantity for possible transfer."