WASHINGTON (Sputnik) – The Air Force sustained least $2 million in damages from 20 large drones were destroyed or sustained damage in the "worst annual toll ever," a Washington Post investigation published late Tuesday has revealed.
The major accidents were sustained by 10 Reaper and 10 Predator drones over the course of last year, according to the publication’s study of Air Force safety data.
At least twice as many Reapers were badly damaged or destroyed as last year, and the Predators’ damage rate was the highest since 2011.
All but one of the 2015 incidents occurred overseas, mostly in the Middle East, and at least one drone was said to be downed by hostile forces in Syria.
In total over the past two decades, records show around half of the 269 Predators bought by the Air Force have been destroyed or badly damaged in accidents.
The paper added that the US Army, which plans to scale up its drone combat missions to compensate for the Air Force’s cutbacks, suffered four major drone crashes last year.
The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), which runs a separate and covert drone fleet, is also said to be experiencing a spike in Reaper accidents.
The Air Force plans to retire about 140 of its Predators by 2018. They are expected to be replaced by the Reapers, which travel longer distances and carry more bombs and missiles than the Predators.