The role of the UAV in the U.S. Air Force is changing according to a DefenseNews article detailing the latest Red Flag combat exercise in Nevada.
In the premier training event at Nellis AFB, UAV’s were used to search for Scud missile launchers and persons of interest on the ground.
This was the first time that the General Atomics-built MQ-1 Predator was used for something other than close-air support during Red Flag which signals a change in Air Force strategy.
Col. Tod Fingal, Red Flag commander said Red Flag gave an opportunity to see how UAV’s worked with other weapon systems in a contested battle zone being used in unseen situations.
The change comes as the Pentagon shifts its military strategy to the Pacific where new enemies could possess capabilities that rival its own.
While the UAV’S close-air support capabilities were fully understood in Iraq and Afghanistan and its services were in great demand, this could be the next iteration for the craft.
“One of the most common mistakes people have made with technology in the past, and often repeat in talking about unmanned systems of today, is to assume a new tech will always remain limited to the original roles and contexts in which the first generation was first introduced,” said Peter Singer, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and an expert in robotic warfare.
Red Flag is held three times a year on a 5,000-square-mile area of restricted space north of Las Vegas.