The U.S. Air Force launched 114 November strikes in Afghanistan from remotely piloted aircraft (RPA), according to Air Force statistics, representing roughly a quarter of the 447 strikes launched for the year.
Air Force RPAs are now averaging about 1.4 remote-controlled strikes per day in the theater, reflecting the continued commitment by the Obama administration to use remotely piloted aircraft in battle. As RPA use has increased, the average number of manned flights in which weapons were used has dropped from 165 a month in 2011 to136 a month this year.
The numbers were released Dec. 6 as part of the monthly Combined Forces Air Component Commander airpower statistics. Data on the number of RPA strikes were included in the monthly report for the first time in October. The statistics include only strikes in Afghanistan because the Air Force is no longer actively supporting activities in Iraq.
The new statistics come with a caveat that data “may have changed due to data re-calculation and re-verification.” The 2009 total increased by two strikes and 2010 by one strike compared with previously released numbers. A request for information on whether the 2012 statistics were updated was not returned immediately.
Since 2009, there have been 1,277 Air Force strikes in Afghanistan. That number reflects only weapon releases on the battlefield, and not the controversial targeted attacks that have been carried out around the globe.