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Media Dazzled by Pentagon Propaganda While Pentagon's Chief Tester Declares that Predator Unmanned Aerial Vehicle "Not Operationally Effective or Suitable"

October 30, 2001 


The Predator Unmanned Aerial Vehicle has been portrayed by the Pentagon and in some recent media reports as an unsung hero of the Kosovo air war and destined to be the "revolutionary" reconnaissance aircraft of the future. One major media outlet even suggested that the $20 million per copy Predator, which is being deployed in the war in Afghanistan, "may turn out to be Osama bin Laden's worst nightmare."

But while the national media is singing the Predator's praises and handing out free passes to the defense industry, POGO has uncovered an unreleased report by the Department of Defense's Director of Operational Test and Evaluation.

According to Director Thomas Christie's report, "the system's limitations have a substantial negative impact on the Predator's ability to conduct its missions," and that "poor target location accuracy, ineffective communications, and limits imposed by relatively benign weather, including rain, negatively impact missions such as strike support, combat search and rescue, area search, and continuous coverage."

Here's more of what the media and Pentagon aren't telling the public, according to the Pentagon's report and insider information:

  • According to inside sources, since 1995, an estimated 17 of the 50 Predator aircraft built for the U.S. Air Force have crashed during testing and another 5 are believed to have been shot down on military missions. At $20 million per Predator, hundreds of millions of dollars have been lost during testing alone.

  • Director Thomas Christie, Operational Test and Evaluation, wrote in the report that the Predator is "not operationally effective or suitable" because the aircraft has several critical limitations. (to view executive summary of Predator report click here.)

  • When flying in the rain, Predator missions are negatively impacted in a number of ways including poor target location accuracy and ineffective communications, according to the Pentagon's report.

  • There is considerable concern that the Predator is highly vulnerable to being shot down because it flies at a slow speed and at low altitudes. It also cannot perform its mission while flying at night, according to the Pentagon's report.

Ultimately, the report concludes, "DOT&E finds the system to be not operationally suitable...because of the serious deficiencies in reliability, maintainability and human factors design."

Current media coverage, which barely scratches the surface of such vitally important issues, is feeding the Pentagon's defense spending frenzy, and suggests to the American public that the Predator is a weapon that the nation's fighting men and women can rely on.

"When the national media fails in their investigative responsibilities, it is American service men and women, as well as American taxpayers, who suffer the consequences," said Danielle Brian, Executive Director of POGO.

Founded in 1981, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is a nonpartisan independent watchdog that champions good government reforms. POGO's investigations into corruption, misconduct, and conflicts of interest achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government.

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