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The military's growing reliance on robot airplanes: By the numbers 
In 2005, unmanned drones comprised just 5 percent of military aircraft. Today, nearly 1 in 3 planes is flown by a computer
 
A U.S. soldier prepares to deploy a Raven unmanned surveillance drone in Afghanistan in 2010: The military continues to shift its strategy to cheaper, robotic airplanes.
A U.S. soldier prepares to deploy a Raven unmanned surveillance drone in Afghanistan in 2010: The military continues to shift its strategy to cheaper, robotic airplanes.
Bryan Denton/Corbis

When the Obama administration unveiled its plan last week to cut roughly half a trillion dollars from future Pentagon budgets, many analysts seized on Obama's call for more unmanned military drones and fewer ground forces. Some critics are skeptical that a "leaner," technology-reliant military can really keep the country safe. But Obama's latest move is part of a much larger trend: As computerized warplanes become safer, more advanced, and cheaper to produce, the military relies on them more and more. Here, a look at America's growing fleet of robotic aircraft, by the numbers:

1/20
Approximate fraction in 2005 of military aircraft that were unmanned drones

1/3
Approximate fraction today of military aircraft that are unmanned drones

7,494
Unmanned drones the military now has in its fighting force

161
The military's supply of "iconic" Predator and Reaper drones — made famous for their missions over Pakistan and Yemen

$4.5 million
Cost of producing a Predator drone

$94 million
Cost of producing a fully-manned, twin-engine F/A-18 Hornet fighter jet

$2.4 billion
Cost of producing a fully-manned, stealth B-2 bomber

38
Predators and Reapers that have crashed in Iraq and Afghanistan

20
Accidents that Predators had per 100,000 hours of flight in 2005

7.5
Accidents that Predators have per 100,000 hours of flight now — "an accident rate comparable to (manned) F-16," says Wired

$26 billion
Total amount the military has spent on drones since 2001

92
Percent of the Pentagon's aircraft budget that still goes to traditionally piloted planes

Sources: NY Times, Reuters, TIMEWired

 

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