The Air Force's announcement that the MQ-1 Predator will be retired from service is an interesting development. But what will be done with the 150 retired Predators in the Air Force inventory (per an Air Force fact sheet)?
First, let's crank up some music from Dos Gringos, a couple of F-16 pilots whose call signs were "Trip" and "Snooze." Their single, "Predator Eulogy," seems like appropriate music for this list.
1. Hand them over to other federal agencies
Other government agencies are using unmanned aerial vehicles. The CIA and United States Customs and Border Protection both use this UAV.
What other agencies might like this UAV? How about the Coast Guard, which has the duty of securing maritime borders much longer than the U.S.-Mexico border? CBP could get a larger UAV fleet as well. Perhaps the DEA would like some as well.
2. Give them to state and local law enforcement
The DOD has a long tradition of handing over surplus gear to state and local law enforcement. The last Huey in the Army inventory, in fact, was handed over to the Louisiana State Police.
3. Sell them to allies
MilitaryFactory.com notes that Predators are in service with several U.S. allies. Italy, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and Morocco all use the MQ-1. Some of the retired birds could be sent as attrition replacements or spare parts sources.
4. Sell them to media outlets
Media outlets who currently use helicopters like the Bell 206 (the civilian version of the OH-58) could find the Predator very useful for traffic reporting. Or, for the really important items: The ratings-boosting high-speed pursuits. Predators have much more endurance.
5. Civilian warbirds
It's happened with P-51s, the F4U Corsair, and a host of other planes (even including Soviet MiGs). So, why not see some of these retired Predators become civilian warbirds?
6. Target drones
This is what every manned fighter pilot would have as the favored use for retired Predators. The fleet of 150 retired Predators could last for a little bit being expended as live-fire targets.