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Few realize that other than large commercial passenger jets, aircraft such as drones can also go missing. Four United States Air Force Predator drones have vanished without any trace while flying over Afghanistan. In an investigation carried out by the Washington Post, it was found out that the four drones were among over 400 major United States military drones, which were victims of fatal accidents around the world within a time frame of 2001 to 2013.

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All the four Air Force Predator Drones were armed with deadly Hellfire missiles before they went missing. This information was obtained from Air Force accident-investigation records. In all four cases, drone pilots lost satellite links with the drones, so communication was lost between drone and pilot. Transponders in each drone also stopped working mysteriously and the drones all went completely off radar. These could occur if there’s total loss of electrical power on each drones. The most likely cause of a quick, unexpected loss of electrical power is lightning. The loss of the drones is still a mystery as there is no pointblank reason as to the cause of their crashes. The four cases of missing Afghanistan drones are examined below.

Disappearance Date: July 21, 2008
Identity of Drone: MQ-1B Predator, tail number 05-3135
Last Seen Location of Drone: About 100 nautical miles north-northeast of Kandahar Air Base, Afghanistan
Calculated Loss Value of Drone: $3.8 million
Military Unit: 3rd Special Operations Squadron, 27th Special Operations Wing, Air Force Special Operations Command

This predator drone was presumed to be crashed after connection to the drone was lost and it went missing while flying over Afghanistan when a loss of electrical power occurred at its ground-control station located at Cannon Air Force Base in New Mexico. The power failure at the ground-control station caused loss of connection to two other drones flying in Afghanistan at the same time. Power was restored and link was regained between the other two drones.

All drones are pre-programmed to return to base should link be lost, but for reasons unknown, that particular drone did not return. There were speculations that the drone flew into terrible weather and crashed. Till today the drone is yet to be found.

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Disappearance Date: May 13, 2009
Identity of Drone: MQ-1B Predator, tail number 07-3183
Last Seen Location of Drone: A place over Afghanistan, exact location classified
Calculated Loss Value of Drone: $3.9 million
Military Unit: 15th Reconnaissance Squadron, 432nd Wing, Air Combat Command

Five hours into flight, an armed Predator drone disappeared. The weather was excellent and location of the drone was still visible when link was lost between the drone and ground-control at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada. The transponder stopped working three minutes later. There was no pilot error, icing, or loss of fuel, and the weather was excellent. A sergeant made mention of the fact that the aircraft could have been hijacked, saying, “If somebody else was on the same frequencies, they could have taken over the aircraft or just knocked it out completely.” In the course of investigations, no sign of hacking was found.

Disappearance Date: June 5, 2011
Identity of Drone: MQ-1B Predator, tail number 07-3204
Last Seen Location of Drone: 60 nautical miles northeast of Jalalabad; very close to Pakistani border
Calculated Loss Value of Drone: $4.4 million
Military Unit: 20th Reconnaissance Squadron, 432nd Air Expeditionary Wing, Air Combat Command

A predator drone was stuck by lightning and was assumed to be crashed. Satellite links to the drone were lost after the lightning strike and were not recovered. Ground crew knew the drone was flying somewhere in a region of thunderstorms but couldn’t search for it as they had a more urgent mission of assisting ground forces in the vicinity who were under assault from the enemy.

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Disappearance Date: July 10, 2011
Identity of Drone: MQ-1B Predator, tail number 06-3174
Last Seen Location of Drone: approximately 20 miles south of Jalalabad
Calculated Loss Value of Drone: $4.4 million
Military Unit: 3rd Special Operations Squadron, 27th Special Operations Wing, Air Force Special Operations Command

A predator drone disappeared and was presumed crashed. This was the third Predator drone crash near Jalalabad in five weeks. In all cases, satellite links to drones were lost, and drones did not fly their emergency pre-programmed mission. Unlike the other accidents, weather was fine in this case, and investigators could not pinpoint a cause of crash. No evidence of maintenance or operational problems were discovered before the missing link. Fuel loss couldn’t be an issue as the drone still had about 138 gallons of fuel in the tank.

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