The move by the Army and Air Force comes in response to criticism from Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
The military is expanding the number of airplanes for reconnaissance and surveillance in Iraq and Afghanistan in response to demands from the Pentagon chief to assume a "war footing" in getting more planes into the air.
The US Army is sending a new unit of remote-controlled aircraft, similar to one it fielded in Iraq two years ago, to Afghanistan to monitor insurgents and enemy targets. The Air Force, meanwhile, is deploying about three dozen small turboprop planes with reconnaissance and surveillance crews to add to the unmanned planes already being used there. Both services are also trying to put more laptop computers in the hands of soldiers on the ground so they can benefit from the data provided by the "eyes in the sky."
The moves are prompted by criticism from Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who has said it was like "pulling teeth" to get the services to provide more remote controlled aircraft over the skies of Iraq and Afghanistan.
The unmanned planes produce "full motion video" for commanders attempting to locate insurgents or track their activity. The planes range from small, hand-launched craft to much larger planes that can fly at 65,000 feet for hours. Their value comes in how much they can do for long periods of time. It took nearly 600 hours of air time, for instance, before the US military could find the leader of the group Al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was killed by a US airstrike in June 2006.