“The drones will make the difference, God willing,” Tareq Khalil Shihbani said as he and fellow fighters gathered amid a warren of heavily damaged villas in Misurata, awaiting their next target.

However, only two patrols of armed Predators — with each drone capable of carrying a pair of Hellfire missiles — have been assigned to Libyan airspace. The limited deployment tends to mitigate the drone’s strengths, such as advanced targeting capabilities and an ability to hover over the battlefield.

“The effect in Libya is going to be largely psychological,” predicted Anthony Cordesman with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “You’re not going to have enough of them to conduct a war of attrition against a dispersed force.”