USAF reverses course, asks to expand drone fleet

Discussion in 'U.S. Air Force' started by Technofox, Dec 11, 2015.

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  1. Technofox

    Technofox That Norwegian girl Staff Member Ret. Military Developer

    Oct 8, 2015
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    The Air Force Finally Realizes It Needs To Greatly Expand Its Drone Fleet, Not Reduce It


    The U.S. Air Force’s plan to pare down its drone fleet was fantastically unrealistic—and the branch’s leadership seems to be finally realizing this. The Air Force is asking to expand its drone capacity dramatically due to the the threat from international terrorism, the realities regarding the state of conflicts in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, as well as the dismal cultural and personnel situation within the drone force’s ranks.

    As reported in the Los Angeles Times, on Thursday, the Air Force has a $3 billion dollar proposal that aims to add 75 MQ-9 Reaper drones to the current fleet of 175 Reapers and 150 Predators. This will increase the number of drone squadrons from eight to 17.


    To support this expansion, the Air Force will add around 2,500 to 3,500 new pilots and support staff to its current force. This is also needed to ease the pressure on the current drone force crew cadre, which has been chronically undermanned and neglected for years. Also, new bases overseas will be established to host the Air Force’s enhanced drone force.

    The result is a massive expansion in the Air Force’s Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) capacity. In order to sustain such a expansion, key issues need to be finally addressed within the RPA force itself, and most of them are also included in the initiative. According to military officials, this includes:

    · Approximately double the number of RPA flying squadrons.
    · Create a new wing to normalize organizational and command and control structures relative to other weapon systems.
    · Standardize the squadron, group and wing structure.
    · Assign RPA units in new locations to potentially include overseas locations.
    · Decrease the heavy burden of persistent in garrison combat operations by increasing RPA manning and associated resources by 2,500-3,500 Airmen.
    · Define career tracks for officer and enlisted RPA operators and maintainers.
    · Study the promotion and professional military education selection rates for RPA officers.
    · Study the feasibility of a single specialty code for RPA maintenance personnel.
    · Streamline processes to better enable Reserve Component forces to support the mission.



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  2. wallaby

    wallaby Officer Candidate

    Dec 12, 2015
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    I hope this truly signals a change in USAF brass' attitudes towards drones. Between starving the entire service in order to keep the troubled F35 program alive, trying to kill the A10, and treating drones as an unwanted intrusion in their fantasy of air-to-air dogfights, I was becoming more convinced the nation would be more secure disbanding the USAF and sticking the useful remnants back under Army command...

    The truth that everyone but AF general staff recognize (including our enemies' military staff) is that the era of manned fighter jets is over. That does not diminish their accomplishments, their skill, or their bravery, just as the age of tanks didn't diminish the accomplishments of the cavalry. But it does relegate it to history, and the quicker that the AF restructures not just its weapons platforms, but personnel, organization, and C&C doctrine to wholly embrace the new era, the more effective it will be.

    I'm glad the author gives prominence to the personnel issues that keep drone operators viewing themselves as second-class citizens in their own service. The AF's challenges with facing the new drone era are not entirely hardware-related (indeed, I'd argue that's not even the main problem vis-a-vis culture and organization).
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  3. Falcon

    Falcon Lieutenant Colonel Staff Member Social Media Team

    Oct 10, 2015
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    We are working on the technology for unmanned jets but there are probably some kinks that are being worked out. They tested an unmanned F-16 and it worked so they could technically convert the f-35 into an unmanned fighter in the future if needed. We also have the Northrup Grumman X-47 which was a good project for paving the way to more complex UCAV's.

    The USAF did a good job of ordering more armed drones, there is no need to send expensive fighter jets and pilots that cost a lot of money to train just to bomb people armed with small arms. In a convential war however against a large country like China or Russia armed drones would be less useful as they can't protect them selves against enemy fighters and if you send a fighter escort to protect the drone then you defeat one of the main purposes of using the drone in the first place.