Air Force to Stand Up 10 New RPA Squadrons

The Air Force plans to establish three new active duty MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft squadrons this year, along with six new Air National Guard units, and one Air Force Reserve squadron, said Col. James Gear, head of the service’s RPA task force. Gear, speaking at an industry conference in Washington, D.C., did not offer additional details during his Wednesday presentation on where those squadrons would stand up. The Air Force is rapidly building up its RPA fleet, with the goal of having enough airframes, trained personnel, and supporting infrastructure on hand in Fiscal 2013 to support 65 simultaneous combat air patrols. By the end of this year, USAF officials have said about 50 CAPs should be in place. Back in November, Gen. William Fraser, Air Combat Command boss, said Creech AFB, Nev., the Air Force’s main stateside RPA operations hub, simply is “getting saturated” as demand for the overhead intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance coverage and strike capability that these platforms provide continues to grow at previously unanticipated levels. Using satellite communications links, Creech airmen operate Predators and Reapers that fly downrange in Afghanistan and Iraq.