At Last, 65 CAPs

Remotely piloted aircraft operators began flying the 65th around-the-clock combat air patrol orbit, finally reaching the Defense Department’s end-strength goal, on May 28. “This is a culmination of an Air Force-wide effort to achieve Secretary of Defense [Robert] Gates’ initiative of 65 CAPs,” said Col. James Chittenden, vice commander of the 432nd Air Expeditionary Wing, in a June 6 release. The Air Force mounted a combined 33 CAPs requiring several MQ-1 or MQ-9 aircraft and roughly 180 airmen each before Gates launched the initiative in 2009, states the release. US forces in Afghanistan will draw down sharply next year but “it should be clear that there’s no lessening in the demand,” Col. William Tart, RPA capabilities division chief at the Pentagon, told Air Force Magazine earlier this year. “It’s an insatiable demand and at the most we end up filling 66 percent” of combatant commander’s requests across the globe, he said. (See also ISR After Afghanistan from the January 2013 issue of Air Force Magazine.)