A Valid Question

The Air Force may revisit whether it makes sense to continue with plans to field and maintain 65 combat air patrols of MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft, said Lt. Gen. Larry James, who oversees the Air Force’s intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance enterprise. “As we walk through the budget, as we walk through a better understanding of what the world after 2014 and into 2015 looks like, I think that is a valid question,” said James in his Nov. 16 address at AFA’s Global Warfare Symposium in Los Angeles. The Air Force’s current guidance is to build up the Predator/Reaper force until it can provide 65 nonstop CAPs worldwide by May 2014, with the ability to surge to 85 orbits. “That is the path we are on,” said James. “But I think over the next couple of years, we will continue to look at that,” he added. The Predators and Reapers operate well “in a permissive environment,” but would face difficulties flying in contested airspace, noted James. (For more coverage of James’ speech, see ISR in an Anti-Access World and Coming Soon to a Theater Near You: Gorgon Stare Increment 2.)