Capped Out

It’s time to rethink the number of remotely piloted aircraft combat air patrols as a metric of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capability, said Lt. Gen. Bob Otto, who oversees ISR matters on the Air Staff, on Monday. In 2006, with the war in Iraq flaring and another one running in Afghanistan, there were 11 CAPs of RPA capability meeting 54 percent of the requirements of US Central Command, Otto told the audience during a speech in Arlington, Va., that AFA’s Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies sponsored. In contrast, there are today 72 CAPs’ worth of Air Force ISR capability flying in theater, including 65 CAPs of RPAs, but only 21 percent of the requirements are met, despite fewer personnel and one less war, he said. “You see a disconnect, and this is the point I want to make,” said Otto. “We are overinvested in permissive assets,” he said. With Pentagon guidance directing a shift to Asia-Pacific operations, the Air Force has to reinvest to balance its portfolio. With CAPs as a metric, the service would always be supply-limited, even if it fielded 150 CAPs. “The more you put out, the higher the demand goes,” said Otto.