Looking for 65 in 2013

The Air Force is on course to increase the number of remotely piloted vehicle combat orbits from today’s 41 to 50 by the end of 2011—a year earlier than DOD’s original goal when top leaders asked USAF to speed their production for Southwest Asia operations—Gen. Norton Schwartz, Chief of Staff, told a House Appropriations panel hearing last week on the service’s 2011 military construction budget request. He noted, too, that USAF expects to add another 15 by 2013. That capability doesn’t come cheap in airframes or personnel. Schwartz said in February that it takes about 140 people—operators, maintainers, and back-end intelligence analyzers—to cover RPVs. He has revised that number upward, telling lawmakers last week that it takes around 170. “Nonetheless, they clearly are a major innovation in which we are investing heavily,” said Schwartz. (Written testimony includes overview of stateside RPV infrastructure work.)