Major RPA Restructure Coming

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James and Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh will announce a major restructure of the remotely piloted aircraft career field’s force structure and basing by “early next week,” Air Combat Command chief Gen. Hawk Carlisle said Tuesday. Speaking with defense reporters in Washington, D.C., Carlisle said USAF recently wrapped up a month-long asse?ssment by a team of 50 people visiting RPA sites and talking to those in the career field. They recommended the Air Force “open up some new locations” for RPA operations because of the austerity at some of the facilities where RPA mission control elements are based now, especially Creech AFB, Nev. Additionally, Carlisle said, “We could … move them to different parts of the world, to get different time slots as well,” presumably so RPA operators don’t have to work as much off-cycle from the locations where they live. Airmen in RPAs want three things, Carlisle said: time to spend with family, to go to schools, to have “different jobs,” and to take vacation, etc.; a “strategic plan for the enterprise,” meaning insight into where the MQ-9 Reaper mission is going and the different roles it could fill in the future; and to know that “we’re listening to them. And we are.” Carlisle said it’s not well understood outside of the RPA community that the enterprise has been in “surge mode for 15 years” with no letup in expansion or demand, and it’s still not clear how big the RPA enterprise is going to get. (See also: The RPA Fix and AETC t?o Double RPA Training in a Year.)