Pentagon Surging ISR Aircraft to War Zone

Congress has approved a DOD request to reprogram $1.2 billion to rapidly bolster overhead intelligence-reconnaissance-surveillance capabilities in Afghanistan and Iraq, Agence France-Presse reported yesterday. Further, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who has pressed the services to do more to provide additional ISR for the war effort, has approved a follow-on package worth another $1 billion that will beef up the intelligence infrastructure and number of intel analysts to support the expansion and also add additional overhead assets, according to AFP. The news wire service cited Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman as saying the funds will pay for additional Air Force MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles as well as Hunter, Raven, ScanEagle, and Shadow UAVs used by the other services. The money will also be used to buy 21 Beechcraft C-12 manned turboprop aircraft with advanced surveillance sensors in Fiscal 2008 and 30 more in Fiscal 2009. The Air Force has been pushing to get enough Predators into Southwest Asia to provide 31 simultaneous combat air patrols by year’s end. As one means of meeting the demand for operators to control these UAVs, the service has put on hold its UAV weapons instructor course at Nellis AFB, Nev., for at least six months.