Preference for Buying

The Air Force is not looking to lease remotely piloted aircraft, not even temporarily, the service leadership said Wednesday. “We intend to keep this capability over a longer term,” so it makes more sense—and is probably ultimately less expensive—to buy and own RPA, Air Force Secretary Michael Donley told members of the Senate defense appropriations panel. Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Ms.) had wondered if leasing RPA would make them available more quickly to combatant commanders in regions other than US Central Command where nearly all RPA operate today. But Gen. Norton Schwartz, Chief of Staff, said the Air Force is already doing “as much as we can do” from a resource and manpower standpoint to increase its RPA ranks, including “maximizing” MQ-9 Reaper production. Accordingly, he said, USAF is on “the max performance glide path” to growing RPA capability to satisfy the needs of all combatant commanders. (Donley-Schwartz prepared remarks)