Retooling the Reaper Regime

The Pentagon’s Fiscal 2013 budget proposal sees a shift in the funding priorities for the Air Force’s MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft program, with the service reducing its planned MQ-9 Reaper purchase, while investing more in training. Briefing reporters on Monday, Lt. Gen. Larry Spencer, head of the Joint Staff’s office of force structure, said the Air Force was on a path to buy 48 Reapers in Fiscal 2013, which would have “maxed out production.” However, those plans changed and the budget request now supports the purchase of 24 Reapers in order to keep the service on track to meet the requirement for having enough assets to support 65 simultaneous combat air patrols of MQ-9s/MQ-1 Predators in Fiscal 2014. Spencer said an Air Force review revealed that undertrained crews and insufficient ground capacity were the “limiting factor” in improving RPA capabilities. By reducing the airframe buy, and investing in crews, training, and ground stations, the Air Force can close the capability gap more effectively, noted Spencer. The budget proposal also retains the MQ-1 in service for longer than previously planned and allows for a surge capacity to 85 CAPs, if necessary.