RPA Plan Requires Political Will

The Air Force will need help implementing its new plan to overhaul the remotely piloted aircraft community, said Gen. Hawk Carlisle, commander of Air Combat Command. “Resourcing these changes is not within ACC’s direct control,” said Carlisle in a Dec. 10 release. “So we will have to work with the Department of Defense, the White House, and Congress on the resources to get this done.” Draft language of the Fiscal 2016 National Defense Authorization Act includes funding to increase bonuses for RPA operators, after the Air Force petitioned for approval to reallocate $100 million in funding, and called for new bonuses of $15,000 a year for five- or eight-year commitments. In September, the Air Force announced that Defense Secretary Ash Carter had approved a plan to decrease USAF’s RPA flight requirements from 65 combat air patrols to 60. However, the Army will fly 16 CAPs with its MQ-1C Gray Eagle fleet and US Special Operations Command contractor-operated aircraft will fly about 10 CAPs, providing some relief to the Air Force is it attempts to catch up on training new operators, USAF Deputy Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Bob Otto told reporters in October. At the time, the Air Force was flying 61 CAPs, Otto said.