Sequestration Won’t Affect RPA Flight Hours

Flight hours for the Air Force’s remotely piloted aircraft will be protected if sequestration kicks in next month, service officials told the Daily Report on Feb. 14. Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh told House and Senate defense overseers this week that the service would need to cut more than 200,000 flight hours for the remainder of Fiscal 2013 if the Pentagon must implement the sequester’s across-the-board spending reductions starting on March 1. However, all of those flight-hour reductions would come from manned aircraft because the costs of RPA combat air patrols are covered by war funding accounts that are not subject to sequestration, said the officials through Air Force spokesman Ed Gulick. “The 200,000 flight hours lost will not include RPA CAPs. There are currently no planned RPA CAP reductions,” he told the Daily Report. MQ-1 Predators and MQ-9 Reapers operating in Southwest Asia are flying some 59 CAPs today. The Air Force’s plan has been to build up to 65 CAPs by mid-2014, although service officials have acknowledged they might have to consider whether to modify the plan based on the current budget woes. (See also ISR After Afghanistan from Air Force Magazine’s January 2013 issue.)