The Air Force has temporarily pulled back on increasing the number of Predator and Reaper combat air patrols flying in support of operations in Afghanistan in order to ease stress on the remotely piloted aircraft force and rebuild the training pipeline, said Lt. Gen. Larry James, deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. Although the goal is to eventually reach 65 CAPs—with a surge capacity of 85 CAPs—the service is flying 57 orbits today and will maintain this level until November when it adds the 58th CAP, said James during an AFA-sponsored Air Force Breakfast Program address in Arlington, Va., on April 26. “That will give us time to reconstitute our training pipeline and allow us to start building capacity back in to the system, because we really are people-limited in terms of operating the Predator and Reaper,” he explained. James said he doesn’t expect the Predator and Reaper crew ratio to balance out until 2016 or 2017. (See also Balancing Act from the Daily Report‘s archives.)
After a long period in which munitions were almost an afterthought and sacrificed to pay for other priorities, the Air Force needs to focus on them in order to have the right “package” of capabilities for future conflicts, Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. said June 7.