How the Air Force is Using Quickly Deployable Predator teams to Achieve Success
By George Jagels
Remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) have supported U.S. forces in major overseas operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. Millions of hours have been flown by medium altitude long endurance (MALE) platforms such as the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper in support of ground troops, intelligence gathering missions, and precision strike operations. Just as the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review predicted, the demand for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) continues to rise, yet these platforms are slated for budget reductions.
The Air Force FY 15 budget cuts the number of combat air patrols from 65 to 55 while eventually phasing out the MQ-1. The U.S. drawdown from Afghanistan accounts for some of this decrease, as does a different mission set for the Asia-Pacific region, where airspace will likely be less favorable to slow, defenseless RPAs.