The Pentagon is looking to increase the joint effort to cover intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance while the Air Force tries to rebuild its beleaguered remotely piloted aircraft community. The Pentagon’s Fiscal 2017 budget continues the build up to 90 combat air patrols, which will be covered by low-end, permissive remotely piloted aircraft, such as MQ-1s and MQ-9s. Under the plan, the Air Force will be responsible for 60 “healthy” combat air patrols, with 10 aircrew per orbit, said Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work on Tuesday. The Army would cover 16 patrols with its MQ-1C Gray Eagle?, four more patrols would be handled by US Special Operations Command, and the final 10 non-kinetic patrols will be flown by contractors as “shock absorber” to help cover the requirement, Work said. If approved, the Pentagon would be able to reach its goal of 90 CAPs in about five years.
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.