The Air Force will add two new locations for remotely piloted aircraft operations within the continental United States, and look to build new overseas locations as it builds its RPA force. Gen. Hawk Carlisle, commander of Air Combat Command, said ACC will add the two locations “as rapidly as possible,” though he could not provide a specific timeline. The process would start with just a mission control element, followed by a launch and recovery element and a maintenance group. After building up the two locations, the Air Force would look abroad, Carlisle said at AWS16. The process stems from the Air Force’s Culture and Process Improvement Program that looks to revitalize RPA operations in the service. Additional operating locations would help RPA operators work more regular hours to coincide with global operations and increase career options. In addition to the new bases, the Air Force is looking to increase the amount of airmen in the RPA community, improve the promotion process and career track for those airmen, and create a new wing to normalize the organization structure, among other steps. (See also: Don’t Fear the Reaper.)
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.