The Air Force will not pursue the notional MQ-X stealthy mid-altitude remotely piloted aircraft that service officials once eyed to perform the MQ-1 Predator/MQ-9 Reaper mission in contested airspace. “At this point, we don’t see a need to invest in MQ-X,” said Air Force ISR chief Lt. Gen. Larry James at an Aviation Week conference in Arlington, Va. Instead, Fiscal 2013 will be a watch-and-wait year, said James, as the Air Force observes “what plays out” with the Navy’s Unmanned Carrier-Launched Surveillance and Strike RPA before making decisions on a next-generation platform. The Air Force has bought a single General Atomics jet-powered Predator C for “test and evaluation,” but “there is no intention to press that forward” as a Reaper replacement, said James during his Wednesday address. He said the Air Force would press on with building MQ-9s at a rate of 28 per year. The service thinks a capability of “45 to 65” combat air patrols is “about right” for a Reaper inventory, with the ability to surge to more CAPs with tightened crew ratios. Although Air Force officials have pointedly said the MQ-9 is not survivable in contested airspace, James said “we can upgrade the Reaper if we need to.”