The ISR Commitment

The Air Force’s Fiscal 2016 budget request delays the planned retirement of the U-2 high-altitude reconnaissance fleet to 2019, three years later than the service had proposed in its Fiscal 2015 request. The decision comes in “response to current operational requirements” and in an effort “to reduce risk by aligning U-2 divestitures with anticipated fielding of enhanced RQ-4 Block 30 sensors,” according to a budget document released on Monday. The Air Force’s proposed budget also looks to keep both the Global Hawk Block 30 and Block 40 fleets, unlike the Fiscal 2015 request, which met staunch opposition from Congress over the service’s plan to divest the Block 40 fleet. The budget calls for upgrades to the Block 30 fleet to extend “platform viability beyond 2023, improve reliability, and enhance sensor performance,” according to the document. In addition, the budget funds 60 MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper combat air patrols in Fiscal 2016. “The Fiscal 2016 budget request sustains focus on enhancing ISR capabilities against high-end threats while increasing investment in medium-altitude, permissive ISR to increase capacity for ongoing combatant command operations,” according to the document, the service’s budget overview (caution, large-sized file). It also “invests in the incredible airmen who operate remotely piloted aircraft with increases in flight pay and bonuses,” states the document. (See also Air Force Fiscal 2016 Budget Rollout Briefing slides.)