The U.S. Air Force is cutting down its unmanned aerial vehicle missions in an effort to ease the workload of its airmen and intelligence operators and sustain combat air patrols over the next 10 years, Defense One reported Monday.
Marcus Weisgerber writes that the service began to bring the number of patrols down to 60 on April 1 from a peak of 65 last year.
“We’ve been able to come down off of 65 to help get the community and the enterprise healthy for that long-term sustainment that we want to be able to do,” said Col. James Cluff, commander of the 432nd Wing and 432nd Air Expeditionary Wing.
The report said each combat air patrol or orbit involves approximately four UAVs and various resources such as a control station, antennas and satellites, as well as the work of pilots, maintenance staff and intelligence operators.
UAV pilots under Cluff’s command fly General Atomics‘ MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper, Weisgerber reports.
Cluff noted that the Air Force cannot train pilots and technicians at pace with the continually growing demand for UAV intelligence missions.
According to the report, Cluff asked the approval of Defense Secretary Ashton Carter to slow down drone operations in efforts to keep the workforce “healthy” and able to meet increased demand during emergencies.