The U.S. Air Force looks to buy an additional 75 drones and add up to nine flying squadrons over the next five years under its proposed $3-billion unmanned aircraft program expansion, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday.
W.J. Hennigan writes the plan is still to subject to approval by Congress and also calls for the hiring of as many as 3,500 new drone pilots and sensor operators.
The Air Force owns about 175 MQ-9 Reapers and 150 MQ-1 Predators and has eight squadrons that fly the unmanned platforms, Hennigan reports.
“Right now, 100 percent of the time, when a MQ-1 or MQ-9 crew goes in, all they do is combat,” Gen. Herbert Carlisle, head of Air Combat Command, was quoted as saying by the LA Times.
“So we really have to build the capacity,” Carlisle added.
Hennigan said the Defense Department aims to bolster the military’s aerial surveillance missions in war zones and potential hotspots globally.