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Pentagon Plans To Increase Use Of Drones By 50%


August 18, 2015
Sky News US & Lolita C. Baldor / Associated Press

The Pentagon plans to increase its use of drones by around 50% in response to "escalating aggression from Russia and China." Pentagon sources were unclear as to how drones would be deployed against China and Russia. The Pentagon also hinted it might hire civilians to conduct drone "assassination missions" -- at least a small contractor contribution in order to reach the total of 90 combat air patrols per day. A report earlier this month revealed 57 US airstrikes in Iraq and Syria had killed 459 civilians.

https://uk.news.yahoo.com/pentagon-increase-drones-50-095223805.html

Pentagon To Increase Use Of Drones By 50%
Sky News US

(August 16, 2015) -- The Pentagon has revealed it is planning to increase its use of drones by around 50% over the next few years as it looks to combat new security challenges. The US Army and civilian contractors will put more into the air after the Air Force -- which had been running around 65 combat missions a day -- asked to cut that number to 60 because of workforce stress. But that figure does not meet the demands of top military commanders.

Senior military officials have said that while drones have largely been used to target terrorists and collect intelligence over combat zones, those needs could shift. Incoming chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, is among military leaders who have warned that Russia could become America's most serious security threat.

China's rising military power and its programme of island building in the South China Sea has also triggered an increased demand for US surveillance and intelligence across the Pacific.

Under the proposals, the Air Force would continue to provide 60 daily drone missions, while the Army would carry out 16 and US Special Operations Command and civilian contractors would do up to 10 each.

Air Force Major General JD Harris Jr, vice commander of Air Combat Command at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, said: "It's the combatant commanders, they need more. "They're tasked to do our nation's business overseas so they feel that stress on them, and it's not getting better. There's just not enough of the Air Force to go around."

He added: "Five, six years ago, we overmatched our system and we said we could provide more than what we were capable of providing on a sustained basis. We actually decimated our training units. We pulled crews that were instructors that should be training the next round of students, and we put them on the operational lines flying missions overseas just to provide everything we could to the combatant commanders."

Civilian contractors would only fly surveillance drones under the proposals. It remains unclear how the Pentagon would pay for the additional patrols. Officials have said some of the cost could be met by war funding -- money held in a separate account approved by Congress.

That account has funded some of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as counter-terrorism operations in the Middle East and Africa.

In the last decade, the Air Force has switched fighter pilots to controlling unmanned Predator and Reaper drones as it expanded the number of flights over Iraq and Afghanistan. The use of drones has proved controversial -- a report earlier this month revealed 57 US-led airstrikes on militants in Iraq and Syria had killed 459 civilians.



Pentagon Plans to Increase Drone Flights by 50 Percent
Lolita C. Baldor / Associated Press

JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. (August 17, 2015) -- Faced with escalating aggression from Russia and China, the Pentagon is planning to increase its use of drones by about 50 percent over the next several years, using the Army and civilian contractors to put more of the unmanned aircraft in the air.

The decision to add Army and civilian-operated missions to the mix was triggered because the Air Force -- which had been running about 65 combat air patrol missions a day -- asked to decrease that number to 60 because of stress on the force. But 60 patrols don't come close to meeting the demands of top military commanders facing growing security threats around the world.

Senior US officials said that while drones have been used largely to target terrorists and collect intelligence over combat zones, those needs may shift in the coming years.

Top military leaders, including the incoming chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford, have named Russia as the nation's most serious security threat. And China's rising military power and island-building program in the South China Sea have increased tensions and prompted a greater demand for US surveillance and intelligence across the Pacific.

One senior defense official said Pentagon leaders are taking those security challenges into account as they decide how armed and unarmed drones will be used across Europe and the Pacific. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to discuss the issue publicly.

Pentagon leaders have been wrestling with the problem for some time, as the need for more airstrikes and surveillance by drones over Iraq and Syria to battle the Islamic State group offsets a decline in unmanned flights over Afghanistan as the war there winds down.

Under the plans laid out by senior defense officials, the Air Force would continue to provide 60 daily drone missions, while the Army would conduct about 16, and US Special Operations Command and civilian contractors would do up to 10 each.

"It's the combatant commanders, they need more. They're tasked to do our nation's business overseas so they feel that stress on them, and it's not getting better," said Air Force Maj. Gen. J.D. Harris, Jr., vice commander of Air Combat Command at Joint Base Langley-Eustis. "There's just not enough of the Air Force to go around."

The civilian contractors would fly surveillance drones, not the armed aircraft. But senior defense officials said they need at least a small contractor contribution in order to reach the total of 90 combat air patrols per day.

The key unanswered questions, however, are how the Pentagon will pay for the additional patrols and how the military will sort out and analyze the growing torrent of data pouring in.

Officials said some of the costs could be borne by war funding -- the overseas contingency operations in a separate account approved by Congress. The account funded some of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as some counterterrorism operations in the Middle East and Africa.

The use of the Army and contractor flights will give the Air Force time to recover and rebuild its drone staffing. Over the past decade, the Air Force had to very quickly expand the number of unmanned flights over Iraq and Afghanistan. To do that, it made fighter pilots switch to unmanned Predator and Reaper drones, and moved trainers into operations missions.

"Five, six years ago, we overmatched our system and we said we could provide more than what we were capable of providing on a sustained basis," Harris told The Associated Press in an interview at his Langley office.

"We actually decimated our training units. We pulled crews that were instructors that should be training the next round of students, and we put them on the operational lines flying missions overseas just to provide everything we could to the combatant commanders."

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

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