WASHINGTON -- The Air Force believes a recent Department of Defense Inspector General report that critiqued Air Force MQ-9 procurement plans to buy 401 Reaper aircraft, stating that 46 aircraft may not be needed, is based on data that is out of date.
"The data in the report is a year old," said Lt Gen Robert Otto, Air Force deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. "The Air Force is only buying 346 aircraft, 55 fewer than the 401 figure contained in the report and we've only received about half that number. The projected total Reaper fleet of 346 is far less the service had originally estimated prior to sequestration."
The Air Force was acting expeditiously upon direction from the Secretary of Defense to procure enough aircraft to meet the increasing number of combat air patrols the Service was being tasked to provide.
The Air Force requested funds to procure 83 more of the ISR workhorse in its fiscal year 2015 President's Budget Request.
With its significant loiter time, wide-range sensors, multi-mode communications suite and precision weapons, the MQ-9 provides a unique capability to perform strike, coordination and reconnaissance against high-value, fleeting and time-sensitive targets.
"There isn't a Combatant Commander that doesn't want more of this capability," said Col. Ed Thomas, spokesman for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "The need for ISR remains a top requirement for our theater commanders and our national leaders."
A dynamic and volatile threat environment created a demand for the platform.
"The MQ-9 has played a vital role in combat operations and has resulted in saving American and coalition lives overseas," said Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vickers. "This is a capability that is in high demand."
"The MQ-9 Reaper is a success story," said Otto. "The soldiers and Marines love it. Combatant Commanders want more of it. We’re working hard to make more, as directed by the Secretary of Defense.”
The aircraft has made significant contributions to mission success.
“The MQ-9 has made tremendous contributions in combat operations, which has saved countless American and coalition lives, said Otto. “Over its lifetime, the Reaper has flown nearly 700,000 hours, most of those in combat operations, and continues to prove its worth daily in operations over Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Horn of Africa."