3 reasons the Air Force is buying fewer UAVs

The Air Force doesn't have enough people to operate its fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), so the service is buying fewer of them -- but it also plans for the robots to get much busier, Spencer Ackerman reports in Wired's Danger Room.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said Predators and Reapers will fly more often, going to 65 combat air patrols with a surge capacity of 85, up from 61 now, the article said. The Air Force bought 48 Reapers last year, but in fiscal 2013 it wants to buy 24, the story added.

The story cited these reasons for the buying decline:
  • A shortage of trained personnel for the programs. They not only operate the unmanned aircraft systems, but also analyze the data.
  • The belief that the service can do more with fewer unmanned aircraft through more sophisticated sensor technologies such as the Gorgon Stare spy suite.
  • Pressing priorities for upgrades to manned aircraft, such as upgrading the software on the F-22, enhancing the radar on F-15s, extending the service life of F-16s and buying new F-35 Joint Strike Fighters.


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