House adds additional funds for armed UAV programs

Despite Air Force officials' assertions that they need only minimal funding in fiscal 2013 to support key programs for armed unmanned aerial vehicles, the House Armed Services Committee has approved additional funding to keep the UAVs in peak condition and ensure there is an abundance of ammunition for their weapon systems, reports Spencer Ackerman at Wired’s Danger Room blog.

The Defense Department requested about $4 million for the MQ-1 Predator program no longer in production and about $1.7 billion for the follow-on MQ-9 Reaper in fiscal 2013. After consideration, lawmakers decided to add $23 million to the Predator, which likely will go to spare parts and replacement sensors, and $180 million more for the Reaper program, of which $26 million likely would go for spare parts and $159 million for 12 new Reaper UAVs, the story said. In addition, the committee increased the Hellfire missile funding for the programs from about $48 million to $61 million.

Air Force officials deliberately slowed the purchase of armed UAVs in the fiscal 2013 budget because they said the service needs to recruit more remote pilots and also refine processes used to analyze surveillance data before buying more of the sophisticated MQ-9 Reapers, the story said.

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