- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 6, 2015

An internal Air Force memo says that its drone fleet is stretched to the limit due to a dearth of operators and additional resources needed to meet the Pentagon’s needs.

As the U.S. ramps up operations against the Islamic State group, the Air Force is having a difficult time finding the personnel necessary to fly and maintain its MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper drones.

“ACC believes we are about to see a perfect storm of increased COCOM [Combatant Commander] demand, accession reductions, and outflow increases that will damage the readiness and combat capability of the MQ-1/9 enterprise for years to come,” reads an internal Air Force memo from [Air Combat Command] commander Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle, addressed to Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh, The Daily Beast reported Sunday. “I am extremely concerned.”

The memo obtained by The Daily Beast added that the Air Force would “continue to non-concur to increased tasking beyond our FY15 [fiscal year 2015] force offering.”

“It’s at the breaking point and has been for a long time,” a senior service official told The Daily Beast. “What’s different now is that the Band-aid fixes are no longer working.”

Gen. Carlisle said the Air Force wants the Pentagon to adjust its request for 65 drone combat air patrols (CAPs), by April 2015, the website reported. The Daily Beast said that each CAP consists of four aircraft.

“The reduced offering of 62 CAPs (plus a 60-day Global Response Force) has been submitted to the Joint Staff; however, the Joint Staff has indicated their desire to circumvent normal processes while proposing their own offering of 65 MQ-1/9 CAPs,” Gen. Carlisle wrote, the website reported. “This simply is not an option for ACC to source indeterminately.”

• Douglas Ernst can be reached at dernst@washingtontimes.com.

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