House lawmakers propose giving the Air Force money to buy two more MQ-9 Reapers in their version of the fiscal year 2019 defense policy bill, which passed to the full chamber May 10.
The House Armed Services Committee adopted an amendment offered by Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO) to offer the Air Force $42.8 million for another pair of General Atomics' Reapers. The Air Force for FY-19 requested $561.4 million for eight of the remotely piloted aircraft under the base budget and 21 under the Overseas Contingency Operations account. However, the chairman's mark of the bill would cut $192.7 million needed for “excess attrition aircraft” from the Air Force's $339.7 million request for MQ-9 procurement through OCO.
Inside Defense previously reported the Air Force is requesting new MQ-9s to replace aircraft lost in combat or those the Air Force expects will no longer be able to fly.
Representatives of Graves and the committee did not respond to requests for comment by press time.
The committee also approved an amendment by Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) directing the Missile Defense Agency and the commanders of U.S. Central Command and U.S. Pacific Command to brief lawmakers by the end of the year on "the addition of an operational fleet of advanced sensors deployed on MQ-9 Reaper systems to the ballistic missile defense system." The briefing should explore integration and test efforts, basing options, the operational value of using MQ-9s for missile defense, concepts of operation and the total development, operations and sustainment costs of deploying those MQ-9s in PACOM and CENTCOM.
The House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee's mark of the FY-19 legislation requires an independent assessment of the possibility of arming MQ-9s with guided missiles to shoot down North Korean intercontinental ballistic missiles in the boost phase, Inside Defense reported earlier this month.
In a 30-year aviation plan submitted to Capitol Hill last month, the Defense Department noted the Air Force is pursuing an analysis of alternatives for a next-generation intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and strike aircraft, "to begin the effort of adapting the current ISR inventory to the competitive environment outlined in the new National Defense Strategy."
Air Force Air Combat Command will include wide-area motion imagery capabilities and requirements in an AOA for airborne ISR sensors this year to help the service flesh out acquisition programs for new sensors, Inside Defense previously reported. That AOA is the first study resulting from an ACC-led effort to formally document future airborne ISR requirements.