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Leaked Memo Says Drone Fleet at 'Breaking Point'

Creech Air Force Base 50 miles north of Las Vegas is the office for scores of pilots who remotely fly Predators and other military drones half a world away.

Though their work is secretive, these pilots fly missions that range from surveillance to bombing strikes. Their jobs are 24/7 and are growing in demand.

The problem is, the number of pilots isn’t growing with that need, according to Air Force memos recently leaked.

According to a story in The Daily Beast, senior military officials feel the fleet of drones is being pushed to the “breaking point.” The problem is not the number of aircraft but the number of people needed to operate the equipment.

The Daily Beast reports:

The Air Force has enough MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper drones. It just doesn’t have the manpower to operate those machines. The Air Force’s situation is so dire that Air Combat Command (ACC), which trains and equips the service’s combat forces, is balking at filling the Pentagon’s ever increasing demands for more drone flights.

However, drones are needed to fight the Islamic State or ISIS.

Aviation reporter for IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly, Marina Melanic, told KNPR’s State of Nevada she is not surprised by the memo. She said she sees it as a harbinger rather than an isolated incident of poor planning.

Melanic said the military is still reeling from the bi-partisan budget move two years ago known as sequestration, which dramatically cut defense budgets.

The staffing shortage is also impacting current pilots who have had leaves cancelled and are leaving in droves, The Daily Beast reports.

Bruce Black was a drone pilot at Creech AFB from 2005 to 2013. He said would spend hours flying drones and would barely have time to take a bathroom break.

Black said when he first started flying they were going on five mission in a 24 hour period by the time he left it was up to 65 missions in a 24 hour period. 
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