By Debbie Gregory.
In answer to an increase in global threats, the US Army is stepping up to the plate to put more “eyes in the skies.”
The Army is planning to expand its aerial exploitation battalion forces, which fly manned Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions around the world.
According to the Pentagon, the plan is to increase its daily drone flights by 50 percent over the next four years.
The Army’s new units will fly fixed-wing aircraft with special equipment that can detect enemies emitting signals in war zones. The pilots and crew will be taken from excess forces in the Army’s operational support airlift units and from the National Guard and Army Reserve.
The move will help prevent Army pilots in the active duty and reserves from being cut, due to pressure from defense budget cuts.
Since the pilots won’t require any new training, the new units will not require any new funding. The pilots will likely get refresher training when they report to their new assignments, which is already required semi-annually.
Although the move comes as the U.S. has drawn down a large-scale troop presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, officials say that often times, that is when the demand for intelligence actually increases.
For now, two units are planned, which will be stood up at the Hunter Army Airfield in Georgia and Fort Bliss in Texas, where the Army has two aerial exploitation battalions.
Also in the works is a restructuring of the Army’s rotary-wing units as part of an initiative called Aviation Restructure Initiative (ARI), which will move the National Guard’s attack helicopters to the active duty.