A US Air Force MQ-1 Predator unmanned aircraft prepares for takeoff in support of operations in Southwest Asia. (US Air Force)
PARIS — Just as the US defense budget constricts, commanders are asking for increased ISR capabilities that simply aren’t available. The US Air Force is hoping partner countries will help to pick up the slack, said Heidi Grant, deputy undersecretary of the Air Force for international affairs.
“If you look at ISR that’s one of our greatest shortfalls,” Grant said during an interview at the Paris Air Show Monday. “We cannot meet the demand of our combatant commanders, they just keep asking for more more more.”
Grant said that because of that need, she has been discussing increased ISR capabilities with partners.
“ISR is a huge capability gap that I’m trying to encourage when I can with partners to step up and take on some of that ISR,” she said. “France has been awesome as you know in Mali, they’ve really stepped up and taken the lead there.”
One solution would be the proliferation of UAVs. But UAVs, while much in demand, are the subject of internal government debate as to exportability. Several close allies have been sold US UAVs, including the UK, France and Italy, although others in critical regions like the Middle East remain without the aircraft.
“We’re still working through our US government policy, but it is a great military tool,” Grant said.
UAVs also represent one of the few areas where US aircraft are making a strong showing at the Paris Air Show, with several on static display.
Despite the absence of most other US military aircraft, and a reduction in military personnel, Grant said the show is humming along nicely.
“I’m still doing just as many engagements as I have in past years,” Grant said. “I have seven one-on-one engagements with air chiefs. Just in the two days I’m here I’m doing eight US industry engagements.” ■
For more Paris Air Show coverage, go to www.defensenews.com.