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An MQ-9 Reaper flies a combat mission over southern Afghanistan. Air Force photo by Lt. Col. Leslie Pratt.

The Defense Department Inspector General said the Air Force has not justified its plan to procure 401 MQ-9 remotely piloted aircraft, and “risks spending” some $8.8 billion on 46 Reapers “it may not need,” according to a report from the Defense Department Inspector General, released Sept. 30. But, the Air Force says that report is based on old data. “The Air Force is only buying 346 aircraft, 55 fewer than the 401 figure contained in the report. And, we’ve only received about half that number,” said Lt. Gen. Robert Otto, Air Force deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, in an Oct. 2 release. The Air Force is seeking funds to procure 83 Reapers in its Fiscal 2015 budget request, and the service is “acting expeditiously” to “procure enough aircraft” to meet combatant commanders’ needs, states the release. “There isn't a combatant commander that doesn’t want more of this capability,” said Col. Ed Thomas, spokesman for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “The need for ISR remains a top requirement for our theater commanders and our national leaders.” The MQ-9 fleet has flown nearly 700,000 hours, most of which were flown in combat, states the release.