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Reaper Money Moves

House adjusts MQ-9 funding for Fiscal 2012 to reflect upgrade delays.

—Amy McCullough

June 17, 2011—The Air Force will get its wish and be able to buy 48 MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft in Fiscal 2012 under the House defense appropriators' mark of the next year's defense spending bill. However, the air vehicles' configuration will be different than originally requested.

The lawmakers cut $114 million from the Air Force's $813 million request for the 48 MQ-9s and also trimmed some $32 million from the $181 million sought for MQ–9 modifications next fiscal year to reflect delays in the fielding of the Reaper's Block 5 configuration, which adds communications and sensor improvements to the combat-proven, armed intelligence-gathering platform.

The funding they allotted will still buy 48 MQ-9 air vehicles, only in the Block 1 configuration, thereby still supporting the Defense Secretary's goal to have 65 combat air patrols of Reapers and MQ-1 Predators available to US forces in Southwest Asia in 2013.

"These adjustments will allow Block 5 development to proceed while ensuring that the CAP objective is met to support operations in theater," wrote the lawmakers in the report (caution, large sized file) accompanying the House Appropriations Committee's Fiscal 2012 defense bill. The committee issued the report this week.

The Air Force's $813.1 million request assumed a transition to the Block 5 configuration, the lawmakers noted. However, Block 5 initial operational test and evaluation has slipped from Fiscal 2013 to Fiscal 2014, meaning the Block 5 full-rate production decision also will come later.

As a result, they reduced the request by $84.6 million to meet the Block 1 estimated pricing.

The remaining $29.5 million that the appropriators cut from Reaper procurement has to do with an "unrealistically compressed and concurrent schedule" for moving the MQ-9's new electronic eavesdropping payload called ASIP-2C from development into production, they wrote.

The lawmakers cited concern over the schedule calling for ASIP-2C low-rate production to commence in Fiscal 2012 when "flight testing is slated to continue into Fiscal 2013."

They justified the $32 million they cut for Block 5 field modifications by saying that that money is "early to need," given the Block 5 schedule slips.