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The US Air Force plans to double its remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) squadrons, and increase the manning and associated workforce by 2,500-3,500.

The proposal requires an investment of $3bn, and is pending approval from Congress.

Intended to reduce the burden on the existing crew, the plan attempts to normalise operations and ensure long-term mission success.

A study undertaken by Air Combat Command (ACC) officials recommends defined career tracks for officer and enlisted RPA operators and maintainers.

The ACC is exploring the option of establishing RPA squadrons at various air force bases in the US and abroad.

"As we strategically analyse the RPA community, we need to take a hard look at our operating locations."

ACC commander General Herbert ‘Hawk’ Carlisle said: "As we strategically analyse the RPA community, we need to take a hard look at our operating locations.

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"Expanding our RPA basing to potential sites such as Davis-Monthan (Air Force Base, Arizona), Langley AFB, Virginia, and a few overseas locations is a discussion we need to entertain as we stand up a new wing.

"Resourcing these changes is not within ACC’s direct control. So we will have to work with the Department of Defense, the White House and Congress on the resources to get this done."

Earlier this week, Virginia was selected for establishing one of the four cyber operations squadrons in the country.

Air force secretary Deborah Lee James previously underlined the importance of drones in their fight against ISIS.

The air force commanders in war zones are asking for more intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, she said.

The force is deploying contractors for surveillance in order to de-stress the pilots who are flying 900 to 1,100 hours a year, James added.

Image: The MQ-1 Predator unmanned aircraft system passed 400,000 flight hours during missions over Iraq and Afghanistan. US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Larry Reid.