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Will Roper: Air Force Eyes Commercial Drones to Replace Reapers

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Will Roper
Will Roper

Will Roper, assistant secretary for acquisition, technology and logistics at the U.S. Air Force and a 2020 Wash100 Award winner, said the service branch is considering commercial drones and high-end unmanned aircraft as it looks to replace the General Atomics-built MQ-9 Reaper drone, Defense News reported Thursday.

He said at a House Armed Services Committee hearing the Air Force is working on a study that will set the path for the Reaper replacement effort and inform the budget for fiscal year 2022.

"The Reaper has been a great platform for us. Four million flight hours, just undeniable overmatch in a low-end uncontested fight, and it is certainly saving lives,” Roper told lawmakers. “But as we look to the high end fight, we just can't take them into the battlefield. They are easily shot down.”

Roper said the service may require drones that “are more high-end, military-unique” or cheap unmanned attritable aircraft that are reusable.