The Air Force has faced significant operational challenges over the last decade to keep pace with the increased demands for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. The wars in Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq have brought dramatic changes to the way these missions are conducted, including the retirement of some ISR assets, the rise and fall of others, and the emergence of the unmanned ISR mission as the wave of the future.
Through it all, the Air Force continues to return to the phrase “insatiable demand” to describe combatant commanders’ calls for keeping a better watch on the world. While USAF leaders still say they struggle to fulfill these requests, the shape of the Air Force has shifted decidedly toward ISR. For example, ISR assets as a portion of the total aircraft inventory have more than tripled over the past decade. In 2007, ISR aircraft made up 3.2 percent of the USAF total inventory. Today, ISR assets represent 9.9 percent of all Air Force aircraft. Read more