Thursday, March 10, 2005 | 8:21 a.m.
The Indian Springs Auxiliary Field could be an ideal location to serve as the center for all of the military's unmanned aerial vehicles, said Gen. John Jumper, the Air Force chief of staff.
"I would like to see a center for excellence for UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) where we can have all the military services in the same building," Jumper said after arriving at Nellis Air Force Base on Wednesday. "I don't see why that couldn't be at Indian Springs."
Indian Springs, about 45 miles northwest of Las Vegas, is already the home of the Air Force's MQ-1 Predators, remote-piloted aircraft that can be used for reconnaissance or to attack with Hellfire missiles.
Jumper, who is at Nellis to get updates on the Predator program, FA-22 Raptor testing and to review the Thunderbirds, said that a coordination center for the growing numbers of UAVs among all military services is needed.
"The center would allow us to evolve the same control methods and pass information easily and in productive ways," Jumper said.
Although the Predator is the most well-known of the military's remote-piloted aircraft, there are a number of other, mostly smaller versions used by the Army and Navy, Air Force officials said.
The success of the Predator program has already caused an explosion of activity at the Indian Springs Airfield. Every day Predators are remotely flown from Indian Springs and Nellis in the skies over Iraq and Afghanistan.
Construction has already begun on new hangars and infrastructure at Indian Springs, and is scheduled to accelerate by the end of the year and into 2006. Currently there are about 2,500 people stationed at Indian Springs, and about 500 airmen are involved in the day-to-day operation of the Predator.
An Air Force site activation task force is scheduled this month to visit Indian Springs and reassess the status of the facility there for possible increase to the level of a station or a base under the control of Nellis.
Jumper said he thinks the military facilities at Indian Springs will continue to grow, adding that he expects to see "more activity rather than less at Indian Springs."
Jumper will also meet with members of the 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron while at Nellis for an update on the process of developing combat tactics for the FA-22.
Jumper said the Raptors at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., where pilots are taught how to fly the stealth fighter, have recently been outfitted with air-to-ground combat software already in use at Nellis.
Jumper said he will continue to push for the reinstatement of the Raptors that have been cut in President Bush's proposed budget released in February.
"We're going to make the case that we need the planes and get those numbers back up," Jumper said.