Skip to comments.UAS pilot gap becomes top priority for USAF
Posted on 09/19/2008 7:26:42 PM PDT by Yo-Yo
Addressing a critical shortage of pilots to operate unmanned air systems has moved to the top of the modernisation priorities for the US Air Force's newly installed leadership.
General Norton Schwartz, appointed chief of staff in June, has unveiled a two-part plan to escalate the number of UAS operators from 300 to 1,100 in five years.
First, 100 pilots every year in undergraduate pilot training will be assigned to UAS operations. Second, the USAF will launch a distinct pipeline for UAS operators on a trial basis that will recruit from the ranks of active pilots and perhaps even retirees.
"The air force culture must promote a strong and healthy UAS community - not a leper colony or an agency of expedience, and these initiatives are just a first step toward that end," said Schwartz, speaking to the Air Force Association's Air & Space 2008 convention on 16 September.
Only five months ago, Secretary of Defense Bob Gates compared his efforts to obtain the military's support for UAS operations to "pulling teeth". The USAF's top two leaders were fired two months later over lapses in nuclear safeguards.
But addressing UAS pilots shortages and overall intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) needs in Afghanistan and Iraq has already become a top priority for Schwartz. It was the only weapons modernisation initiative he launched during the high-profile AFA convention.
"We will do everything we can to ensure our UAS units are properly organised, trained and equipped for today's fight, and prepared for future challenges," says Schwartz, a former special operations airlift pilot.
The USAF has also unveiled the Project Liberty plan to buy 37 Hawker Beechcraft RC-12 King Airs, which are aimed at augmenting the UAS fleet with manned ISR platforms. Schwartz has also previously disclosed that a sophisticated new sensor is under development called the "wide area airborne surveillance" (WAAS) system.
More traditional ISR platforms, such as the Northrop Grumman E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) may also benefit.
Next year, Northrop will start flight testing a 400mm (16in) telescope generating 1.4Gb of imagery data across seven spectral bands aboard the E-8C, says Dale Burton, vice-president of ISR and battle management and command and control.
Called the Senior Year electro optical reconnaissance system (SYERS), currently flown aboard the U-2, the sensor will allow the E-8C to aim a camera at one target while it continues to scan its radar at other targets.
Northrop's ultimate goal is to transition the 7m (24ft)-wide area sensor for the multi-platform radar technology insertion programme (MP-RTIP) on to the E-8C, replacing the existing APY-7. The company is already scouting for an available Boeing 707 to serve as a testbed aircraft.
I went through AF pilot training in ‘77-’78. If someone had told me that after all that.....I’d be flying a remotely-controlled vehicle like some sort of freakin’ video game (not that we had them back then...)...I’d have been livid.
Now with that said, don’t misunderstand; I clearly see the battlefield value of UAV’s. They’re incredible weapons platforms. I’m addressing the human element.
If you haven’t gone through the grind of pilot training, you can’t fully understand.
Offer cash bonuses for trainees, conditional that they complete the program. Recruit from college campuses offering degrees relevent to the job requirements.
Does one really need full blown pilot training to “pilot” a UAS? I’d guess not. Considering how much it costs to train a pilot, this seems like a real waste.
The USAF continues to insist that UAV operators be rated officers. Why not open up UAV operator to non-rated officers and senior NCOs?
The US Army has a Warrant Officer program for helicopter pilots. Why can’t the Air Force revive their long dead Warrant Officer program for UAV pilots?
These 100 new graduates will spend their first tour as UAV pilots, which is an average of four years. At the end of that tour they will have to repeat basic flight just to get requalified.
Why must AF UAV pilots be rated pilots?
The Army has many Warrant Officer helicopter & fixed wing pilots.
The Army has enlisted and NCO UAV pilots.
There were many Sgt pilots in WWII.
I know someone who’s daughter is headed for pilot training soon and she will not be happy if she is flying a box in a room somewhere.
Someone who is good at MS Flight Simulator and a combat aircraft videogame could be easily trained to pilot UAV’s.
There were a lot of disappointed pilots who ended up as RIO’s. It would help if you had a pipeline for those people seperate from manned aircraft.
I flew drones in VN...but never was a pilot until I left the service. There are still people out there who would love to serve where they could fly UAVs.
Why can’t enlisted personnel fly these? There have been enlisted and “flying sergeants/petty officers” since the beginning of military and naval aviation. Or perhaps start a warrant officer program in the USAF like the Army has for rotary aircraft.
I say yes, because the UAV will sometimes be flying in "traffic" where the pilot will have to worry about other planes around like when they are in a landing pattern. They won't need to be fully trained fighter pilots though. And I see no reason why every pilot has to be an officer.
>>>a critical shortage of pilots to operate unmanned air systems
Perhaps the air force should transfer the UAV program to the army. I believe that both the army and marines use enlisted personnel as UAV pilots and have dedicated training programs.
Nonrated officers would have more motivation to fly a combat UAV than the MWS pilots the Air Force currently uses. If implemented, the program would also allow the retention of an experienced cadre within the UAV community to work future planning issues and/or serve in leadership positions such as squadron commander. Currently, at the end of a Predator pilots three-year tour, he or she quickly resumes flying a manned MWS. Other UAV communities, such as the RQ-4A Global Hawk and the X-45 UCAV, could capitalize on the experience that pilots will acquire in the Predator program. Furthermore, having the opportunity to move to other UAV programs would enhance career progression and increase command opportunities for Predator pilots.
I just sent an e-mail to my brother-in-law, a Naval aviator, that is retiring this year.
"You get to fight a war and blow up bad guys with Hellfire missiles from the comfort of an air-conditioned computer station in Colorado."
After three tours in Iraq, this is one tour the wife be happy about.
Exactly why they don’t need Pilots. All those strenuous physical and vision requirements for them can get sh#t canned. They need people who are temperamentally suited to the demands of the UAS’s guys who LIKE the idea of the worlds greatest video game....