USAF Droning On About Pilots :-)

Sub-scale and Full-Scale Aerial Targets and RPAs - Remotely-Piloted Aircraft
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spazsinbad

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Unread post30 Nov 2011, 22:19

Drone Pilots: The Future Of Aerial Warfare by Rachel Martin Nov 29, 2011

http://www.npr.org/2011/11/29/142858358 ... al-warfare

"To understand how important remotely piloted aircraft are to the U.S. military, consider this: The U.S. Air Force says this year it will train more drone pilots than fighter and bomber pilots combined....

...There are two big reasons for the shift. The first was the Sept. 11 attacks: America's borderless war on al-Qaida catapulted drone technology onto the front lines.

The second reason has been budget cuts: Air Force fighter pilots started to see their squadrons disappear. That's what happened to another lieutenant colonel named Mike. Until a year ago, he was an F-15 pilot. Now, he's also an instructor at Holloman.

"I felt with the F-15 drawdown that that community was closing up, and there'd be more opportunity but also a chance to be part of the fastest growing part of the Air Force," Mike says.

Now, the challenge for Mike, Steve and other instructors at Holloman is to convince students that when they're operating drones, they are flying real airplanes....

...Until recently, most drone operators were regular Air Force pilots. Now, the service is reaching out to people who've never even flown before. And that has caused friction within the Air Force as it tries to redefine what it means to be a pilot.

"There's a cultural divide," says Kelly, a 46-year-old Air Force reservist from Texas who is now a student at Holloman...."
RAN FAA A4G: http://tinyurl.com/ctfwb3t http://tinyurl.com/ccmlenr http://www.youtube.com/user/bengello/videos
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lb

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Unread post01 Dec 2011, 08:55

The USAF really does need to get over itself. The entire every pilot has to be an officer was the wrong policy when instituted in WWII and the other services do fine without them.
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Roscoe

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Unread post02 Dec 2011, 04:48

We had flying sergeants in WWI so your initial premise is wrong. Today anyone who passes a flight physical can be a pilot. You just have to demonstrate that you have the cognitive skills to learn a complex weapon system, and then use them efficiently while applying advanced tactics and under stress. The DOD has already decided to pass the burden cost of that "demonstration" to colleges and universities. Once you have the degree, you qualify to be an officer...
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Unread post02 Dec 2011, 06:53

Perhaps you might want to wish to read what I wrote again. The policy that all pilots must be officers was created during WWII in the USAAF and it's not a premise but a historical event. Continuing this policy for UAV pilots in the USAF is ridiculous given the problem they are having training enough, they are seriously short, compared to the US Army which does not make every pilot an officer and is not having problems finding enough.

Indeed the entire notion that every pilot requires command responsibility instead of allowing some or most to be technical specialists, either as warrant officers or NCO's, is entirely flawed.

Your assumption that finding adequate numbers of pilot officers for USAF UAV units is not an issue is false. The USAF is having very serious problems for myriad reasons most of which revolve around the policy of requiring every pilot to be an officer. For example it's not a good career move. Contrast this with the US Army flying similar aircraft having no problem finding pilots for them.
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Unread post02 Dec 2011, 14:31

Transfer the flying snowmobiles to the Army, they'd both be more useful (command structure) and be easier to find pilots for. You don't want to waste an officer on something that, compared to a Viper, can be flown by any kid off the street.
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Unread post04 Dec 2011, 20:24

Predators cannot be flown by any kid off the street...they are actually quite difficult to land. We last a lot of them early because units would only give up there worst pilots.
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southernphantom

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Unread post05 Dec 2011, 16:26

Roscoe wrote:Predators cannot be flown by any kid off the street...they are actually quite difficult to land. We last a lot of them early because units would only give up there worst pilots.


Then junk the piece of @*$% already. UCAVs should either be recon assets like the RQ-4 or RQ-170, or VLO platforms for high-risk missions. I see no point in maintaining something that is literally of no use in a med-high intensity war, especially when we are trying to pull out of the existing low-intensity occupation 'wars'.
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Unread post06 Dec 2011, 05:04

While that's a reasonable point of view it's also worth noting that almost every conflict the US has been involved with has been one where MQ-1's perform very well. Moreover, it's quite possible to imagine a medium intensity conflict that begins with MQ-1/9's vulnerable but eventually see threat reduction allow them to risk operating where the risk was previously too high.

Consider that an MQ-1 weighs a ton and cruises around 100 mph with a 115 shp engine. It's concept of operations is often to fly out to a point and orbit for up to 24 hours being replaced by another to maintain 24/7 coverage. Can we afford doing this with another platform? Can the US Army afford operating anything far more capable than the MQ-1C? The trend is using the cheap drones where possible and the expensive ones where required.

It's also worth pointing out the MQ-1/9 is relatively cheap and is past it's growing pains. Both the RQ-4 and RQ-170 are very expensive, operating in small numbers, and being new crash more often as indicated by out apparent loss of control of an RQ-170 last week. Ground units also operate myriad types of UAV's smaller than the MQ-1. Finally there are more capable jet UCAV/UCAS in the works such as the Avenger (Predator C) and follow on the X-47B (UCAS-D) that will get in service soon enough to complement the slower and more vulnerable ones we have. However, sometimes a the cheaper platform is good enough or even superior to the more expensive and having a range of capability, including cost effective solutions, is often better than relying on just high end systems.
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Unread post07 Dec 2011, 14:45

Fair enough. But remember the performance of the AV-8 and OV-10 in Desert Storm. They took heavy losses for the number we had deployed. Slow, lightweight platforms are a target. I while acknowledge their utility in low-intensity conflict or marine patrol, but these things should not be superseding fighters.
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Unread post08 Dec 2011, 01:58

Actually I'd take some exception to the A-10 not performing extremely well and taking excessive loses. Indeed some returned to base after taking punishment that would have shot down any other aircraft. Today the A-10 is still the premier aircraft when you need to fly eyes on low and slow. If you don't need to do so, however, and can drop smart bombs from 20,000ft almost anything is better than a fighter. An MQ-1/9 is far more cost effective with much more loiter time and a bomber provides loiter time and a heavy load of different munitions.

If one takes a look at attack helicopters in many situations they are more vulnerable than fixed wing aircraft (2003 springs to mind). Any aircraft flying within AAA is vulnerable. A MALE however is flying around 20,000ft and above AAA. It's not a reasonable argument against slow prop UAV's. That said I do agree with you that for medium to high intensity operations a MALE is going to have limited utility till the air defenses are rolled back. They are, however, an important system within the full range of capabilities.

Sec Gates some years ago pointed out that a Predator was often a superior platform than an F-16 and that some fighter wings of course be replaced by them. This doesn't mean an MQ-1/9 can do everything an F-16 can do, far from it. But it does mean for some missions the MQ-1/9 is either more effective, more cost effective, or both. We simply can't afford flying expensive strike fighters for everything all the time leaving aside the fact that sometimes another aircraft can do the job better, not to mention cheaper.
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Unread post08 Dec 2011, 07:42

Salute!

I beg to differ about the college degree requirement to be a pilot, with all respect for lb.

As late as 1958 or 1959 or so, we had the "aviation cadet" program in USAF. Two years of college and then to flight school. I considered that as my last ditch maneuver if not accepted for USAFA. Program was cancelled, so I had to go the "long" route to get my wings. I knew folks from my CAP squadron during the late 50's that went the aviation cadet route.

Yeager didn't have a college degree, best I can determine.

I fly each week in the online sim Warbirds. Many very skilled pinball wizards there who could easily master a drone and prolly do better within 30 minutes than most of the folks at Creech. Then there are the old curmudgeons such as myself. I could prolly get used to a drone in an hour or so due to real world experience and 15 years of flying the sim Warbirds.

What I resent, as do many real world pilots who have been shot at and missed, is handing out actual "hero" decorations to the pinball wizards. I can see "achievement" decorations, but not anything related to actual exposure to the SAM or AAA or Flanker.

No doubt that the future is heavily in favor of the drones. Can't argue with that. OTOH, there are still a few missions that require on-scene human judgement and capability. SAR and CAS are two that come to mind. Then there's the insertion of a SEAL team deep behind enemy lines. And how about a rescue of hostages on some boat the pirates captured?

respectfully,

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Unread post08 Dec 2011, 10:26

Gums I don't see any disagreement. The argument is that the USAF under current policies is having a lot of trouble finding enough UAV pilots. For this role the requirement that every pilot be an officer is a big part of the problem. I'd agree that awards for valor for remote piloting is ridiculous and that sometimes what you really do need is eyes on from the cockpit. In fact one can often be ridiculed these days for pointing out not everything can be done from above the cloud base and/or 20,000+ ft.

Also, as I'm sure you're aware, these long drone missions often require multiple operators both to pilot and operate the sensors who have to be relieved by a fresh crew after a period of hours. This is the irony that unmanned systems can be very manpower intensive.
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Unread post08 Dec 2011, 18:26

Salute!

@ lb

No problem, I misunderstood the situation.

I also agree that a college degree requirement is B.S., or even being an officer. As I pointed out, I see many of the Warbirds "virtual" pilots do quite well in the sim and many do not have real world pilot experience or a college degree.

USAFA is and has been "pushing" drone jobs for a year or two. Many of the young men and women can't physically qualify to be pilots or even navigators. So at least they can "help"/"contribute" at the tip of the spear using the tools they are presented. I am sure that the ROTC folks are doing likewise.

OTOH, seems to me that being an officer should not be a requirement.

Lastly, the point about flying a 20-hour mission is correct. Ya gotta take a break every now and then. I can tellya that flying across the Pacific for 13 hours was no fun, and we didn't have a flight attendant or could not get outta our seat. Heh heh. So I can see the manning document has to have 2 or 3 "operators" for every drone. Maybe only 2 for the sensor operators.

Gums sends...
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Unread post13 Mar 2013, 08:56

Good Grief -

Time for a little history : when the Army Air Corps split in 1947, and the USAF was born, driving aircraft was considered "on par" with driving a truck. Pilots of the times were Sergeants and they began flying since around 1912 and they have an excellent record in employing all types aircraft as a weapon of war through WW2. In around 1920 or so when the Warrant program started, some put in for "flight school" (Such as it was) and their history is indeed noteworthy as well.

This system became quite unsatisfactory from the commissioned officers point of view and complaints were made by the hundreds. They felt that since everyone involved with flying the aircraft was of a lesser rank, a pilot would then have to be commissioned. Of particular rancor was the sergeant's position of pilot, PIC if you will. As known, they have complete control. Eventually the politics of the situation in both the Army Air Corps and the new USAF took hold and the non-commissioned ranks were phased out although the warrant was kept for specialized pilot duties.

In general, it has been the thrust of the military services to remove the human pilot from the aircraft. In the future, you'll see very few live pilots, all phased out in favor of drone use. Commissioned officers will be bumped towards flying the drones until flight manpower is reduced. The reason this will happen is because of all the POW, MIA, KIA's that have been suffered through all our wars and the combined probability of US Military still in enemy hands to this date. The subject is a thorn in the side of the military planners and placed there by Families of those missing and the pubic in general. It won't change - the politics of the times won't permit more losses.

Once the manpower has been stabilized with respect to the drone program, the piloting program will be contracted out. There will be objections of course, and the thought will be given towards a federal civilian system (properly trained) but implementation will almost surely fail. (Something on the order of the FAA today). It's simply too expensive and the military will have little control. Contractors will be under military control and a new shelf of do's and don'ts will be written in order to establish a "Fail Safe" system, which may or may not work as well as planned.

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Unread post13 Mar 2013, 10:00

I can see alot of surveilance / remote bombing runs handled by drone pilots

However, in a real dogfight, I'd want real people behind the controls in a real plane.

I do agree that you need the right tool for the right job.

Drones are perfect for surveilance, long range bombing / attack in a low retaliation environment

In a real well defended area, drones will just be a money sink if they get to close to air defense or the enemy sends out real planes

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