It looks like all those hours spent playing video games have finally paid off: the USAF is training more UAV pilots than real pilots.
There was once a great Far Side cartoon that had ‘hopeful parents’ imagining a newspaper full of Help Wanted ads for skilled video game players. Well, it looks like Gary Larson might have been more prescient than he imagined. The US Air Force has just revealed that, this year, it will train more ‘pilots’ to remotely operate unmanned aircraft than pilots to fly fighters and bombers. ...
Lt. Gen. David Deptula revealed at the briefing on July 23 that high- and medium-altitude UAV overseas combat missions have increased more than 600 percent during the past six years. At present, the Air Force has 35 Predator and Reaper UAVs over Iraq and Afghanistan, each of which is a combat mission that keeps an aircraft aloft 24 hours a day.
That, of course, is what has so enamored the military to UAVs – they permit long missions, over huge areas, without being limited by the needs of human cargo. Instead, there’s always fresh crew available to pursue a mission relentlessly. The Air Force has a thousand personnel flying these missions, and none of them is at risk of anything greater than RSI. At the moment, the Air Force uses one pilot per Predator but, by 2013, they believe each one will be able to fly three or four simultaneously.
I think the F-35 is the last fighter the USAF will procure that carries a sack of meat around with it. The advantages to going unmanned are just too great to ignore.
- Save weight by ditching all the life support systems, ejection seat, visual readouts, etc.
- Lower cost by drastically reducing survivability.
- More aggressive rules of engagement because no USAF pilots are at risk.
- Better morale for troops because they get to live in the United States with their families instead of being deployed. Plus all the cost savings associated with this.