Sunday, November 15, 2009

Our New Breed of Aviator Warriors?

Drones have become an important part of our aerial might, there is no doubt about it. Global Hawks, Predators, Reapers, and more are becomming an integral component of aerial forces, particularly in recon tasking.

Uninhabited Aerial Systems, Unmanned Aerial Systems, Unmanned Aerial vehicles, Uninhabited Combat Aviation Systems .... the names keep changing to make them seem more complex and capable. Notice Uninhabited is replacing Unmanned - PC is even invading the drone world ....

The Obama Administration, Deense Secretary Gates, and some of the Pentagon's brass is infatuated with these radio controlled things. They see them as cheap (with cheap being a relative term!) vehicles that can do jobs without risking pilots (which is a good thing). They see them as the perfect weapon to wage a low intensity war against widely scattered, poorly armed terrorist types. They also see a future expansion of drone operations, to include fighter and bomber missions, and aircraft landing on carriers at sea - I have heard quotes from several officials stating they want to see a completely pilotless aerial force.

There are mutliple problems with these things. We lose a lot of these things, and they do cost multiple millions of dollars each. Most of them are completely reliant upon radio communications through satellites to ground control stations that may be half a world away. While most of them are under live operator control, the operator only has as much information on the situation as he can get from the vehicle's sensors, and other observors, if any.

A big problem I see is with the pilots who control these things. Currently, they are fully trained aviators who have been 'demoted' to flying a joystick from an armchair. These pilots are pissed off at this. The government has spent upwards of a million dollars for each of these pilots for training. Pilots who spend time in 'the chair' are unlikely to fly a real airplane for the military again - there are simply too many pilots for too few airplanes these days, and it's going to get worse for them.

Pretty soon, the government is going to figure out they don't have to have fully trained pilots for drones, and they will begin training drone operators - not pilots. Very sad.

Cockpit of the future:

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