Drones change 'Top Gun' culture of Air Force

Discussion in 'Academy/Military News' started by Polaris, Dec 11, 2012.

  1. Polaris

    Polaris Member

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    Drones change 'Top Gun' culture of Air Force

    Dan MacMedan, USA TODAY
    An Air Force captain who is a student at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas gives a briefing on a simulated downed pilot rescue. He and another student will fly the remotely piloted aircraft known as The Reaper.

    by Jim Michaels, USA TODAY

    Published: 12/01/2012 09:00am

    NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nevada – Inside a plain beige trailer, a pair of aviators stare intently at a bank of computer screens. Air conditioners hum loudly in the background.

    The sensor operator zooms in on an object on the ground more than 14,000 feet below. The pilot moves a joystick, turning a drone that's miles away and flying at a sluggish 120 mph over the Nevada desert as part of an exercise to find a downed pilot.

    "It's an odd shape, but I don't see any movement," the drone pilot says before pushing the joystick and moving on. Air Force policy prohibits identifying drone pilots by name.

    It's not like strapping into an F-16 and exceeding the speed of sound, but drones like these are overshadowing fighters and bombers that for decades have been the mainstay of America's unchallenged air superiority.

    The rise of drone warfare has meant a dramatic cultural shift for the Air Force, whose leadership has for decades been dominated by officers who made their mark flying combat aircraft.

    Nellis Air Force Base is the home of the Air Force's elite Top Gun school for fighter pilots. Drone pilots share space here and have their own tactics course.

    The drones fly from small trailers not far from a flight line where fighter jets regularly roar down the runway and climb sharply over mountains surrounding the base.

    Drones were initially dismissed by many pilots as nothing more than video games, and it took prodding from the Pentagon before the Air Force embraced the aircraft. Today, the Air Force pins more wings on new drone pilots than fighter and bomber pilots.

    The smallish aircraft, fitted with powerful cameras for surveillance and sometimes missiles for airstrikes, play a critical role in Afghanistan. They provide 24/7 surveillance of the battlefield and have the ability to hit precise targets.

    The Air Force has embraced drone pilots without reservations. The drone pilots get nicknames, or call signs, and stride the halls of the Air Force Weapons School in flight suits like any other pilots.

    It's important symbolism, officers say.

    "They're 100% accepted and integrated," says Air Force Lt. Col. Cedric Stark, a helicopter pilot and squadron commander at Nellis.

    Air Force officers blanch at using the word drone, which they say suggests it is a dumb aircraft that flies itself. The accepted term is remotely piloted aircraft, or RPA. The message is that pilots control the aircraft, even if from a remote location.

    "We don't just give call signs to any guy who walks in the door," says Lt. Col. Joseph Campo, head of the RPA program at the Weapons School.

    Some pilots say the Air Force embraces the drones at the expense of manned aircraft.

    "I guarantee you there is not a fighter pilot around who wants to fly a drone," says Dan Hampton, a former Air Force officer who has written a memoir about his exploits as a fighter pilot. "I don't want to orbit over a point for 12 hours and take pictures."

    J.D. Wyneken, director of the American Fighter Aces Association, says the older generation of pilots view drone operators as less than true pilots.

    In the view of many aces, "just the very idea of a pilotless aircraft is dishonorable," Wyneken says.

    To be an ace, a pilot has to shoot down five or more aircraft during an aerial duel. There are about 300 surviving aces in the USA. They could be the last.

    "We may be on verge of building our last manned fighter," said Charles Wald, a retired Air Force general and former fighter pilot who is director of Deloitte, a consulting firm.

    Few officers deny that drones are essential to the wars the United States fights. Drone strikes against al-Qaeda leaders in Pakistan and elsewhere have killed scores of terrorists, according to the Obama administration, which has ramped up drone operations.

    Drones were used extensively in Iraq and in Afghanistan. They can loiter for hours over a target, transmitting vital video surveillance to troops on the ground.

    "There is a demand for ISR that is almost insatiable," Stark says, referring to intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance supplied by drones.

    Because of increased drone usage, the Air Force has boosted the number of drone pilots. They make up 8.5% of Air Force pilots, up from 3.3% in 2008, according to the Air Force.

    Drones were initially required to be operated by fighter, bomber and other pilots, but two years ago the service created a separate training pipeline designed specifically for training drone pilots. They get only limited training in manned aircraft before learning how to pilot an RPA.

    The younger generation of officers is attracted to drones, seeing them as the future. Last year, drones flew more combat hours than manned aircraft.

    "The truth of the matter is remotely piloted aircraft are carrying the vast majority of the workloads in terms of kinetic operations," says Lt. Col. John McCurdy, director of the RPA program at the Air Force Academy. He said he has seen a steady increase in the number of students interested in the program.

    Even some pilots of manned aircraft are having second thoughts.

    About 25% of the 244 pilots who were ordered to fly drones after basic flight training have indicated they want to stay with the remotely piloted aircraft instead of returning to manned aircraft, the Air Force says.

    "I've talked to people who transferred over who said they like the RPA platform because they are finally getting a chance to engage the enemy," says Air Force Col. Kent McDonald, a flight surgeon who has studied the effects of stress on drone pilots.

    Officers say the drone pilots have the drive and aggressiveness of fighter jocks but not the swagger. Col. Robert Garland, commander of the Air Force Weapons School, which teaches pilots from a number of aircraft, including RPAs, says he emphasizes being "humble and approachable."

    Many officers don't miss the old swagger.

    "You shouldn't necessarily associate brash and cockiness with courage or ... performance," Wald says. "It was kind of fun to be that way, but that doesn't necessarily mean you were the best at anything."

    The pilots coming into the drone program have grown up with computers and video games. Drone pilots sit in ground stations that resemble a cross between a cockpit and a video game. There are computer monitors, video screens and joysticks for controlling the aircraft and camera. The pilots often communicate through texting.

    "This cockpit is built for this generation of multitaskers," says Col. Bill Tart, director of the Air Force's RPA Task Force.

    The demand for surveillance from ground forces has placed a lot of pressure on RPA pilots, sensor operators and analysts.

    "The RPA platform can be much more stressful … in terms of just the amount of information that they have to consistently be aware of," says Wayne Chappelle at the Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.

    Pilots say it can't be compared to the stress they feel when a missile heads toward their aircraft or when they are making violent turns in a dogfight. Fighter pilots can be killed in action, or taken prisoner if they have to bail out of a damaged aircraft. Not so drone pilots.

    "It's as stressful as any tedious job," says John Hope, executive director of the Red River Valley Fighter Pilots Association. "When you tell a guy who flew an F-105 over Vietnam that this guy is stressed out, he doesn't see it."

    The Air Force does not award valor medals for flying drones, but the service is considering issuing special awards for RPA missions. Officers insist that flying RPAs is real combat – not a video game.

    RPA pilots say they face a unique stress because they see the enemy in a more personal way than a pilot flying at 500 mph. Drone pilots may watch a target for days, seeing him interact with his family and go about the routine of his daily life, before launching a missile to kill him.

    Afterward, an RPA pilot may watch the funeral for the target, Tart says.

    "This is not a video game at all," he says.

    Some analysts worry that the Air Force's rush to incorporate drones may leave the country vulnerable in the future if the United States squares off against an enemy with a sophisticated air defense system.

    Slow-moving drones cannot defend themselves against missiles and other attacks. That hasn't been a problem in Iraq or Afghanistan, where the United States enjoys nearly unrivaled air superiority. But if the United States has to penetrate sophisticated air defenses, it will need fighter pilots in manned aircraft.
     
  2. Polaris

    Polaris Member

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    Saturday, 04 August 2012 14:30
    U.S. Air Force Training More Drone, Than Traditional, "Pilots"
    Written by Joe Wolverton, II, J.D.
    font size Print

    The U.S. Air Force is training more drone “pilots” than those who will be at the controls of traditional aircraft, according to the Air Force chief of staff.
    To date, there are reportedly around 1,300 people controlling the Air Force’s arsenal of Reaper, Predator, and Global Hawk drones, and the Pentagon plans to add about 2,500 pilots and support crew by 2014, according to an article in published August 3 by The Times (of London).
    The UK paper reports that 350 new drone pilots were trained in 2011 “compared to 250 conventional fighter and bomber pilots.”
    The trend away from traditional pilots to drone “pilots” is evidenced at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, where 360 drone crews will graduate this year. A crew includes a pilot, a sensory operator, and a mission coordinator.
    A drone instructor working at the base was quoted in a British newspaper saying, "We're getting the best and brightest.There's a bright future for RPAs [remotely piloted aircraft] so we're getting motivated, sharp guys."
    The instructor’s boss likes the way the operation is progressing. During his final press conference, U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff General Norton Schwartz described the future of air combat:
    Manned aviation will be part of the chemistry because at least for the near term, the Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) capability is not for contested airspace. It is a benign airspace capability.
    When and if we're challenged, manned aviation — F35s are a case in point, and B2s — will be part of our force structure, I would estimate, at least for a generation and a half. Thirty years probably — maybe more, probably not less.
    We're training more RPA (Remotely Piloted Aircraft) aviators than we are bomber and fighter pilots. Ultimately, it is conceivable that the majority of aviators in our Air Force will be Remotely Piloted Aircraft operators.
    This news is no surprise to our readers as it only confirms the information The New American reported weeks ago regarding the programs being created in many colleges offering instruction on drone piloting.
    One such institution, Eastern Gateway Community College, offers the following description of their intended use of drones:
    The Eastern Gateway Community College (EGCC) intends to provide training in the operation of UAS [Unmanned Aircraft Systems] including the use and integration of UAS payload systems as a safe and effective tool for law enforcement, emergency responders and other government agencies.
    EGCC is one of 30 Ohio community colleges and universities selected as sites for terrorism training under the Ohio Homeland Security Training Alliance. The EGCC UAS training program will be included as a course offered to emergency service professionals.
    The EGCC UAS program will provide emergency service professionals access to standardized training which will include simulated UAS operations, scenario based flight training and best practices and procedures. As Emergency service administrators become more familiar with UAS applications, they will have access to relevant and practical training, reducing the need of individual COA requests.
    Doubtless there will soon be similar classes appearing in college course catalogs promising to train students to operate the thousands of unmanned surveillance vehicles soon to be deployed in the skies over America. It seems that the government is set not only to provide grants to universities to fund the development of new and more powerful drones, but to teach students how to fly them once they are manufactured.
    In other drone news, China is set to become the world’s largest vendor of the remote-control killing machines. The US-China Economic and Security Review Commission recently reported that China "has deployed several types of unmanned aerial vehicles for both reconnaissance and combat," Similarly, a story in the Washington Post quoted Zhang Qiaoliang from the Chengdu Aircraft Design and Research Institute as saying, "the United States doesn't export many attack drones, so we're taking advantage of that hole in the market.”
    For example, an arm of the Chinese communist government (Shenyang Aircraft Company) is working on the Anjian (Dark Sword), a supersonic unmanned fighter aircraft, “the first drone designed for aerial dogfights.”
    Not to be outdone, the engineers at DARPA (the research and development group at the Department of Defense) are working on the HTV-2 (Hypersonic Technology Vehicle) program aimed at developing weaponized drones that can reach any point on Planet Earth within one hour. According to DARPA’s own report of the most recent test mission, ”The flight successfully demonstrated stable aerodynamically-controlled flight at speeds up to Mach 20 (20 times the speed of sound) for nearly three minutes.”
    While such speed and technology is impressive, there is a very sinister side to such strides. As one writer at the Guardian commented, “The hypersonic fully autonomous drones of the future would create very powerful, effective, and flexible killing machines. The downside is that these machines will not be able to discriminate on their targets — there are no programmes capable of distinguishing civilian from combatant.”
    British drone designers have recently introduced an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that comes equipped with “lidar” (light detection and ranging), “remote-sensing technology that uses lasers to create detailed three-dimensional images which can be viewed from any angle.”
    Basically, this drone would be capable of using this onboard laser to scan the interior of buildings that would otherwise be invisible to the naked eye or traditional airborne surveillance.
    As one writer observed, “The model has potential military spin-offs. In Afghanistan, you could send it into [a] building and do a survey so you'd know who and what was inside."
    Of course, wary Americans realize that buildings in this country are as likely as those in Afghanistan to be scanned by the government’s all-powerful eye in the sky under the control of “pilots” trained by the military or at college to keep the drones airborne and to keep citizens under constant surveillance.
    Photo: AP Images
     
  3. scoutpilot

    scoutpilot Member

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    If you want to fly...don't join the Air Force.
     
  4. Polaris

    Polaris Member

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    Or the Navy.

    The U.S. Navy X-47B UCAV (unmanned combat air vehicle) made its first catapult launch on November 29th, 22 months after its first flight. This launch was not from a carrier, but an airfield built to the same size as a carrier deck and equipped with a catapult. This first launch was to confirm that the X-47B could handle the stress of a catapult launch. Another X-47B has been loaded onto the deck of a carrier, to check out the ability of the UCAV to move around the deck. If all goes well, the first carrier launch of an X-47B will take place next year, along with carrier landings. Last year the navy tested its UCAV landing software, using a manned F-18 for the test, landing it on a carrier completely under software control.

    It was four years ago that the navy rolled out the first X-47B, its first combat UAV. This compact aircraft has a wingspan of 20 meters (62 feet, and the outer 25 percent folds up to save space on the carrier). It carries a two ton payload and will be able to stay in the air for twelve hours. The U.S. is far ahead of other nations in UCAV development, and this is energizing activity in Russia, Europe and China to develop similar aircraft. It’s generally recognized that robotic combat aircraft are the future, even though many of the aviation commanders (all of them pilots) wish it were otherwise. Whoever gets there first (a UCAV that really works) will force everyone else to catch up, or end up the loser in their next war with someone equipped with UCAVs.

    The U.S. Navy has done the math and realized that they need UCAVS on their carriers as soon as possible. The current plan is to get these aircraft into service six years from now. But there is an effort to get the unmanned carrier aircraft into service sooner than that. The math problem that triggered all this is the realization that American carriers had to get within 800 kilometers of their target before launching bomber aircraft. Potential enemies increasingly have aircraft and missiles with range greater than 800 kilometers. The navy already has a solution in development; the X-47B UCAS has a range of 2,500 kilometers
     
  5. Polaris

    Polaris Member

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    US Army predicts shift to nearly all unmanned aircraft by 2035

    The army too

    US Army aviation will shift over the next 25 years to operating mostly unmanned aircraft that will take on new missions, including cargo re-supply, and be equipped with new sensors and weapons, including small lasers.

    The army's dramatic shift to a nearly all-unmanned flight over the next three decades is encapsulated in the UAS Roadmap, which was unveiled by Gen Peter Chiarelli on 15 April at the Army Aviation Association of America's annual convention in Fort Worth, Texas.

    "The UAS roadmap is not -- and I repeat, is not -- a budget or acquisition policy document," says Chiarelli, vice chief of staff of the army. "It is a long range strategic vision."

    The army UAS centre of excellence will update the roadmap every two years so it can adapt as new technology and requirements materialize, he says.

    The strategic blueprint leaves unanswered several immediate questions about army aviation. For instance, the army intends to replace the Bell OH-58 Kiowa Warrior with a mix of manned and unmanned aircraft, but the document does not clarify the near-term strategy, which remains under review.

    But the roadmap nonetheless outlines a series of ambitious objectives for army aviation. The US Air Force roadmap, by contrast, foresees manned aircraft remaining the principal strike aircraft over the next 30 years.

    But the army envisions that technology and a changing culture will allow unmanned aircraft to expand beyond the surveillance and communications relay missions mostly performed today.

    By 2035, the army's UAS roadmap predicts unmanned aircraft also will fly nearly all missions for attack, armed reconnaissance and cargo re-supply.

    Only the utility and medical evacuation roles will remain predominantly the domain of manned aircraft. Even the manned aircraft that remain in the inventory, including Boeing AH-64 Apaches and Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawks, will likely be modified to also serve as unmanned, or optionally piloted vehicles (OPVs).

    "Over the next 25 years," the roadmap states, "the army aviation force mix shifts from being almost entirely manned to consisting of mostly unmanned and OPV."

    The roadmap also confirms that army aviation's leadership have embraced the cargo re-supply mission for unmanned aircraft. Then around 2020, the army foresees one-fourth of all re-supply missions conducted by unmanned or optionally-piloted aircraft.

    The document also shows the army plans to acquire a new class of small UAS for battalion-level missions. The aircraft - notionally described in the roadmap as the AeroVironment Puma and Honeywell gMAV - will fill a gap above and below currently occupied by the AeroVironment Raven.
     
  6. Polaris

    Polaris Member

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    AUTOMATED BLACKHAWK HELICOPTER COMPLETES FIRST FLIGHT TEST

    Does it seem believable that the wars of the future will be fought entirely with robots while humans are safely miles away, monitoring and controlling? The US military is certainly making a case for such a scenario. The latest installation is a JUH-60A Blackhawk helicopter that flies, lands, and avoids threats – all without a pilot.

    The autonomous Blackhawk’s official name is Rotorcraft Airscrew Systems Concept Airborne Laboratory, or RASCAL, and it has just completed its first test flight at the Diablo Mountain Range in San Jose, California. Pilots were actually aboard during the two-hour test flight for an emergency takeover, but turned out they weren’t needed.

    RASCAL’s navigation system successfully negotiated an obstacle field with terrain-sensing and statistical processing. It flew within a range of 200 to 400 feet above ground and identified a landing site – a forest clearing – and was able to hover 60 feet above the site within 1-foot accuracy. Risk assessment and threat avoidance tests were also considered a success.

    Importantly, the RASCAL was operating on the fly. “No prior knowledge of the terrain was used,” Matthew Whalley, the Army’s Autonomous Rotorcraft Project lead, told Dailytech.

    The RASCAL is just the latest for a military that is serious about removing its soldiers from harm’s way and letting robots do the dirty work. Already 30 percent of all US military aircraft are drones. And the navy’s X-47B robotic fighter is well on course to become the first autonomous air vehicle to take off and land on an aircraft carrier. Just days ago it completed its first catapult takeoff (from the ground).

    The RASCAL is the latest automated aerial weapon for an administration that has enthusiastically embraced drones. And we’re sure to hear about other robotic weapons as the face of war continues to become less human.
     
  7. Spud

    Spud BGO

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    As an aviation buff and pilot, I view robotic flying machines with all the pleasure of a hemorrhoid exam. However, I was force-fed a book that even I had to admit clarified just what the whole technology was about and what it could and could not do. For you fellow war-mongers I would highly recommend the book "Wired for War" by Singer. It's about $15 on Amazon and well worth it.
     
  8. Jcleppe

    Jcleppe Member

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    That's the most disturbing line in the whole article.
     
  9. Polaris

    Polaris Member

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    MESA, Ariz., Aug. 7, 2012 -- The Boeing [NYSE: BA] Unmanned Little Bird H-6U successfully performed 14 autonomous takeoffs and landings from a ship during flight tests in July, a significant milestone for a medium-size vertical-takeoff-and-landing unmanned airborne system (UAS).
    For the tests, conducted from a private ship off the coast of Florida, Boeing integrated a commercial-off-the-shelf takeoff-and-landing system with Unmanned Little Bird's automated flight control system. Two safety pilots were aboard the optionally piloted aircraft to maintain situational awareness and to be able to take control of the aircraft, though that was not required. The aircraft accumulated 20 flight hours with 100 percent availability.
    "Unmanned Little Bird performed flawlessly, proving not only its reliability as a mature platform but its adaptability for various missions and continued innovation," said Debbie Rub, Boeing vice president and general manager of Missiles and Unmanned Airborne Systems. "By successfully demonstrating this maritime capability, we are able to provide warfighters with a critical unmanned solution to meet their missions."
    Introduced in 2004, Unmanned Little Bird is a variant of the highly successful MD-500 series helicopters, which have accumulated 14 million flight hours over five decades. Unmanned Little Bird benefits from this legacy, demonstrating numerous capabilities on a platform that is affordable to own, operate and maintain.
    The aircraft's missions include intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; precision cargo resupply; weapons delivery; and manned-unmanned teaming. In addition, Unmanned Little Bird continues to be used as a technology demonstrator, rapidly prototyping new capabilities for multiple platforms. Unmanned Little Bird is one of Boeing's many C4ISR capabilities that provide a seamless flow of information -- from collection to aggregation to analysis -- for customers' enduring need for situational awareness.
    Boeing is spotlighting Unmanned Little Bird and other unmanned systems today through Aug. 9 at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) Unmanned Systems North America 2012 conference and exhibition in Las Vegas. Boeing Unmanned Airborne Systems Director Rick Lemaster will give reporters an overview of Unmanned Little Bird today from 11 a.m. to noon Pacific time in the Boeing exhibit at Booth 3646.
     
  10. Polaris

    Polaris Member

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    That's the same attitude of the senior leadership that laughed at Maj Gen Billy Mitchell for advocating increased investment in air power, believing that this would prove vital in future war. Which he was 100% correct.
     
  11. scoutpilot

    scoutpilot Member

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    There's a big difference between what we "hope" the force will look like in 25 years and what it will look like. Just look back 15 years at where we thought we'd be today.
     
  12. scoutpilot

    scoutpilot Member

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    That's a pretty big leap. The fact that someone was once laughed at for an idea that panned out doesn't mean that every idea that's scoffed at will be a winner.
     
  13. Polaris

    Polaris Member

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    Yes and 15 years ago the army doctrine was based upon fighting two wars; one in the middle east and one in Korea based upon a 2X2 Heavy Brigade. Drones didn't even exist at the time and there was no such thing as counterinsurgency.

    However, currently the military is moving towards more reliance on UAVs. US Army Doctrine is making a larger push. Whether you like it or not the military is moving towards getting rid of actual pilots.
     
  14. Polaris

    Polaris Member

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    Hardly a leap, I think you should reread the articles.
     
  15. Polaris

    Polaris Member

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    New Policy Makes Soldier UAV Operators Eligible for Aviation Badge

    New Policy Makes Soldier UAV Operators Eligible for Aviation Badge


    FORT HUACHUCA, Ariz. - U.S. Army Intelligence Center Soldiers in the new qualifying career fields and military occupational specialties of 96U and 35K, enlisted and warrant officer Unmanned Aerial Vehicle operator, received aviation badges April 26 in a pinning ceremony here. As aviation specialists, these Soldiers now fulfill the requirement for the badges.

    There are three levels of Aviation Badges. The Army Aviation Basic Crewmember Badge is awarded upon successful completion of advanced individual training in a designated career field or military occupational specialty. The Army Aviation Senior Crewmember Badge is awarded upon successful completion of seven years in flight status or 10 years of non-flight experience in a principal duty assignment for designated specialties to Soldiers who have attained the rank of E-4 or higher. Soldiers who have attained the grade of E-6 or higher and completed 15 years in flight status or 17 years of non-flight experience in a principal duty assignment for designated specialties are awarded the Army Aviation Master Crewmember Badge.

    Maj. Gen. Virgil Packett, commander of the U.S. Army Aviation Warfighting Center and Fort Rucker, Ala., spoke at the wing pinning ceremony.

    Packett explained that presently, the Unmanned Aerial Systems are in highe demand on the battlefield, and the Soldiers who operate and maintain them are an integral part of the military's overall capability.

    "We still don't know what it [UAS] all can do," the aviation branch chief said. "But we do know that we are going to get every ounce of your energy now that we pinned those silver wings ... on your chest. It's an emerging part of our capability in our services ... a joint effort.

    "One of the single messages I want to deliver today, is that we are in this together, and ... we are better together in the end."

    Packett also said America is a nation of symbols, and the great symbol and legacy of what has been accomplished here at the Intelligence Center, with UAS and UAV, as part of the foundation for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance gives the kind of edge and capability that makes the military "absolutely remarkable." According to Packett, the war has ignited an explosion in the use of UAVs by the military, and growth in UAV use will continue.

    "We are only going to come together and make this better," he said. "These great troopers, who are our national treasures ... are being recognized ... for their education ... and experience out in the battlefield.

    "It's a great day ... because it's been a steep hill in order to be able to recognize, with this symbol of professionalism, these wings, the troopers that stand before you today. They are America's finest, they have the greatest capability and they are going to deliver that capability, and now they can sit a little bit taller in the saddle as they ride off into the sunset with that shiny piece of brass on their chests that they have so duly earned."

    Packett also commented on the future of joint UAV operations here, saying, "Fort Huachuca is a crown jewel for what we've done in the UAV business. We are going to capitalize on what we have here."

    Sgt. Marco Garavito, one of the Soldiers who was awarded the Army Aviation Basic Crewmember badge during the ceremony, expressed his gratitude, "I think it's good that we've been recognized. I've been doing this for a while. Aviation will give us some credit for what we do."

    Command Sgt. Major Franklin Saunders, the top enlisted MI Soldier, was among those awarded the Army Aviation Master Crewmember Badge.

    "It needed to happen," said Capt. Kyle Duncan, operations officer for the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Training Battalion. "It's a credit to their skills, what they do."

    According to Duncan, this aviation badge is different than the aviator badge; it is equal to the Crew Member Badge, an integral part of aviation.

    It used to be called the Crew Member Wings, Duncan said, as he explained that there was a long process which led to the change in criteria for the badges. The petition began in 1992 to get a specific UAS badge, but it was turned down.

    "Finally, they said 'Why don't we give them the aviation crew member badge' They are not actually in the aircraft, but they are doing aviation duties,'" Duncan said.

    As aviation specialists, these Soldiers fulfill that requirement, Duncan said. Each Soldier, as a UAS operator or maintainer, has to maintain a readiness level, and flight proficiency.

    "It's a credit to their skills, the hard work they do. Some of these Soldiers are instructor qualified, have spent countless hours in shelters flying every day in the field. They deserve this recognition. They are not pilots, but they are operating in theater, in aviation, and they're working with rotary aircraft, fixed wing aircraft, with Naval, Marine and Army Aviation. They are not getting an aviator's badge; they are getting an aviation badge. We recognize them for their work, as part of aviation."
     
  16. Polaris

    Polaris Member

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    UAV operators now can get aviation awards

    UAV operators now can get aviation awards
    By Jim Tice - Staff writer
    Posted : Tuesday Apr 3, 2007 16:55:26 EDT
    Soldiers who operate unmanned aerial vehicles now are eligible for award of the Aviation Badge, Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal.

    The policy change will be included in an upcoming revision of Army Regulation 600-8-22 (Military Awards).

    Under the new policy, approved last month, unmanned aerial vehicle system warrant officers and enlisted operators may be awarded the DFC or AM “if they are physically located on the aircraft (system) during the cited period, and all criteria for the decorations have been met.”

    The Distinguished Flying Cross is a prestigious decoration that ranks just behind the Silver Star as a valor medal. It is awarded for heroism or extraordinary achievement.

    The Air Medal is awarded for heroism, outstanding achievement or meritorious service. It ranks behind the Bronze Star, but in front of the Army Commendation Medal.

    There are three degrees of Aviation Badges, which previously were called Aircraft Crewmember Badges.

    The Basic Aviation Badge is awarded upon successful completion of advanced individual training in a designated career field or military occupational specialty, and to warrant officers upon successful completion of the MOS 150U (tactical UAV operations technician).

    DISCUSSION:
    Is it appropriate to offer the same awards pilots get to UAV pilots?

    Officers who hold MOS 350U or 350K will be awarded the Basic Aviation Badge retroactively to their date of graduation from the qualification course.

    The newly qualifying enlisted specialties are:

    • MOS 96U (UAV operator) from Aug. 1, 1993, through Sept. 30, 2003.

    • MOS 35K (UAV operator) from Oct. 1, 2007, through Sept. 30, 2008.

    • The 68-series MOSs from Dec. 31, 1985, through Sept. 30, 2003.

    • Soldiers who completed advanced individual training in CMF 28 before Sept. 30, 1973.

    The Senior Aviation Badge is awarded upon successful completion of seven years in flight status, or 10 years of non-flight experience in a principal duty assignment for designated specialties.

    The new qualifying career fields and MOSs for enlisted soldiers and warrant officers are:

    • MOS 96U (UAV operator) from Aug. 1, 1993, through Sept. 30, 2003.

    • MOS 35K (UAV operator) from Oct. 1, 2007, through Sept. 30, 2008.

    • 68-series MOSs from Dec. 31, 1985, through Sept. 30, 2003.

    • Warrant officers in MOS 150A (tactical UAV operations technician), and officers in 150A who had 10 or more years of experience in 350U and 350K.

    The Master Aviation Badge is awarded upon successful completion of 15 years in flight status, or 17 years of non-flight experience in a principal duty assignment for designated specialties.

    The new qualifying career fields and MOSs for enlisted soldiers and warrants are:

    • MOS 96U (UAV operator) from Aug. 1, 1993, through Sept. 30, 2003.

    • MOS 35K (UAV operator) from Oct. 1, 2007, through Sept. 30, 2008.

    • Warrant officers in MOS 150A, 151U and 151A. Officers in these specialties may qualify for the badge after 17 years of experience in 350U and 150K, enlisted CMF 68 or 93, or enlisted MOS 71P, 96U or 35K.
     
  17. scoutpilot

    scoutpilot Member

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    So your theory is that 15 years ago, we couldn't predict the future, but now we can? Let me know how that works out for you.

    Sounds like you have a bone to pick with real pilots.
     
  18. scoutpilot

    scoutpilot Member

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    I think you just quote a lot of articles with very little understanding of what UAVs can and can't do, and which structural limitations will always be in play.
     
  19. Polaris

    Polaris Member

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    No where do I say that I can predict the future. However, current military doctrine sees a future for UAVs and is pumping money into it. UAVs currently account from more mission hours than manned air craft. As an aviator you should be looking towards the future of military aviation and it is unmanned.

    By the way I have no bone to pick with aviators or pilots. I just found these articles interesting and relevant towards this site. The USAFA already has been awarding Remotely-Piloted Aircraft Pilot Badges to qualified cadets.
     
  20. Polaris

    Polaris Member

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    Much like the senior leadership who ridiculed Maj Gen Billy Mitchell, UAVs will be the next generation of military aviation.

    There designs are constantly being tested and new designs and technologies are coming out all the time given enough time there will be very little that a UAV can't do as compared to piloted aircraft, the exception most likely will be human transport.
     

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