Predator, Reaper drone pilots to get up to $135K re-up bonus

Discussion in 'Academy/Military News' started by sheriff3, Jul 15, 2015.

  1. sheriff3

    sheriff3 Member

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    http://www.airforcetimes.com/story/...rone-pilots-to-get-135k-re-up-bonus/30184499/

    Again I have to ask why does the AF think they need commissioned officers to operate drones? IMPO it is a total waste of money and resources to have a commissioned officer do this job. To the best of my knowledge and please correct me if I am wrong but its not like they are platoon leaders correct? Do they have subordinates under their command? This job could easily performed by an A1C or higher with specialized training. Sitting in an air conditioned building thousands of miles from your "airplane" should NOT qualify the operator ( notice I did not say pilot) for flight pay. Do the maintainers who service these drones get flight pay? Can someone please explain the me why in the world a drone operator is getting flight pay when they DON'T EVEN LEAVE THE GROUND???

    Rant over, thank you.
     
  2. NavyHoops

    NavyHoops Moderator

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    As someone who worked closely with these guys when they got huge... I always said the same thing. I think the biggest part is they started them with pilots and now that we know they are here to stay and even grow what is the right path? I personally think it's either the Warrant Officer route of make it a lateral transfer billet. Not sure how the other services do lat moves. But the Marine Corps has some MOSs that only allow Marines who have re-enlisted or obtained a certain rank with re-enlistment to have. Again, not sure other services have jobs like that. I think going this route witj folks who have already invested their time in the service, have shown the maturity/demand needed for these jobs and sign them for longer re-enlistments with solid bonuses is the way to go. I know hat doesn't work across the board for all services though.
     
  3. Jcleppe

    Jcleppe Member

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    The Army enlisted PFC Drone pilots will once again wince while shaking their heads.
     
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  4. raimius

    raimius USAFA Alumnus

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    From casual reading, basically, the AF is having a tough time attracting and keeping RPA talent. The "draw" to operating RPAs isn't the same as manned aircraft, and the community has reportedly been chronically undermanned/overworked and under-promoted. As a result, a lot of RPA operators were burnt out or left.

    Given the recent record on AF manning and personnel management, I'm not terribly skeptical of those reports.
     
  5. bsa07eagle

    bsa07eagle Member

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    Little bit of a slap in the face for those of us in UPT right now.
     
  6. Pima

    Pima Parent

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    bsa07eagle,

    Are you talking about the 15K year bonus, or the fact that starting with 15-13 2 RPA assignments will be dropping out of every class for Columbus, Laughlin and Vance? Expectation is they want 80 pilots out of the UPT classes to make up how many are leaving.

    I am not saying this is a smart decision. Just saying that for the AF, drone pilots can xtrain after an assignment into manned airframes.

    I think it would be smart for the AF to bring back WOs and use them for drones. I think that they are throwing money hand over fist. In the body of the article you read three glaring facts.
    Iows 70% left.

    Add in the additional 80 out of UPT for a total of 270, and you are still short 10% per year.

    I am not someone that believes a kid straight out of HS an A1C should be a drone pilot. I am someone that believes that AF should bring back WOs and allow them to be RPA pilots.
    ~ Fiscally think about it. To become a pilot in the AF you got to IFT and UPT. Flying planes, wasting money for fuel and maintenance on the T6/38 and 1s for you to fly a drone.
    ~~ No flaming I get how having that experience helps.

    I am just not in this camp that throwing money at an O3 will stop the mass exodus.

    Finally please read the fine print.
    This is not like the fighter 250K bonus on top of flight pay. This is take the 1500 and no bonus, leave when you want, or 4800 more a year before taxes and stay 5 to 7 more years. It is not as tempting as you might think to sign on for that 135K, 7 year bonus.
    ~ No manned aircraft pilot will ever see 1500 a month. Tops is in the 800s per month.
    ~~ FYI the AF is not meeting that bonus goal for fighters either because airlines are hiring again.
     
  7. raimius

    raimius USAFA Alumnus

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    Yeah, $4,800 is not huge incentive for that kind of commitment. I doubt they will see a large percentage of takes.

    For some reason, it seems like the AF thinks it can solve most of its retention problems by throwing money at them. While increased pay will keep some people around, I would argue that the majority who take that kind of bonus were either likely to stay or just on the fence. If you have lots of people leaving, odds are that the working conditions are the bigger issue than the pay.
     
  8. Pima

    Pima Parent

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    I agree raimius regarding bonuses.

    I would turn to Bullet and say you know what? I can live without that 4800 if it means we can leave in 3 years

    Here is my question from a pilot bonus perspective.

    You do 1 tour, 4 yrs as an RPA x train to manned. How does that work for the manned airframe bonus since they xtrained .Do they now owe more time? Do they get that bonus too at the same time their counterparts from UPT?

    IE 15-13 sent RPA. 4 years later in 2020 they x train to a C5. Do they now get the bonus that their classmates that were assigned heavies back in 15-13, or because they were RPAs prior, it is now a new clock. I know WSOs aka CSOS now that the clock restarted for bonuses.
     
  9. bsa07eagle

    bsa07eagle Member

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    Correct me if I'm interpreting it wrong, but the way I read it was for those who get an RPA out of UPT and cross-train after a year do not get that bonus, only those who agree to 6-9 more years or are already an 18X career field. Anyway, I highly doubt that anyone will willingly go to RPA's after a year of UPT, with or without a bonus. They tried this before in 2010-11 and from what I heard it wasn't the most productive decision and made a lot would be pilots run away from the Air Force.

    On the more technical side, RPA pilots have their own pipe line that is the equivalent of getting a PPL (at least from what I know, correct me if I'm wrong). Why do the keep wasting money by stealing a type rated pilot and throwing them in an RPA? I'm probably just ranting, just a little frustrated that this had to happen right when my class is going to drop.

    Later,

    BSA
     
  10. sheriff3

    sheriff3 Member

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    Pima, I have to play devil’s advocate here. Why do you think an A1C should not be a drone pilot? Is it a maturity issue, competency or a technical issue?
    If it’s a maturity issue consider this. One could make the argument that an A1C (very early 20's) does not possess the maturity to make life and death/deadly force decisions. In my personal opinion that would be a bad argument in that the vast majority of our ground forces that face deadly force decisions daily are in their late teens and early 20's. In the AF the gate SF's are in their late teens and early 20's and are issued sidearms and are charged with the responsibility of deadly force decisions. Is it a competency issue? My DD is AD AF. She is a first responder/EMT and has worked in a hospital ER and in a fire house. To date she has been involved with saving a heart attack victim, delivering a baby and several accident scene traumas. My point is with proper training and leadership most young Airmen can be entrusted with great responsibilities and will accomplish awesome things. Technical concerns? I would be willing to bet the young Airmen that maintain the drones and operational hardware would be very capable of operating ("piloting") the systems they work on. In my mind there is no rational argument to have a commissioned officer or a WO for that matter fly these drones. If the AF truly wants to save some money then they need to open a new MOS for enlisted drone operators.
    There may be hope on the horizon. Earlier this week there was an article on this in the WSJ. There was one sentence about having a discussion about the possiblilty of have enlisted Airmen operate drones.
     
  11. Pima

    Pima Parent

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    Sheriff,

    No it is not a maturity issue. It is a STEM issue, from an AF POV. It is not up to me or you. It is them. I agree with them that a 19 year old that has never been in combat, or understands how to call in an airstrike with just a GED as an A1C is not the best option.

    I think we are getting into a finesse aspect.

    I respect your DD as an EMT, but she is not a doc, correct? She is not able to do surgical aspects, yes? That is what drone pilots also do in the AF. surgical strikes. She however knows how to save the victim until they can get to be seen by a doc.
    ~ 2 different things...right?

    I am not arguing with you that the AF should bring back WO and use them as RPA pilots. However, I will say handing over a multi million dollar asset in the AF to an A1C is not smart.
     
  12. Stealth_81

    Stealth_81 Super Moderator Moderator Founding Member

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    I don't disagree that enlisted airmen could operate drones. However, I think that the idea that the maintenance technicians could pilot them is too simple.

    One big difference between what I've seen with Army drones vice the AF drones is size and scope. Most Army drones are the smaller Raven-type that are used for small tactical areas. They are hand or trailer carried and weigh 100 lbs. at most and they're launched and recovered in the battle area. AF drones are much larger. The Predator has a 55 ft. wingspan and weighs about 4000 lbs. The Global Hawk has a 106 ft. wingspan and weighs 32,000 lbs. These drones use regular runways that are shared with manned aircraft. Because of the higher complexity of the larger drones and the fact that they are using regular airports means that the pilot (yes, I think they are pilots when the aircraft is this large) needs to be trained to a higher level. Even though as you say these drones are flown from a remote air-conditioned trailer in Nevada, the pilots do not spend all of their time there. The drone pilots deploy and rotate out to the bases where the drones actually fly from and do the take-off and landing duties on site. The time delay is too much for a remote pilot to safely land an aircraft that large. The on-site pilot does the take-off and then hands it off to the remote pilot, so the on-site person may take-off and land multiple aircraft on one shift.

    There are already many instances of Air Force RPAs being involved in near-misses with manned aircraft at remote bases and I don't think that less training would be the best thing to alleviate that.

    General Welsh has said that there will be a decision by Fall on whether or not to allow enlisted RPA pilots. We will have to see what happens.

    Stealth_81
     
  13. sheriff3

    sheriff3 Member

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    Stealth, thanks for the technical point of view on this; I was unaware of the sheer size of these types of drones. I am very happy to see that you as a pilot are open to the idea of enlisted personnel being RPA operators. I hope more of the AF officer corps joins in.
    Pima, I have always respected and valued your info and opinions and will continue to do so in the future but you and I will have to agree to disagree on this one. I think an A1C with the proper training and supervision (supervisor in the trailer with the RPA) could do the job very well. Seamen in the Navy and CG steer multibillion dollar subs and ships and operate the missile systems under the supervision of officers correct? Soldiers and Marines in tank units operate multimillion tanks without close direct supervision of officers correct? I think by not utilizing a talented and properly trained younger (or any) enlisted service member to do an officers job because of the “that’s the way it has always been “ mentality is very bad for morale and taxpayers.
     
  14. Jcleppe

    Jcleppe Member

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    Stealth,

    I agree with a lot of what you say but the Army Enlisted Operators do fly the Gray Eagle which is similar in size and weight to the Predator as well as being armed.

    The Army has the same issues with manned aircraft sharing airspace with UAVs, now that the OH-58 is being retired the issue will be more in the forefront.
     
  15. Stealth_81

    Stealth_81 Super Moderator Moderator Founding Member

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    Correction: I am not a pilot.

    Stealth_81
     
  16. MemberLG

    MemberLG Member

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    I don't think it's a STEM issue. Even if I agree with that it's a STEM issue, I think there are sufficient number of enlisted airmen with STEM degree. I look at it from competencies and skill sets. Are commissioned officer physically (I.e. Endurance, motor skills, and etc) superior than enlisted airmen? A simple physical screening/test will equally screen out both officers and enlisted. You already stated that it's not a maturity issue. Military training is usually based on one standard, not different standards for officers and enlisted. I am not familiar with AF, but I am sure there are certain positions that both officer and enlisted receive the same training. For the Army, there is only one Ranger course and one SF Q course.
     
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  17. Boozebin

    Boozebin Member

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    Little confused and hoping someone can help me out. In the Army when it comes to RPA are they WO1 or E-4 (as an example).

    Jsut so I know so I can keep it right as I read this thread.
     
  18. sheriff3

    sheriff3 Member

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    To the best of my knowledge all of the Army RPA's are enlisted.
     
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  19. Jcleppe

    Jcleppe Member

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    There are some Warrants and commissioned officers in the program but as Sheriff said, the operators are mainly enlisted, there are E-3's as well.
     
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  20. Boozebin

    Boozebin Member

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    Thanks for clearing that up for me I got a little lost. Carry on.
     

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