Why are RPA pilots officers?

Discussion in 'Academy/Military News' started by sheriff3, Jan 8, 2015.

  1. sheriff3

    sheriff3 Member

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  2. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    Responsibility level, is my guess.
     
  3. Jcleppe

    Jcleppe Member

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    UAV's in the Army are operated by enlisted soldiers.

    I've wondered the same thing about the AF, take it even one step further, Warrants fly the majority of rotary aircraft in the Army as well.
     
  4. scoutpilot

    scoutpilot Member

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    It's a result of AF culture and nothing more. They could very easily train enlisted Airmen to do the job, but they fiercely protect the commissioned officer flying culture they inherited from the Army Air Corps.
     
  5. -Bull-

    -Bull- Member

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    I had a friend who flew UAV's for the army (he was enlisted), but the ones he flew were the much smaller ones that were launched by throwing them and not nearly the size of a Predator. I don't know what all UAV's the Army has though and if they are all piloted by enlisted soldiers, or if the size is the reason he was able to fly the ones he did.
     
  6. nick4060

    nick4060 Member

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    You are correct that most UAVs operated by the Army are traditionally smaller and employed in a much smaller scope. However, the Army's tactical ISR fleet has grown significantly in recent years to help satisfy ground commanders' increasing demand, which the USAF alone simply couldn't do. This growth includes predator variant called the MQ-1C, which essentially does the same thing as the USAF's variants. I've worked quite a bit with both in operational environments and its hard to make a case that USAF RPA pilots have more responsibility than the Army's. Its important to understand that the pilot alone does not make the mission for these aircraft. There are sensor operators and intelligence analysts as well who share in the responsibilities.

    The most common argument I've heard from USAF RPA pilots is that they need to be officers because they employ munitions. In my opinion that is a ridiculous point of view, for a lot of different reasons. But the bottom line is that the Air Force has already invested heavily in developing the RPA pilot career field and its not going to change.
     
  7. scoutpilot

    scoutpilot Member

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    Army UAVs employ munitions as well. Both the MQ-1C Gray Eagle and earlier variants (Warrior Alpha, Warrior) were outfitted with munitions, though not universally. That AF "pilot" doesn't even have release authority for his own Hellfires, so the idea that he needs to be an officer to bear the responsibility is moot.

    There is no objective basis for officers "flying" these aircraft. It's purely cultural, in a service where commissioned officers have historically been responsible for aircraft as their primary duty. Hence the "two rank" rule among the Army and Marines.

    The DoD could capture some real savings by significantly re-looking personnel in a lot of aviation roles.
     
  8. nick4060

    nick4060 Member

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    That's my point
     
  9. raimius

    raimius USAFA Alumnus

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    There are benefits and disadvantages to having pilots (RPA and manned aircraft) be officers. Many of the benefits are to internal service politics. This goes back to the Army Air Corps days and before. Many pilots felt their leadership was out of touch with their concerns and their capabilities. By having officers as the operators of our main weapons systems, we basically ensure that a certain chunk of high-level AF leadership has direct (if dated) experience in aircraft and their operations. It also gives more money and prestige, which may or may not be a factor in various people's decisions to join or stay in, as pilots.

    On the downsides, yep, officers cost more. (That said, keeping pilots proficient costs way more than direct pay and benefits. I make less in a month than it costs to fly 5 hours, and my aircraft is pretty cost efficient!) The useful time doing primary duties is also less than the Warrant system. You'll find VERY few AF pilots who did 20 years of flying. Most officers must do non-flying jobs for part of their career to advance. You don't get pilot generals if they never do anything but fly (at least not with how things work these days).

    I know plenty of pilots who would be happy to be Warrants and fly for 20 years, but the AF doesn't do that for mostly political reasons (keeping pilots in leadership).
     

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