Air Force sees culture shift as drone mission gains momentum

Discussion in 'Academy/Military News' started by Luigi59, Oct 26, 2009.

  1. Luigi59

    Luigi59 Banned

    Apr 1, 2007
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    Charting a new Course: Air Force sees culture shift as drone mission gains momentum

    By Megan McCloskey, Stars and Stripes
    Tuesday, October 27, 2009

    CREECH AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — The culture of the Air Force is in many ways like high school. Fighter pilots are the jocks, the cool kids who rule the campus. And drone pilots? They’re the AV club.

    So it’s no wonder that the explosive growth of the unmanned aircraft mission has been met with scoffing resistance from the fighter pilots, who knocked bomber pilots off the top perch of the cultural pecking order back in the 1960s.

    Now a small, remote-controlled aircraft powered by the equivalent of a snowmobile engine is threatening their supremacy.

    “Unmanned aerial systems” — the preferred lingo for the drone program — still has a stigma to shake. But Predators and Reapers are the most requested air asset by ground commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan, and next year the Pentagon will buy more drones than manned aircraft.

    The Air Force will never be the same.

    “This is like the transition from the cavalry to the tank — it’s that significant a change in culture,” said Col. Eric Mathewson, UAS Task Force commander at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada......

    .....Manipulating pilotless aircraft from the ground while sitting in a control room inside a trailer just doesn’t match the bravado of many pilots accustomed to flying “Mach 2 with their hair on fire,” as they like to say.

    Nor does it fit with their lone wolf mentality. The drone mission requires more teamwork with sensor operators, intelligence analysts and other enlisted airmen who shoulder far greater responsibility since the advent of the UAS program.

    “There’s a certain amount of pomp and swagger that goes with being a fighter pilot,” said Lt. Col. David Kent, an F-15E pilot who recently flew Reapers.

    Some sent to fly drones believe they are only there “to baby-sit an airplane,” said Senior Airman Jesse Grace, who as a sensor operator controls the drone’s camera alongside a pilot.

    To change such entrenched attitudes, the Air Force is contemplating renaming the unmanned aerial systems command “remotely piloted vehicles” because officials want to emphasize that the drone mission is pilot-centric.

    What’s more, the Air Force is now creating a distinct career track for both enlisted airmen and officers in the drone program. And the service is experimenting with training drone pilots without sending them to traditional flight school. In September, members of the first such class earned their wings after training almost exclusively on the ground and for only half the time of pilots of manned aircraft.....

    ....To meet demand, the service is pulling 100 pilots a year directly from flight school to go to the drone program. So far, none has been a volunteer.

    When the announcements are made there are “a lot of sad faces,” with pilots “a little bitter about where they are headed,” said Col. Trey Turner, who oversees UAS training at the Pentagon.

    Ask how the Air Force Academy’s newly launched UAS program is viewed around campus and the cadets just laugh.

    “Everyone makes fun of it,” said sophomore Andrew Kleman. “There’s a stigma, that we’re nerds or whatever. It’s not as cool as flying fighters.”
  2. gunner1zeus

    gunner1zeus 5-Year Member

    Jul 29, 2009
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    As per The American Heritage Dictionary third edition.

    drone(dron) n. 1.A male bee, esp. a honeybee. 2.An idle person who lives off others. 3.A pilotless, remote controlled aircraft.

    kinda sez it all don't it:yllol::shake:
  3. Just_A_Mom

    Just_A_Mom 10-Year Member

    Jul 9, 2006
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    Oh gunner! :biggrin:
  4. raimius

    raimius 10-Year Member

    Jun 9, 2006
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    I think the AF is targeting the wrong groups. They are asking for volunteers from a group that, by and large, decided to be fighter pilots a decade ago...

    On an alternate note, UAVs are becomming more accepted at the academy. When I was a 4 dig, everyone cringed at the thought of being a predator pilot. Now, a small percentage of cadets actually see the benefits and uses of UAVs.
    As for me, I recognize they are important, but don't necessarily want the job.
  5. packermatt7

    packermatt7 5-Year Member

    May 8, 2008
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    I agree with Raimus. I know some people here who want to get a UAV slot. Granted, it's not many, and isn't my first choice, but at least some want to do it.
  6. Kero

    Kero 5-Year Member

    Jun 1, 2009
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    I know a navy lcdr helo pilot who did a shore tour flying UAV's with either the army or AF then went back to the cockpit on his next tour. I can't imagine being given UAV's as a platform out of flight school.

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