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:
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Photo: AP Images