April 01, 2008

USAF: And by "fly" we mean use this joystick...

From Danger Room:

How bad do they need drones in Iraq and Afghanistan? So bad, the Air Force is yanking pilots out of old-school planes, and sticking them on drone duty, instead.

For the past several years, there's been a "300% annual increase" in battlefield commanders' request in video from robot aircraft. Drone-makers - and military paper-pushers - are struggling to keep up with the demand. Defense Secretary Gates has ordered that the Air Force send all available Predator unmanned aerial vehicles into action. Air Force officials whined about the non-stop 13-hour days their pilots were clocking (in Nevada, not Iraq). But ultimately, the number of Predator flights was doubled.

But now, the UAVs are in such high demand, "the Air Force is being forced to pull manned-aircraft pilots from deployments around the world and bring them to Creech Air Force Base, Nevada, to pilot the drones," Air Combat Command’s top general tells Inside the Air Force.

This is interesting for all kinds of reasons related to organizational culture, institutional learning, and Charlie's well-documented Schadenfreude. (Glad to see USAF personnel management is as screwed up as the Army and Marine Corps.)

Question: If the F-22 has yet to fly a mission in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a way cheaper more effective platform was fulfilling the mission, what would you do in response?

Answer: Declare a (budget) war on the other services and insist that 300+ F-22s are your God given right, of course!

Stay tuned to see how the blue-suiters (and their fighter-jock leadership) deal with UAVs over the long-term...