The RAF issued an interesting update yesterday on the outcome of Trial Daedalus, which took four of its people with no prior flying experience and trained them up to fly UAVs. The result, it says, is that with the correct training, they are as "equally skilled as traditional pilots in that field".
This is a really interesting topic, because the use of UAVs is going to become more widespread among services like the RAF. Can a nation like the UK really continue to spend millions of pounds in training pilots the traditional way if they are going to get their hands on something like the Reaper, rather than Typhoon or F-35?
But the trial fell down on at least two key points - the USAF won't let these guys fly the Reaper, and has restricted their clearances to operating the smaller Predator only. And back in the UK, the RAF has or is in the process of letting a lot of already-trained pilots go, due to the early retirement of the Harrier GR9 and the cancellation of Nimrod MRA4. Presumably that means that - for now at least - there is now no shortage of trained people wanting to control its Reapers from sunny Nevada?
Interested to hear any views on this vision of the future!
I believe the US Army had no such problems and uses the skills of enlisted personnel, on active operations in the Stan flying UAV’s but it does have historical precedents in that, non-commissioned personnel have been flying helicopters as PIC for decades.
Allowing only commissioned officers to fly aircraft has it's antecedents in medieval times, when only the rich could afford their own horse and for their contribution to were awarded the title of knight, and I would argue that in substance (if not in form) this situation still exists today.
The military has its social hierarchy and it will resist change. Like any profession the Officer Corp. of the world retain their position through contrived barriers to entry, and I can’t see that changing.
The barrier to allowing ‘ unqualified’ pilots from flying UAV’s and Inhabited aircraft will be anthropological not technical or related to ability