‘We are not drones’: USAF RPA crews fight back

The US Air Force has come out with some great coverage this week about its remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) operations, as the use of its General Atomics Aeronautical Systems MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper has broken through the 2 million flight hour barrier.

First came an eye-catching article from official USAF magazine Airman, with the suitably shouty headline ‘WE ARE NOT DRONES’.

“Drones get shot at for target practice. We are not drones,” says Capt Blain, an instructor pilot at Holloman AFB in New Mexico. “There’s a pilot, sensor operator, tactical intelligence, ground commander – a team of humans trained to make decisions at all times. We are just remotely piloted.” The story’s well worth a read, whether you’re for or against the use of RPA, as it succeeds in getting the reader – if not inside the cockpit – then at least inside the ground control station (picture courtesy of Airman’s Flickr feed).

Do I look unmanned?

While the USAF is trying to stop short of having to establish a previously-planned 65 unmanned aircraft orbits around the globe, its volume of flight activity with the Reaper and Predator is simply staggering.

On 22 October, the service announced that a crew at Creech AFB in Nevada had logged its 2 millionth Predator/Reaper flight hour, and revealed just how quick that total is now being added to.

“It took 16 years for the community to reach 1 million hours, and a mere two and a half to double those flight hours,” the USAF says. Watch the skies, folks.

 

4 Responses to ‘We are not drones’: USAF RPA crews fight back

  1. para 25 October, 2013 at 12:01 am #

    “Drones get shot at for target practice. We are not drones,” says Capt Blain, an instructor pilot at Holloman AFB in New Mexico. “There’s a pilot, sensor operator, tactical intelligence, ground commander – a team of humans trained to make decisions at all times. We are just remotely piloted.”

    Extremely funny choice of words, and it does not seem he is even aware of it. Could be coming right from The Onion.

    And of course they are using drones. Target drones are a subtype of drones, they do not define the term per se. Again, extreme levels of unawareness there. Or he is running the PC line. Weak PR spin either way.

    • Craig Hoyle 25 October, 2013 at 9:49 am #

      The genie is of course well out of the bottle on this, and the term “drone” has been almost universally adopted by the media and civilian population. I get where the USAF and over here the RAF are coming from – the phrase “remotely piloted aircraft” is much less ambiguous about there being human involvement, but I don’t believe they’ll ever convince others to use it. From a purely selfish POV, I’d ask that if the USAF is so keen to talk up the manned aspect of this area that it stops preventing the RAF from letting the media visit the UK’s Reaper GCS at Waddington.

  2. joe 25 October, 2013 at 12:10 am #

    Blain is right.

    • RC 25 October, 2013 at 8:33 am #

      He’s remotely piloted? Man, those CIA mind control experiments are more successful than I thought!

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