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Author: tjscott0 Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: of 37587  
Subject: Problems in UAV Operations Date: 4/21/2014 10:50 AM
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http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htmoral/articles/20140421.a...

The U.S. Air Force inability to obtain enough UAV operators, and the low morale of the UAV crews it does have has now attracted the unwanted attention of Congress, which ordered its own investigation of the matter. This GAO (Government Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress) effort interviewed and surveyed a representative sample of UAV operators and found that problems already reported in news stories were largely true. That is, UAV operators were overworked and that the air force was unable to get as many as it needed. This meant that existing crews had to work longer hours. This caused a lot of stress. UAV operators each spend about 1,200 hours a year controlling UAVs in the air, versus 450 hours for army helicopter pilots and even less for air force pilots in the combat zone. The problem is that UAV operators (most of them pilots of manned aircraft) get none of the enjoyable aspects of flying (operating a jet, especially a fighter) and a lot more of the drudgery (constantly monitoring what is on the ground). Operators did report that the air force had addressed a lot of the earlier problems (poor training, loss of career opportunities, especially promotions). The main problem was that few UAV operators wanted to be UAV operators. And those few who did choose it as a career were just as worn down by the grind as everyone else.

As of 2013 UAV operators were nearly nine percent of all air force pilots, triple the percentage in 2008. The air force is unable to get enough manned aircraft pilots to “volunteer” to do a three year tour as a UAV operator and cannot train non-pilot officers fast enough to be career UAV operators.
A lot of pilots are getting out of the air force in part because of the prospect of another three year tour with UAVs. At this point UAV operators leave the air force at three times the rate of pilots of manned aircraft. Worst of all, UAV operators are not shown the same respect as pilots who go into the air aboard their aircraft. All this would go away if the air force allowed NCOs (sergeants) to be operators of the larger UAVs but the air force leadership is very hostile to that idea. Despite the new GAO study, the head of the air force continues to insist that all UAV operators be pilots, an air force tradition dating back to World War II.

Currently, only the army allows enlisted troops to handle larger UAVs. The U.S. Air Force has consistently and publicly rejected growing calls to even try this out. NCOs are eager for this kind of work and often are better at it than officers who are experienced pilots of manned aircraft. This is believed to be caused by the fact that operating a UAV is more like using a consumer-grade flight simulator game than flying an actual aircraft. The NCOs often have lots of experience with video games and get better the more they actually operate UAVs. This is especially true with the widely used Raven.
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