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Author Topic: Robowarriors Now Outnumber Fighter Jocks.  (Read 4998 times)


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Robowarriors Now Outnumber Fighter Jocks.
« on: July 24, 2009, 01:53:04 AM »
Your fighter jock now could be a computer nerd and not a Tom Cruise with 'a need for speed'.
 July 17, 2009:

This year, for the first time, the U.S. Air Force
 will train more UAV operators than fighter pilots. Some of those UAV
 operators were, for the first time, not already trained as pilots
 for other air force aircraft. The air force has long insisted that
 UAV operators already be manned aircraft pilots, and allowed most of
 them to spend only three years operating UAVs before returning to
 manned aircraft. This has limited the number of UAV operators
 available, and forced the air force to create a larger UAV operator
 training program than they would have needed if all UAV pilots were
 career UAV pilots. Some UAV pilots are now in it for their entire
 careers, and the air force is moving towards making it that way for
 all UAV operators.

I feel the need, the need for speed.

  Then there's another factor at play; UAVs have become where the
 action is. There are more UAVs in action over Iraq and Afghanistan,
 than all other air force combat aircraft. So, if you want to see
 some action, you want to be a UAV driver. This has not been enough
 to lure many fighter pilots away from their "fast movers." But the
 fighter pilots forced to do a three year tour with UAVs don't regret
 it. While the duty is often tedious, UAV operators do eight hour
 shifts, you are focused on the ground, where the enemy, and the
 action, is. Instead of a cockpit, UAV operators sit in front of
 eight flat panel displays (showing system status, maps, chat room
 discussions with troops and other operators, and video from the
 cameras), and interact via a joystick, rudder control and a
 keyboard. While UAV operators sometimes (in about three percent of
 missions) fire Hellfire missiles, most of their work is more like a
 detectives stakeout, watching for suspicious activity, and passing
 on video, and observations, to the ground troops. Some air force
 pilots are attracted to UAV duty because they see this as the future.

 Meanwhile, the army already uses NCOs trained specifically for UAV
 operation. The army has no operator shortage. The air force only
 recently made UAV operator a career field, not a temporary
 assignment (as it had been for years). The air force is under
 pressure (both from within, and outside, the air force) to allow
 NCOs to be career UAV operators. But it will probably stay with
 officers or, as the army does with helicopter pilots, use warrant
 officers (officers who concentrate on their technical specialty, and
 not command duties).

 A typical Predator crew consists of a pilot and one or two sensor
 operators. Because the Predator stays in the air for so long, more
 than one crew is used for each sortie. Crew shortages sometimes
 result in Predators being brought back to base before their fuel is
 used up. There is also help on the way from the developers of flight
 control software. Many UAVs can fly quite well without any pilot at
 all. This is basically an adaptation of "automatic pilot" systems
 (which are now mostly software and sensors) that are now capable of
 doing practically all the flying for commercial aircraft. So it was
 no big jump to install these systems in UAVs and let them go on
 automatic. Global Hawk UAVs are sent across the oceans on automatic
 (including take-offs and landings). Using more of these systems for
 Predator and Reaper, eliminates a lot of the human pilot error problems.
 This solution has been a trend in aircraft and automobile design for
 over two decades.

 The boredom of watching video for hours is being alleviated by the
 use of pattern matching software, that can detect movement that is
 in need of human attention.

  Predators and Reapers fly sorties, each lasting, on average, about
 18 hours. Each sortie results in finding about two targets. About 15
 percent of those sorties were in direct support of ground troops
 under fire, and about 20 percent were in support of ground troops
 engaged in raids. For the ground troops, the UAVs are the most
 important aircraft up there. The army has its own GPS guided rockets
 and artillery shells, but it does not have enough UAVs constantly
 monitoring the battlefield.

  The large number of UAV operators has created a growing body of
 knowledge of what works, and what doesn’t. This has led to the
 establishment of a "graduate school" (the "Weapons School" or "Top
 Gun" course) for Predator and Reaper operators. This insures that
 useful combat knowledge is not lost, and is captured and passed on
 to other UAV operators. This is already paying off, in ways that are
 rarely reported (a lot of techniques are kept secret, lest the enemy
 have an opportunity to defeat them). But the growing success of
 these UAVs indicates that the knowledge is there and useful. The UAV
 Weapons School also develops new tactics, like the use of UAVs for
 taking out enemy air defenses (so that bombers, cruise missiles, or
 heavily armed UAVs like Reaper), can go in and hit other targets.
 This includes developing tactics for entirely robotic operations.
 UAVs need this for when they lose communications, and have to get
 back to base, or complete their mission. Nothing radically new here.
 Cruise missiles have been seeking out and destroying targets, on
 their own, for decades, but the new generation of UAVs are being
 trained, or programmed, to deal with more complex situations.

Computer nerd USAF recruit


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